Alright you lovely people – how many of you are already moaning that it's too hot? It's been great to get the sun on our solar panels, if only to meet the demands of the fridge, which has been running constantly. Inside the boat it felt like Gas Mark 4! Luckily, our boating companions have found us some lovely spots to moor, where we can get the sun on the panels but with a shady tree for us ladies to sit under for our afternoon gossip. Even so, I've had to resort to putting my feet in a bowl of cold water and draping a wet towel over Tricky in an effort to keep cool. Tricky wasn't impressed and kept wandering off with the towel trailing along behind, leaving a wet dog aroma which mixed with the damp shoe odour leaking from the shoe step to create a bit of a pong. I may not have mentioned the shoe step before – it's a handy storage place that's been created in the steps by the bow doors and it holds our motley collection of sandals, wellies and trainers – you know what I mean, all the footwear that's required for a typical English summer. It's not usually smelly but a combination of the hot weather and damp sandals had my nose twitching. Luckily, I've recently discovered 'Lenor Unstoppables' which smell like clean washing and have completely solved the problem – I pour a few of the granules into a little pot and the shoe step smells of flowers and sunshine. Unfortunately, they don't work on Tricky - she's next to me on the sofa and I don't think a whole bottle of Chanel No 5 would sweeten the foxy pong that's rising up from Her Majesty. That's enough about my domestic cleaning arrangements – I'll try to entertain you with stories of the 'summer madness' that has set in now that the schools have broken up. Lots of hire boats are racing about loaded to the gunwales (pronounced gunnels) with kids and dogs – having fun if the sun is shining, looking miserable in the rain. In Middlewich, there was a party of young men playing some kind of swearing music at full volume, lobbing cans into gardens and using language that would make a pirate blush – I think they were having a good time but they left a trail of unhappy boaters in their wake. We passed a hen party earlier on the same day – they were much better behaved but their steerer seemed to have lost the plot and was bashing the boat against a bridge at full tilt. The engine was roaring and water flew up over the deck while the tiller thrashed frantically from side to side. I watched anxiously as they reversed up for another attempt – it took several go's before the little boat finally straightened up and started off on its zig zag course back up the canal with balloons and bunting flapping in the breeze. It's Summer – take cover!
We left Ellesmere Port last Monday morning, ascending the two locks up to the main canal in bright sunshine – they were just as weedy as ever, in spite of the best efforts of the volunteers on Sunday. There were two unpleasant tasks to tackle when we got to the top lock – I could either clear the weed hatch or empty the Elsan. I didn't fancy either of the jobs but I knew for certain that I couldn't possibly squeeze into the weed hatch so you can guess who got to make the walk of shame, lugging the despatch box through the boat museum, past the workmen who carefully averted their eyes in case I might ask them to help me. I won't spoil your morning coffee by going into further details – it's just one of those boaty jobs that has to be done (no pun intended)
It's not a long trip from Ellesmere Port to Chester and on a sunny morning, it should have been very enjoyable. If we could have chugged more than 200 yards without getting weed round the prop then it would have been memorable for all the right reasons. Instead, we shall forever remember that stretch for the number of times we had to moor under a bridge while Carl got down under the deck. I really wanted to visit Chester Zoo but it was too darned hot! We moored in the centre of Chester for shopping and sightseeing but again, it was too hot for me and Tricky, so we sat outside in the shade, watching the world go by. Tourists in shorts and tee shirts, smart ladies in floaty skirts and pretty sandals and every now and then someone in boots and a coat – there's always one! I really love people watching. Oh and of course, there's the new Pokemon Go! craze that is sweeping the country. We saw loads of young people walking along, arms outstretched, staring intently at their phones. I want a Pokemon for the boat – how do I go about getting one?
It was busy when we arrived at Bunbury staircase lock and we were called in by the lock-keeper to do the 'Staircase Shuffle.' Carl went in the bottom lock and there were a pair of boats in the top lock. Once we'd let the water out of the top into the bottom then the shuffling began. The first boat chugs forward into the space next to Carl and the second boat shuffles across the lock. Carl chugs forward into his space while the lock keeper pushes the first boat across into the space vacated by Carl leaving room for the second boat to get in beside the first one. If you didn't understand the 'Staircase Shuffle' then don't worry – there are lots of boaters who don't understand it either.
Today we paired up with the Naga Queen and came down the Anderton Boat Lift for a cruise along the River Weaver. I always think of of it a being a magical place and I'm looking forward to a peaceful week away from the busy canals. I hope you find time to relax this week and don't get caught up in the 'summer madness'
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers
PS This week we have travelled 44 miles, 5 furlongs and 25 locks