As we sat in Dingle on Sunday afternoon, Bob, Darryl and Malcolm returned to the Dingle Hotel for a customary Sunday afternoon pint (or two). To say that the English folk are wary of insects is to underplay it a bit and whilst there Darryl played his version of Crocodile Dundee wrestling a moth to sit under his beanie, rescuing many a damsel in distress in the process. They were not content however until he removed it to the great outdoors – he was a bit distressed as he wanted to save it to use as fishing bait. The locals were happy though and treated the boys to a round of ports to celebrate Fathers Day.
We started the week last Monday morning (22nd June 2015), wishing Malcolm a happy birthday before going up the final lock and preparing for our Standedge Tunnel crossing. Despite a few anxious moments and getting very wet, both boats were finally measured, stripped of their cratch and stern covers, navigation lights and any other potential protuberances, and given the all clear. There was a pilot placed on each boat with Figment heading off first (with a volunteer trainee and experienced pilot on board) with Celtic Maid following 45 minutes later. This is the longest, highest (in altitude) and deepest (under the surface) tunnel in the system and takes about 2 hours to traverse. Bob was at the helm and did a sterling job of keeping the course straight minimising the obligatory damage to our home. He was well assisted by Kevin – our pilot. Bron stayed below and read a book pausing periodically to take a look out of the windows or bow but preferring to keep occupied and avoiding consideration of the reality of confined space, limited ways out, possible rock fall etc etc!!!!
Darryl travelled with Julia and Malcolm expecting to watch a DVD to pass the time. Alas their cruise was a little trickier and gave the trainee something to think about in how he handles future piloting roles – enough said really!!!
We emerged to very bleak weather and quickly moored up to assess damage. No photographs were taken as we all prefer to allow time to let them meld together with the other war wounds! We have some battle scars but we won the war of the tunnel. We all agree however that this has been one experience we will be happy to never repeat!
After a quick meal in the Railway pub (average) we went in to the township of Marsden to explore a little. It wasn’t long before Bob, Malcolm and Darryl joined in with the Morris Dancers at the Riverhead Brewery Tap. While Julia and Bron retreated to the boats to discuss logistics, the boys ensured that Malcolm’s birthday was well and truly celebrated!!!
On Tuesday we started the descent of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal’s final 42 locks. This canal is quite shallow, probably needs dredging and foliage trimming urgently and poses many challenges to the boater. But the views across The Pennines is sublime and makes the adventure and challenge of the locks worth every bit of fortitude required.
We covered off on the first 21 locks over 3 miles arriving in Slaithwaite for the night. We didn’t get grounded very often but had to manage how we used the available water to maximise our flotation success!!!! It was a huge surprise to find one lock completely submerged with water flowing over the lock gates as we descended. When Figment followed they experienced it as any other lock and missed out on all the excitement!! This is the nature of this fickle canal.
The final run into Slaithwaite is unbelievably narrow and passes under very low bridges. It was quite a feat not bumping the sides or losing your head as you manouvered beneath the low obstacles. A surprise at every stage and a great deal of pride experienced when you emerge unscathed into an entirely different vista.
Of additional interest on this stretch was the guillotine lock (24E). Whilst a lot of work for the operator winding it up, it also presented a challenge to the boat captain steering beneath it and hoping it didn’t come crashing down!
Our mooring was opposite a pallet making factory which worked all night but fortunately they must time their operations to minimise disruption over night. A quick walk into town to pick up supplies and then a reasonably early night required to tackle the next 21 locks on Wednesday.
The final 21 locks leading to the city of Huddersfield held similar challenges. However we managed a whole 5 miles of progress this day! The canal around Huddersfield had to be reconfigured after being built over when the canal was closed in the middle of the 20th Century. For the last 3 locks there is no towpath requiring the lock crew to be on board immediately after each lock. And the canal goes through a series of very low twisting and turning tunnels before emerging to pass through the grounds of the University.Despite the low water levels and challenges of the tunnels we finally moored near the University Footbridge “breasting up” with Figment for the night.
On Thursday morning Darryl went to explore the city a little while we filled both boats with diesel and water and emptied unnecessary refuse! We also both purchased the required “handspike” – a length of wood shaved at one end to form a handle (of sorts) but required to operate the paddles on the Calder and Hebble. We think the boys can use them as sticks for Morris Dancing or to battle out an “ashes” game of cricket!!!!
After passing through a lift bridge we were onto the Huddersfield Broad Canal and very quickly the types of boats moored and travelling changed to include wide-beams, barges, and cruisers of all sizes. This canal also boasts 9 double locks – wide enough to fit two boats across if you are less than about 55 feet long which alas we were not. At 57 and 58 feet respectively, Celtic Maid and Figment progressed through these individually and despite a bit of warm discussion at the outset as to the best way to manage the unusual lockage (we needed to go in diagonally but then manoeuvre the bow across to allow the gates to be opened) we finally settled into a pattern that seemed to work. Until Bron and Bob botched the gate opening and Celtic Maid took on rather a lot of water on the stern with Darryl at the helm necessitating a stop and quick pump out of the bilge!!!! No harm done.
We successfully got through the final lock, avoided the weir on our right as we emerged onto the river at Cooper Bridge Junction and made the turn through the Cooper Bridge flood gates onto the Calder and Hebble Navigation. This requires us to navigate river sections, cuttings to avoid river sections, flood lock gates(currently open), warning signs in case of flood water and several medium to large locks. New territory for us but the experience on the Thames last year has helped us.
We went through some absolutely beautiful riverscape and moored for the night at Ledgard Bridge in front of a Supermarket. We were treated to an icecream by Darryl after this rather exciting day and made the most of the sunshine by conducting our “happy hour” or two in the warmth of its rays.
We had decided to get past Thornhill double locks for an early mooring to enable Julia and Bron to catch up on a bit of laundry before the next water point. Always the domestic duties to be taken care of. This enabled the others to take a walk into nearby (well a couple of mile walk at least!) Dewsbury for a bit of retail therapy.
On Saturday we left early to get to Horbury Bridge to get supplies for Sunday’s cooked breakfast and roast dinner. We didn’t anticipate just how far it was to walk to the shops and Julia and Bron made the trek losing Malcolm, Bob and Darryl on the way. Returning with the necessary supplies we set off again filling with water along the way before being stuck in a lock. But Darryl to the rescue again and they finally got the gate open with a special kind of rope trick that was practiced again once we had moored for the night near Stanley Ferry Aqueducts.
The cruise through Wakefield with the canal sides built up with apartments and pubs (and women with long brown legs on the balconies as pointed out by Bob and Darryl!!) led us to the biggest lock to date – Fall Ing lock. It would have easily fitted 4 narrowboats in it – quite a change. All went well but for the slow empty and the very inconsiderate boater coming in who failed to allow enough room for Celtic Maid to get to the pick up point for the lock workers , Darryl and Bob, to get on board. A few choice words patiently explaining how a little courtesy goes a long way were expressed and Bron demonstrated exceptional boat handling skills despite the wind and current to successfully pick up the boys.
And so we arrived in time for more washing, more happy hour, and Bob and Darryl to catch up on the Adelaide Crows AFL game before going to bed.
Yet again we were treated to a full English breakfast by Malcolm and Julia on board Figment, before the boys explored the local pub and Bron and Julia got down to the hard work of cleaning and blog writing.
And now to look forward to a lamb roast for dinner…..