Sunday 8th April 2012: 3 miles, 1 lock, 1 breakdown

Plan A today was to proceed to from Acton Bridge to Anderton Boat Lift (1 lock and about 4 miles), drop off Relief First Mate to do Tourist Duty around the Visitor Centre, proceed on a further two miles to Northwich to hunt down Sunday papers, then return to collect the Tourist, and tie up on Barnton Cut Moorings ready for tomorrow morning’s upward lift passage. Plan A was not achieved…

The overnight drizzle had cleared up and some sun struggled to peep through as Cleddau approached Saltersford Locks. It was a steady rise in the lock, then on she surged. About five minutes later Boatwif caught the Captain’s mutter: “Angie’s hunting – hunting,” it sounded like. But the engine revs sounded irregular, as if it was gasping for breath. Ah, “Engine’s hunting…!” The needle on the RPM gauge was swinging uncharacteristically. “Take control,” said the Captain, surrendering the tiller to Boatwif. First one, then the other engine board was whipped up and a visual inspection took place. The engine was struggling, limping, fading  – and soon it cut completely. Adrift on a river, albeit with a benign flow; was this to be the time to throw the anchor overboard? Relief Crew were called to the decks, poles used to guide the boat towards the bank. It was up to Boatwif to scale the bank. With a push from Relief First Mate and a rope thrown ashore the boat could be secured. It was a busy scene: more ropes thrown, the Captain’s scramble onto the bank, the removal of gangplank from the front roof for use from the back deck, mallet, pins – and then a collective sigh of relief that Cleddau was safely immobilised. Steadily the Captain carried out further checks, and then made a call to River and Canal Rescue. Anybody on call on Easter Sunday, at lunch-time…! By 3.20 pm engineers had arrived, vehicle parked a 15 minute walk away. First discussions: a blocked filter (but the engine’s just been serviced), then signs of diesel bug (don’t we use a preventative additive?), next a hole in the gasket for the low pressure diesel pump (new diesel pressure pump needed). Current status: await return of engineers with new pump tomorrow …

The Captain rang the Boat Lift booking office. Cheery “Mrs Claus”, on duty again, offered sympathy, advice, support. The cliff-hanger in this Boatwif episode: will Cleddau be repaired tomorrow? Will Relief Crew be reunited with car and family…?

From Relief Captain comes one single word: Immodium.
            Words from Relief First Mate: Relief Captain retired on 30th March – our plans for our future – to purchase a narrow boat and take to the cut.  Has this put us off – NO.  Are we mad – maybe!  Having ‘done’ the Falkirk Wheel on a hire boat with the Captain and Boatwif three years ago we both really appreciated being invited along for their first trip down and up the Anderton Lift.  Despite the hitches I have enjoyed every minute of it, even if the Relief Captain’s dodgy tummy has taken the edge off the trip for him.

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