To date : 1058 miles, 774 locks
Wow, what a day. I was up at first light to try and squeeze some work in on what was sure to be a busy day. We pulled pins not all that much after 7.30am. We cruised around the corner onto the Ashton Canal and to the water point at the top of the locks we had to tackle today. We are always amazed at the architectural detail in the industrial buildings. Such beautiful brickwork and the most ornate external staircases. In 100 years I somehow doubt anyone will be admiring the buildings that are being built today.
We hadn't heard from our Kiwi friends and were hoping all was well with them. Barry and Carol were soon behind us and with the lock set while we had waited for the water to fill we set off on our way. It's slow going on those locks. Every paddle has an anti vandal lock and it isn't just a matter of a quick turn of the anti vandal key, they actually had to be unscrewed.
At about the third lock of the day my phone rang. It was Clive asking which lock we were at. I had emailed them the day before to let them know when we'd be starting out and where the first lock was. They'd parked their hire car and were on their way along the towpath! It turns out they'd sent an SMS yesterday that never arrived.
Not long after Carol rang to say she'd found them and they were on their way. How happy we were to see them. Not only because we hadn't seen them all for a long time but because we now had 4 extra crew! It was a bit chaotic trying to show 4 people the boat while also showing them how to work the locks and them telling us their news. We didn't want to moor up with so many locks still ahead. In their usual style the Kiwi kids only needed to be shown once. Off they went with not a single mistake, racing back and forth setting locks.
We flew don't the next 10 or so locks. Clive chatted and helped with gate duty and went back and forth to bring the car along with them. Marie stayed on board to catch up on gossip with me. Kyle and Charissa had a great time working the locks for us. What a fabulous help they were.
We had locks where the water poured in over the top gate when Winton's Folly crew opened the bottom paddles on the lock before and I even had a lock that wouldn't let me go! The crew had closed the gates as soon as I'd exited and the stern of the boat was being sucked back to the lock and no amount of throttle got it out. In the end they closed the paddles (our efficient crew had already started re-filling the lock immediately after they'd closed the gate behind me) and the boat finally began moving forward. Some of the bywashes were rather fierce and we battled strong winds in some of the pounds. There was a bit of rain for a while but not enough to dampen spirits.
We hovered in a lock to cobble together lunch for six, leaving Barry and Carol in the lock before. Thank goodness for cup-a-soup, crumpets and Welsh cakes. We were all grateful for the cosy warm saloon after being out in the wind. Our helpers left us with 3 locks left so they could go and sort out their motorhome. We'll catch up again next week with plans for a trip down the Anderton boat lift.
After waving goodbye we rounded a bend to encounter one of the lowest bridges we've been through. It was certainly the lowest bridge we've been through in convoy with nb Winton's Folly. Barry had to snap off his fixed tv aerial post!
The last three locks took us right to the city edge with modern office and apartment buildings by the canal. At one lock I had a group of tiny faces peering out the window of a day care centre. They waved wildly when I noticed them. As we exited the lock one little boy was still patiently watching.
By the final lock we were tired. Of course this one would be difficult. It had a pair of gates at the bottom and the one just closed would swing open when the second one was pushed shut. Through the arch of the bridge I could see Mick's feet going back and forth faster and faster trying to get those gates to stay shut so he could set the lock for Barry and Carol. Very frustrating.
When we left the last lock of the day we began looking out for Thomas Telford Basin. It had been recommended as a safe mooring. We spied the entrance and cruised in to find ourselves surrounded by a rather nice modern apartment complex. We have our own private basin with just the two boats moored stern to stern. Almost immediately a fellow emerged from an upper floor apartment to give us the code to get out of the security gate. What an absolutely fantastic place to pause for a night on the way through Manchester. We went for a walk to check out what is coming up tomorrow and to have a look at some of the buildings this side of the city. We bought a couple of nights worth of dinners and retreated to the boat to collapse and have a rest. It's been a big but satisfying day.