Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Leaving Of Liverpool

24 done. Only 102 to go
It’s 127 miles from Liverpool to Leeds on the waterways and there are 91 locks along the way. It’s not the longest British canal, but not far off it. We did nearly a quarter of those 91 locks in one day on Monday when we climbed the 21 locks leaving Wigan which sent us soaring 230 feet above the city and off in the direction of Blackburn and Burnley. We had already done another four, on the way there.
But I get a little ahead of myself. On our last day in Liverpool some of our boating pals arrived in the docks and we quickly got our instruments out for a late afternoon soiree. Dave from “Lady Esther” broke out his super 12-string guitar and I added the syncopation with my trusty uke. Our repertoire did not stray much beyond 1975 but we did the city proud by featuring prominently the “Mersey Sound” in our recital. In fact I think we did the whole of the Beatles first album. The wine flowed and we ended up repairing to the local Wetherspoons for a bite to eat in the evening, along with half the pontoon.
Pontoon party in Salthouse Docks

Night time view from the stern of the boat
It took us ages to get out of the city the following morning. We were right at the back of the queue of eight boats making the return passage and it just seemed to drag. It took two hours longer to make the return journey than the passage in. Much of this was to do with the debris everyone was picking up on their props. We fared fairly well and I only had to venture down the weed hatch once. The boat we were teamed with, “Netty Pig”, had to clear there prop six or seven times.
Since then, we have not hung about. I write this from Riley Green, on the outskirts of Blackburn.  Since leaving Liverpool last Thursday we have covered around 60 miles, which, at an average speed of just under 2mph, is not bad going.
The village of Halsall is where they started digging the Leeds & Liverpool canal, and this sculpture recalls the event.
From Wigan to Leeds the locks sizes are shorter. Normally 70 feet long, these ones are 60 feet and with “The Cat’s Whiskers” being 60 feet long it makes for a snug fit I can tell you. It’s not too bad going up. You can stick the stern into the back of the lock and there is a couple of feet spare at the front. I think though, I am going to get very wet when we reach the summit and start coming down in a couple of days. A lot of the gates are leaking, so it’s full waterproofs, whatever the weather.
And talking of the weather, rather amazingly, it’s been very good over the last few days. Better than down south it appears, for we were watching Wimbledon, when it was rained off the other day, while we basked in sunshine in Lancashire.
"Les" helps Pat lock us up the infamous Wigan flight
We had a helper on the Wigan flight. “Les”, a local, has recently retired and is getting his own boat next year when his wife retires. He spends his days helping boats up and down the flight. We certainly needed him. There are some heavy old gates and a lot of winding mechanism is either not working or difficult to operate. If we had gone up with another boat beside us, it would have been much easier, but there seems to be very few boats on the move around here. We could have waited all day for a day to appear. Yesterday was a lock-free day. We travelled around 10 miles and saw two boats on the move all day. Today there are a few more around and we came up a flight of seven locks with a local boat, “Bertie”, without a hitch.
One we did see was this, if you can call it a boat. It’s more of a floating house. Made from old drawers and featuring a piano at the stern, it sits on top of two canoes. The owner drags it along the canal, though he can move it with a paddle, if needed. I am not sure if it’s licensed, but it’s very innovative.
A novel way of taking to the water
This warm weather has brought out the horse flies, and we have both been bitten, but overall we remain in good health. I’ve had a tummy bug, brought on by a duff pint of beer the weekend before last, but I am over that now and thankfully, drinking again.
We cross into Yorkshire in a few days. Ey By Gum.
Toodaloo chums

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