Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Narrowboat Adventures: Week 12 November 20, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 17:34
calderdalerochdalecanal
It’s becoming frosty in the mornings, the ropes are rather stiff.
We were lucky with our visit from Elly and Brian last week, with a couple of unseasonably warm days  to cruise up to Shardlow. We also managed to pick them up on time  and didn’t lose them whilst they were with us!  Now John and I are headed towards Birmingham and then onwards to Stratford.
Birmingham

Urban boating south of Birmingham onto the Grand Union.

I have been asked a number of questions and have found some time to answer a few of them today:
 
Who gets the lock first?
The vast majority of locks are manually operated by the boater. It’s first come, first served, except when the water level is better suited to the boat in the opposite direction. If you are coming up and the lock is full, then the down-bound boat has priority. If no down-bound boat is visible, you may empty the lock and use it. The idea is to not waste water.  Everyone starts from different places each day so there isn’t often a queue – -except at difficult locks and near hire bases.
narrowlocks

Into the narrow locks on the Trent and Mersey canal

Is there a time of year when the locks are closed?
The locks are generally available year round, unless there is emergency maintenance. Scheduled maintenance begins in November.  A plan for this is published by early autumn, so journeys can be planned to avoid any major holdups. 
manned

crew at Shipley

Some of the big river locks have automated control boxes for which a waterways key is required. Turn the key, follow directions and press buttons! Other big locks are manned with lock keepers, some of whom are full time staff while others engage volunteers to help out. Starting in November, manned locks and tunnels must be booked in advance, which is not always easy to coordinate.
Lucypull
Do you pay at each lock?
No, the use of the locks and swing bridges is covered with the boat’s licence. Licence costs are based on boat length and other factors — a hotly debated topic amongst boaters. It takes a huge amount of maintenance to keep the system running. At this time of year, scheduled large maintenance work is undertaken, causing closures, known as stoppages for weeks/months to repair and renew lock gates and banks. We have had to adjust our plans to allow for for these. All of that information can be found online.
lucyatthetiller
 
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Bonfire Night November 14, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 19:05

 

leavesgone,fieldsbare

In all of the excitement, I didn’t have the chance to take any decent photos, so this one will have to do! Autumn has arrived: the leaves are gone from the trees and fields are bare. A beautiful scene.

 I’ve always missed the rituals of Bonfire Night (commemorating Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up Parliament) right back to my first November at sea. I have fond memories of the weeks leading up: the damp  leaves stuffed into old clothes to make a Guy; hauling him around in a barrow in order to solicit pennies; damp, dark nights, with garden clearance bonfires; sparklers and old milk bottles set in sand to launch rockets; the smell of burnt gunpowder; Catherine Wheels that wouldn’t spin; splitting sticks for toffee apples, making and devouring them.
This year John and I scored. We tied up just outside Dunham Town (a very elegant village) and found ourselves adjacent to a field in which a large bonfire had been built. It was November 4th – would they have the fireworks on an non-school night – or wait for the better weather promised for the actual day? Fortunately for us, they were eminently sensible. A shelter was erected and they proceeded (between showers) to give us an excellent show. From the banging and popping further afield, it was apparent that much money was being burned all around. We even had a more distant but repeat performance by full moonlight on November 5th.   I am please to report that Bonfire Night is not dead!
sayinggoodbye

Onward, ho! Only one month now before we head back to Canada.

 

Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Nine And Ten November 11, 2017

beautifulQueenBee

Our beautiful home away from home. There is a lot of hard work and some days are challenging, but this experience has been one for the books, we are loving every moment!

The start of this month found us chasing diesel – not sure how far we could go without running out and unable to purchase a jerry can for emergency supply (not to mention organizing a way to carry it back from a garage) – diesel stockists are few and far between at this time of year.  It was our very dear plan to take the Huddersfield Narrow Canal back south (many, many locks but narrow) and go through the Standedge tunnel  (the longest in the UK) but the vagaries of the Canals and Rivers Trust thwarted us thoroughly and we decided to continue along the Rochdale Canal in the company of our canal-exploring coconspirators aboard the Willow.
tandemCalder

Traveling in tandem with our friends aboard the Willow

Traveling in company is fun provided they are compatible – luckily we are! We leapfrogged each other on the run up to Leeds both heading for the one open day at the lock stoppage and both getting caught up at the jammed swing bridge – adversity unites. 
calderdale
The Rochdale! It’s spoken of with trepidation, and we found out why.  Since the Summit, it was challenging with both excesses of water and shortages. Going downhill is easier than uphill, but many of the overflow sluices are blocked with twigs, which then catch the leaves and effectively impede the water that needs to escape, leaving the locks brimming over at both ends. The canal itself is very shallow, with very few mooring spots and none of them dredged.
Frequently we had a challenge to get alongside at the end of day. The locks came thick, fast and heavy but we had a good system going.
transitingManchester

A gruelling but satisfying day transiting Manchester. Disappearing under the arches.

The final day on the Rochdale saw a target of 29 locks to reach the middle of Manchester and a reasonably secure overnight mooring in Castlefield. There are many spots en route where it was not possible or wise to stop. The homelessness visible in Manchester is depressing. One lock in particular was inhabited under the bridge by a full on encampment constructed of umbrellas and tents with all the occupant’s clothes hung on the lock mechanism.
cozy
Luckily we were able to get both boats out of the lock using only one gate so didn’t have to disturb or dismantle the residence.
SundownInCastlefield

Moored in Castlefield after 29 locks; early to bed!

We made our goal, setting off at first light and tying up in the twilight.
 

Narrowboat Adventures: Week Eight November 5, 2017

arrivinginLeeds
Three days in Leeds. We timed our arrival at Hurst Lock perfectly, arriving in the morning of the day before opening. We tied up for the day, conveniently near to a pub (great wifi) and took a taxi into Saltaire. This model village was built by the wealthy and philanthropic industrialist Titus Salt, his huge main factory building is now being restored and turned into art galleries and designer shopping. The workers houses of the village are privately owned homes and all look very much as they originally did. It’s a magnificent place to walk around.
tandemCalder
There were three boats now gathered awaiting the one day lock opening. 
Saturday morning saw all the boats easily through the the partially restored lock and on our way until two hours later … People on the towpath started to call out to us that the next swing bridge was broken and couldn’t be made to open. Sure enough, the other two boats were tied up waiting. The electrically controlled swing bridge wasn’t responding to commands. A canal and river trust guy was already in attendance, but the bridge remained steadfastly closed to both road traffic (the gates were down) and boats.
Eventually at about 1600 it was decided that the bridge could/should be manually hauled open to let the boats through, before the technicians called it a day. 
waiting

Here we are off the L&L canal and on the Aire river,  moored up by the Armoury in Leeds Dock. Still waiting.

We headed on our way to our evening rendezvous with John’s sister, after losing most of that overcast but dry day,  then things went downhill as drizzle turned to rain, and the breeze picked up into a hooly. It was one of the forecast “named” storms arriving. We looked for somewhere to moor but were defeated by concrete ledges along the canal edge and had to keep going. As the wind strengthened and we became completely soggy the need to tie up became urgent. We eventually blew into the one remaining berth just outside Apperley Bridge and gratefully called it day. We cancelled all attempts to meet up and hunkered down by the fire.
aqueductteacozy

found some time to work on my aqueduct tea cozy!

I finally had a moment to pull out the graph paper  (Stitch maps printed blank before I left) and began working on the design for next section of pattern for my DK blanket and began the arches on my Aqueduct tea cozy.
Leedsdock

taking on water in Leeds

Leeds was getting closer, mile by mile. The L&L is 127 1/4 miles in total. 
We pulled into the Granary Wharf to overnight before tackling the River Aire. We’d been told that the river was running high (as a result of the storm draining off the Pennines) and knew that we would have to wait until the water gauge was at least in the orange (ie. proceed with caution). 
waitinginLeeds
We waited. The Granary Wharf gradually filled up with the other boats met at the bridge hold up. It was a convenient place to wait, other that there being no potable water or diesel available nearby. We were right in the old heart of the city, surrounded by restaurants, pubs and a wonderful market. We were also almost underneath the railway arches. The first morning the gauge dipped into the orange and we walked along the river to check the navigation challenges that awaited and by the time we returned, the gauge was back in the red again. 
aire

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Narrowboat Adventures: Week Seven October 25, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 20:00
teamural

A detail of the Leeds mural

 The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is 127 1/4 miles long and by last Friday, we only had 19 1/4 miles to go.  What adventures we have had on this stretch of the UK waterways!
halfwaythere

I’m very familiar with the mileage as every milepost along the route shows the L’pool distance on one side and the Leeds on the other (always including the 1/4).   We were at the halfway mark about 12 days ago.

We successfully met up with our friends from Denver last week (they managed to spot several birds that we didn’t know existed, including a chough), and weathered the winds from Hurricane Ophelia that raked Ireland.
skipton

We made it to Skipton AND had our pork pie!

We spent a lovely day in Skipton, a beautiful city with enough bakeries, chocolatiers, and pie makers for an armada of boats. It’s hard to not overbuy with more food than we can store or eat! Later that week, we finally gave in and carried out a washday in Silsden, taking it in shifts to monitor the machines which all took different kinds of coins and tokens.
boatingintherain

Boating in the rain is more fun with friends!

We then completed another successful rendezvous for our friends to be whisked on their way to York. We’ve had some heavy rain of late but have been managing to stay warm with the coal stove.
bingley

Standing at the top of the Bingley Five Rise locks: 60 feet in 5 staircase locks.

We came down the Bingley Five Rise staircase locks on Friday morning –  an impressive 60’ drop in only 350’ distance – I was glad of the on-duty lock keeper to assist. This is not the place to make a mistake. Some very substantial timbers are used to hold back the massive weight of water.
knittinginLeeds

Knitting at Leeds station: I have actually started on knitting an aqueduct tea cosy.  Whilst waiting for the river level to subside, we made a quick visit with relatives, laundry in tow. 

 We arrived in Leeds on Monday!
After Leeds, the canal magically turns into the Aire and Calder and we will continue on towards the junction for the Huddersfield Broad Canal.
leedsflowers

Flowers on the canal, Leeds

We are about at our halfway point now after having lost 10 days in September. We have managed to reach the damaged Hurst Lock 19 in time for the one day opening before they continue the repairs for another week – this has been our goal time-wise. However it looks as if we will have to go back via Manchester as the Marple flight is still out of action.
skiptonswingbridge

swing bridge in Skipton

Approximate figures to date: Distance 480 miles, 6 1/4 furlongs, 259 locks – not to mention 80 (24 usually open) movable bridges, 13 tunnels and 126 aqueducts or over-bridges.
 

Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Five and Six October 17, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Sale — happystitches @ 21:07
coffeeonthellangollencanal

We offered our guests an unparalleled experience on the canals

My friends and I had a happy reunion at Heathrow Airport after my brief sojourn in British Columbia, Canada (see my October Spun Yarn for details).  They joined John and me for a most enjoyable week on the canals before continuing their own UK adventure. We offered them an unparalleled guest experience: sleeping together in maximum intimacy, strenuous exercise, lock wheeling, floor sweeping and learning the art of living with a sewage holding tank…
workingthelocks

A working holiday!

…On a narrowboat you have to unlearn everything your mother taught you about always ‘going’ before you leave the house. We have quickly learned to visit the facilities both on arriving and departing a pub, the supermarket or any other designated place in order to save room.
Queen Bee has a fairly large waste tank, hardly situated under the fixed double berth. We have been carefully monitoring the level and pumping out as needed.  While the tank  does have a gauge, we were warned of its sudden leaps from empty to the red zone – with no interim progression.
stockinguponcoalfromthefuelboat

Stocking up on coal from the fuel boat

We were very organized, stopping for fuel and a pump out on our first day out from Ellesmere.  Chugging along the Llangollen canal just a couple of days later, the gauge suddenly took off. A visual inspection of the tank was immediately undertaken – it was 7/8 full. Evidently we were short-pumped at the last stop. A swift consultation of the nav book and we found a hire base, just 2 hours away.  Off we went.  Imagine our predicament when we arrived and found it to be long-since ceased operations!
Our next possibility was another 3.5 hours away and we couldn’t make it that day. We took our chances and made an early start next morning.  All was eventually well – we checked the tank visually this time. It’s amazing how rapidly boat conversations sink to plumbing and electrics. 
knittingafteralongdayofboating

We didn’t find much time to knit, but made the best of it when we could!

Despite the more “back-to-the basics” elements of our time together, we had a most enjoyable visit.  On our last day together, we coasted into town on fumes, dropping our visitors off in Llangollen 
captain

Starting to feel a chill in the air

Autumn is setting in seriously now.  The air is a confetti of leaves with each wind gust, we see skeins of geese in the sky daily. I’ve been finding myself thinking  about gloves whilst on the tiller in the mornings.
The canals are becoming leaf drifted and we have to stop the engine and reverse to shake them off the prop from time to time. The weather continues to be intermittently showery, we try to shelter the flowers in the worst winds – nearly lost the parsley overboard. The hydrangeas on the foredeck are very popular with passing boaters and walkers, we’ve received many compliments. John says hydrangeas are the new orchids!
aqueduct
We have established what passes for a routine to our days – up early before first light and underway. By  0730 we are quietly having breakfast (or even tea in bed) and one of us suddenly leaps up starts the the engine, lets go the lines and we are off. We generally travel all day, apart from necessary stops for groceries, water, fuel and pump outs every few days. It’s definitely about the journey; the destination is largely academic.
I find it very hard to be below once we are underway. Although you still have a great view, you can rubberneck better from on deck.
stowawaysockfromNelson

We seem to have brought a stowaway with us–all the way from Nelson, BC!

Equilateral Hat

This week’s half-price pattern is my Equilateral Hat! This highly unusual but easy construction for a hat may be made from oddments of wool or out of a variegated yarn with a long color gradation. Work a strip of triangles, fold, and mattress stitch into an amazing hat. The Equilateral Hat pattern is half-price ($3.75) until October 19!

 

Narrowboat Adventures (and Beyond!): Weeks Three and Four September 28, 2017

The time is flying by and suddenly, Week 3 has morphed into Week 4 and I am back in North America!

I won’t be on this continent for long, though.  I’m spending the week with my Adventure Knitters in beautiful Nelson, British Columbia.  More on that later…

approachingChester

approaching Chester in the fog

 

Into our 3rd week, we were settling into a slightly more leisurely pace.
Leaves were beginning to fall from some trees. On one lovely evening, we tied up under an oak tree and spent the night listening to the staccato machine-gun style rattle of acorns with every gust of wind. Our lesson: on nights when there are strong winds forecast, we won’t plan to moor under any type of tree in case of larger things than acorns breaking loose! 
LastDayonQueenBeeWorkingTheLocks

my last day on the Queen Bee, working the locks

For the last two weeks on the boat we’d been setting our sights on reaching Ellesmere Port or Chester on September 20th – not a tall order by car, but on a narrowboat (traveling at walking pace) you have to allow time for lock delays or other unexpected happenings and you can’t just hurry up.
canaltochesterlocks

Chester Locks

 I had a train to catch that Wednesday to get to Heathrow – hard to take a break from your journey, but needs must! John’s plan was to visit his mum and clean and do laundry. We also planned to offload any summer or unwanted gear – anything for space.
We had gradually been learning how long we can go without taking on potable water, fuel, and how to judge the holding tank gauge for just-in-time pumpouts! Finding garbage drop offs can prove challenging, the Canals and River Trust have been removing skips from some of the watering points …. there is a quite a bit of fly tipping in evidence under the railway bridges.
tiedupEllesmerePort

all moored up, Ellesmere Port

We’d taken Queen Bee to Ellesmere Port National Waterways Museum, to moor up whilst I’m away. The museum is situated on a basin accessed by a couple of locks and offers a snug protected berth.  In fact, we’ve become part of the exhibit!  Gongoozlers were busy taking pics as we came through the locks. We offloaded bin bags full of laundry  and excess gear.  John is taking the opportunity to stock up with dry goods and tonic water, which we constantly run out of! 
train:tubetoEustonfromChester

Chester Train Station

I was prepared with clothing and a small carry on case to be able to leave the boat as we passed through Chester and walk to the railway station.
As it happened we had a day in hand and decided to moor up Queen Bee and rent a car (had to walk to get that), and visit my mother in law for a night before my departure.
PlanesTrainsAutomobiles

All my connections worked and I had a really good journey to BC, using boat, car, train, tube, taxi, plane, feet for transport!

Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Nelson.
I was dropped at Chester station and caught a train to London. This was a little like narrowboating in reverse, as the train line frequently criss crossed the canal that I had spent the previous 2 weeks on – it looked very tranquil on the cut. 
This felt cruel, having chugged alongside train tracks on many occasions over the previous couple of weeks.  Now I found myself on a train, catching glimpses  of the canal. It all looked so peaceful, rather like looking at a model scene. I saw the locks we’d recently been through and several boats on the move.  I couldn’t exactly identify them without a map and they look so different from inside a train.

I then caught the tube across London during rush hour to get to Heathrow.
Next I had to find the hotel that I had booked! Couldn’t locate the shuttle buses so took a taxi. In the morning I was successful in catching a bus back to LHR and flew to Vancouver.
Here I was picked up by Judy, my Adventure Knitting co-conspirator, and conveyed to a very welcome bed and hot shower. We set off early the next morning on the 10 hour up-and-down car journey to Nelson, crossing several mountain ranges. The huge trees and craggy mountains were quite a contrast to the flatness of canal travel.

And now that I am here, let the Adventure Knitting begin!

lucybctea

I felt like I’d just taken part in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but here I am in Nelson, BC!

An afterthought…

My Almost Saintly Socks is our half-price pattern of the week!
An entertaining project for the ardent sock knitter, for those in search of an interesting foot-suntan pattern, or those with naturally hot feet! The scallop holes stitch pattern sets off hand-painted yarns beautifully.
The Almost Saintly Socks pattern is half-price ($4.50) until October 3!

almostsaintly

Half-price pattern of the week!

 

 

 

 

 
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