Crew Training

Crew Training is back! (This post was first posted in early July. The Boatwif blog underwent some techno interference in mid-July but normal service has now been resumed).

Higher Poynton – Longport Wharf – Higher Poynton, 53½ miles, 26 locks, 1 tunnel twice

There’s been a four day crew training sortie on Cleddau.

Since finishing his school year Cal Guy Snr had had a busy week: pre-season Marching Band Camp until Wednesday midday, a drive north to Los Angeles late afternoon, an evening departure from LAX, an arrival at Heathrow (Thursday breakfast time on his body clock / late Thursday afternoon UK time) and two trains north to Macclesfield on Friday morning.

“What did you say was top of your To Do list this summer?” his father gently chided.

“To drive the boat…” came the reply from a grinning jet-lagged teenager.

After last year’s (lock -free) trip to Bugsworth on the Peak Forest Canal Cal Guy Snr was keen “to do locks”. By Thursday evening Cleddau had been pre-positioned at Gurnett Aqueduct, three hours further south on the Macclesfield Canal, therefore three hours nearer the Bosley Locks.

How far could jet-lagged passengers and crew go before the inevitable fatigue and inability to hold eyes open overwhelmed them?

Engine on, ropes untied and off Cleddau chugged (at considerably slower pace than an inter-continental passenger jet!)

From Gurnett the Royal Oak swing bridge at Oakgrove is a mile further along the canal. Two days earlier a Canal and River Trust email alert had advised of its closure “due to vehicle strike”. Inspection by road had revealed this, a strangely distorted barrier.    By Thursday afternoon though the navigation had been reopened.  Key placed into the control panel Cal Guy Snr thrilled at the power at his fingertips, a bridge that unlocked and swung sideways,  a total of twelve vehicles held up by the passage of a slow-moving canal boat!

Onward for another couple of miles to reach Bosley Locks.     Windlass in hand     there was work to be done,     12 locks to be emptied and filled so that Cleddau could moor at the bottom of the hill. (13 actually, since a solo boater needed to ascend Lock 12, turn around and then come back down through the lock).

Jet lag has to be fought, sleeping must be deferred – so a couple of walks back up the locks to meet and say farewell to the Cheshire Three on Friday evening provided further cause to stay awake and vertical…

A plan was hatched: if body clocks are causing early wake up times then early boating would be in order.

A glorious Saturday morning at 7am soon became persistent drizzle. Southbound the boat went, water tank refilled at Bridge 67?, ‘fridge topped up at Congleton, a Pacific Coast Highway sign near the Ramsdell Railings looking strangely familiar to a Cal-born teenager.  

Then came Hall Green stop lock, which provides an excellent training opportunity for novice boaters,    

followed soon by a right turn at Hardings Wood Junction,     and then the  orange waters of Harecastle Tunnel were reached.

Boat details recorded by the north portal tunnel keeper, waterproofed and life-jacketed, Cal Guy Snr was determined to stay on the rear deck.     As the sole boat passing through the pace could be set and there were no fumes from boats ahead.

Cleddau emerged – into sunnier weather.

 

Onward, past Westport Lake, past signs of Stoke-on-Trent’s pottery past,     to turn after Longport Wharf     and return for an overnight mooring at Westport Lake.

“What are your plans for Sunday?” Cheshire Mum had asked…

Meanwhile, “Might C U,” the Chouette skipper had texted, readying his boat for departure southbound on a summer cruise.

Sunday morning saw another 0700 start; Cleddau was let go from Westport Lake, reaching the Harecastle Tunnel’s south portal 20 minutes later. With just two boats ahead a place in the first northbound convoy was assured.

“Catching a train from Macclesfield to Kidsgrove, arriving 0935,” Cheshire Mum had advised.

At the south portal time ticked on. Six boats were now ready to head north, the tunnel keeper reported for duty – and reported that weed was being cleared from the north portal. Boat crews were assembled for a thorough briefing      before dispatch into the dark…   

On the other side the southbound convoy was waiting.      Angela from Chouette gave a hearty wave: ”Pat’s gone back to the station,” she explained. Then, there coming along the towpath were two familiar figures: Cheshire Mum and the Cheshire One, escorted by the Chouette skipper. How come?

“I just went up to them and said PASSWORD CLEDDAU,” Patrick confessed!

Crew training resumed, two trainees now. At Hall Green stop lock Cal Guy Snr was on the stern,     while cousin The Cheshire One was on the paddles.  

What better way to travel than by water, in sunshine, the work done by the youngest generation! Past Scholar Green and Ramsdell Railings,     through Congleton,     to Bosley Locks.

Up Cleddau climbed.

Was this a fast ascent? Timing became crucial and with last paddle windings     and top gates open 1 hour 27 minutes was declared, one minute less than a previous fast Bosley passage.

On a fine afternoon the cruise continued, through the swing bridge     to a mooring near Danes Moss Nature Reserve.

 

And so, on Monday, there was the final stretch…

Hills to the east

Power driving on a housing development

Hovis Mill in Macclesfield

Cal Guy Snr still on the tiller  

Under another turnover bridge 

Past Adelphi Mill and Clarence Mill  

Back past ‘The Deeps’  

Under Bridge 15

To tie up back at home moorings.

So how did Cal Guy Snr view his four day trip?

“Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!”

And the best bits: “I loved the tunnel – and doing the training lock… I loved Bosley Locks too – all of it!”

So if in years to come Boatwif and the Captain are too enfeebled for a Cleddau cruise, they’ll just have to summons Cal Guy Snr and the Cheshire One to steer and wind them along a chosen waterway!

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