Saturday, June 25, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #8

Saturday 25th May 2016

Today was the end of week one and time to go to Bowling, where the Forth and Clyde canal meets the River Clyde, so we needed an early start.

8am and the first drama of the day, a seagull swooped into the basin and took a fish. Unfortunately the fish was bait on a fishermans line and the seagull became tangled up. The gull became distressed and the sky above immediately filled other gulls who started to dive bomb it, pecking at it. Talk about kick a man when he’s down! The fisherman and his mate fetched a large landing net and reeled the gull in to land it. IMG_2461Poor fisherman got clawed and pecked for their troubles whilst they tried to release the gull un-harmed. When they released it the flock returned and had another go at it, nasty creatures gulls.

Once this drama was played out, I reversed the boat out and winded in the basin so we could make our 9am rendezvous at Maryhill top lock. Once nb Gosling (crewed by the Aussies we met at Linlithgow last week) arrived we were off down the locks ably assisted by six Scottish Waterways staff plus eight volunteers. We soon fell into a routine with Sonya leading and Gosling following.

Near Great Western road bridges we spotted an urban Fox just curled up in a cosyIMG_2469 hollow in the undergrowth on the bank enjoying the Glasgow sunshine. Can you spot it in this picture? (Clue :- Just one ear clearly showing) It seems that few boats pass this way so it wasn’t surprising it didn’t try to hide, just looked puzzled as we passed. Then further on there were a group of terrapins basking in the sunshine between downpours. The clear water here must suit them well.

At Boghouse top lock we took on a cabin boy. A lad and his Gran were out for a walk. He was very interested in the boats and his Gran asked if he could come aboard. Of course! He was very nervouse about the step down into the front well-deck but finally joined Brenda there. He explained that he’d just done canals at school, he was nine, he’d never been to England and was probably the only one in his class who’d been on a canalboat. He got off at the next lock, spoke with Gran and then turned to ask if he could ride to the next lock as well. This time Brenda sent him down the back to experience the noisy end. As we finally bade farewell he tahnked us and said we’d made his day – he was so chuffed!

IMGP4696Onward to Clydebank shopping centre where there was a ‘sail through’ fish and chip shop. Based on a boat, it has a serving hatch canal side for passing boats to order, pay for and collect their fish and chips – genius. We’d have stopped to get some to heat up with our dinner later but were not sure how Gosling would cope with us suddenly stopping in front of them – normally the locking crew take a break here but we were running late due to the late start.

And then to Dalmuir drop lock. We were informed by the wonderful ScottishIMG_2474 Waterways locking team (now down to four as the volunteers stopped after Clobberhill locks) that it is the only one in the world. You enter, the water in the lock is pumped out so you drop to the lower level, you then move under the raod to the other side where water is allowed back in to take you back to canal level again. It takes approx 40 minutes to pass under this road. Apparently it can take up to one and a half hours for higher craft to pass through.

All together we transited eighteen locks and eight moveable bridges today, all operated by Scottich Waterways staff – brew breaks built in and usually a lunch stop at th F&C boat but not today as we had a delayed start.

IMG_2487Once into Bowling basin, the Scottish Waterways staff indicated which moorings we should take and assisted us by pulling on ropes to get us in there. I went and investigated the shower block and then used it to make myself presentsble again. We then went for a walk around the basin and the village including a vist to the local pub. Then back to the boat for dinner just as the heavens opened with a really heavy thunderstorm. We have been so lucky with the weather today considering it was forecast to rain all day. Lovely sunshine with occaisional showers all the way down.


Friday, June 24, 2016

McBoating on Sonya-Day #7

Friday 24th June 2016

We left Kirkintilloch at 9am expecting a wet morning’s travelling to Glasgow, as itIMG_2426 happened we have been spared most of the rain today. You do not realise that you are entering the environs of Glasgow until the last minute as the canal approach is very rural. Between our overnight moorings and the Glasgow road bridge we happened across a weed collecting boat busy gathering up all the loose weed and dumping it onto the offside bank. The driver kindly gave us a wave as we passed.

During passage of the stretch between Bishopbriggs and Glasgow we came across more horseflies than Ive ever seen before – our with the Deet spray to do my legs having killed three who were taking a meal from me. We made our way to the Scottish Waterways offices before Spiers Wharf as they advertise visitor moorings IMG_2428without needing to get the bridges lifted for access to the wharf proper. They were mostly full of non-overnight moorers leaving us just enough space to squeeze in before the bascule bridge. My work IMG_2435colleague John arrived and had lunch with us aboard before kindly offering to provide transport for us to get to the Riverside museum. A lovely museum, friendly, welcoming and inclusive. Scotland’s public museums are still IMG_2439free, it showed as there were families with small children just out for amusement – the learning is a side effect.

Having seen the bathroom on the tall ship Brenda is thinking about doing up Jannock’s bathroom.

We took the bus back into the city centre as we wanted to have a wander around. The driver was very good being both helpful to those not familiar with sterling as well as providing aIMG_2453 running commentary on the buildings and places we passed. After a couple of hours wandering around enjoying the wonderful architechture of the centuries we ended up in George Square just as a demo was gathering. It was an anti Donald IMGP4685Trump demo that got somewhat hijacked by the Scottish Independance MkII protestors – apparently they voted to remain in the EU whilst the UK “are dragging them out against their will”.

We ate in a wonderful Greek restaurant called Elia where all the staff spoke fluent Glaswegian as well as fluent Greek. We decided that this was the best Greek food we’ve had for a very long time and was better than some we’d had in Greece or Crete. Conveniently, this restaurant was right next door to the Counting House, a Wetherspoons pub that used to be RBS HQ, so it was inIMG_2457 for a nice pint after the meal.

Then back to Union Street to catch a bus back to the boat. We asked if the bus went to Maryhill and the driver said No. A bus inspector that we had collared earlier had said this was the bus we IMG_2451needed so we explained to the driver that we were heading towards Spiers Wharf and so that was OK. When we sat down a local got chatting to us and pointed out that if we stayed on the bus for another two stops we would end up nearer our boat. The driver called us when we got to the Spiers Wharf stop but we asked to stay on for another two and then explained what had happened as we got off. A quick walk up the hill brought to where Sonya was moored.

The only rain we had was while John was with us on the boat for lunch so we’ve been very lucky. Not so sure about tomorrow as we have got nineteen locks (including a ‘drop lock’ – never done one of those before) all the way down to Bowling where the canal meets the Clyde.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

McBoating on Sonya–Day #6

Thursday 23rd June 2016

Last night’s mooring, just below the Falkirk wheel, was a nice quiet location even though a railway line passes close by. The line is in a cutting and so the noise is not intrusive.

This morning we were due to meet our Scottish canals team at Bonnybridge at 10:00 and so I set us off just after 9am. We arrived a bit early so tied to the pontoon and it was only a few minutes before their van arrived. Ian came over and briefed us on the passage through the four locks and also comfirmed that our final destination for the day was Kirkintilloch.

IMG_2415As we arrived at Underwood (the top) lock our bicycle equipped locking team of three awaited our arrival. One of the guys had an electric assisted tri-cycle which Brenda quite liked the look of. Smoothly through that lock and we then came across a deer stood on the towpath. Luckily the Scottish canals crew, in van and on bicyclesIMG_2417 quickly slowed down so as not to frighten it. The passage through all four locks was quick with the top gates being left wide open ready for the boats that were going to pass back up the flight once we were down.

After that it was a long run through Dullatur Marsh which is an SSSI with a stretch of lovely wide straight canal bordered by a ridge of IMG_2421hills to the north. We arrived at Twechar Bridge (the next to be operated by Scottich Canals) and tied onto the landing to wait for five minutes before the crew of two arrived. Once through that bridge we continued on to Hillhead bridge on the outskirtsIMGP4684 of Kirkintilloch which is our last manned bridge of the day. The crew were already here waiting and we passed straight through.

On our way through the SSSI we spotted a lovely rural mooring which we intend to stop at on the way back next Monday.

We moored for the night on the ample visitor mooring pontoons in Kirkintilloch next to the University building. After a walk around the town we eat on board before going for a pint in the Kirky Puffer. This was a first for me as I’ve never been into a Wetherspoons pub that was formerly a Police Station.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

McBoating on Sonya–Day #5

Wednesday 22nd June

Firstly, something I forgot to mention yesterday – as I approached our overnightIMG_2378 mooring in Linlithgow (spelt properly this time) I spotted Brenda’s ‘Yeti’ that gave us the hassle on Sunday afternoon. It had been captured and was now tied to the bank at Linlithgow wharf.

We have been interpreting the local BBC weather forecast for this area. Apparently “You’ll be unlucky to catch a shower” means “You’ll get wet!”. Just our luck.

Yesterday Brenda was rather poorly, quite convinced that she’d got appendicitus at one point. Pain and fever, mostly gone this morning. She must have slept well because she didn’t recall it being dark at any point last night.

I rang Scottish Canals at 09:00 to book some lock and bridge transits and it wasn’t answered. Five minutes later the guy rang me back so we are now all sorted until Monday. We set off from Linlithgow at 09:15 – we were the third hireboat to leave the visitor moorings, the Aussies were on their way at 07:00 – and headed towards Falkirk.

IMG_2379We stopped at the Tesco supermarket, opposite the prison, near bridge 55 and stocked up on meats that we cannot afford at home, rack of lamb at £3.00, big piece of brisket for £2, scotch smoked haddock and more scotch pies – we can’t get enough of them. Whilst there we found HAGGIS PAKORA so we bought some. We thought adding Black Pudding Pakora and battered Haggis too much so we just got a photo of them ;^) Brenda also found a Lees Macaroon, a sweetie that she hadn’t seen for decades. It’s not as good as she remembers it to be, it’s probably exactly the same at 110% sugar but her taste has matured.


Back onto the boat and yet more rain, through Falkirk tunnel and so I rang the Wheel booking line, as instructed by our hire base hand-over brief, to book our transit through the locks and wheel. I was told in no uncertain terms that we should IMGP4657give 24 hours notice of our requirement so I just pleaded ignorance as I was following the instructions we had been given. As it was we went straight into the top lock and then shared the wheel with an ABC widebeam hireboat that had left Linlithgow an hour before we did. As we were called into the caisson, the wide beam showed us how strong the cross wind was and so I took extreme care when we entered. It’s a good job all those gongoozlers down below can’t see what goes on up here.

IMG_2401  IMGP4668

Once out of the bottom lock we turned left onto the Forth and Clyde canal towards Glasgow and then tied up for the night on the visitor pontoon. We then returned to the wheel site for a ‘tourist’ session. Will most likely wander back up there later hoping that it’s all lit up at night time.

IMGP4678  IMGP4680


P.S. at the visitor centre they sold ‘Wheel Ale’

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

McBoating on Sonya–Day #4

Tuesday 21st June

Ahh – the days will get shorter now, nights drawing in. But here in Scotland that’s relative, still light at gone 10pm and dawn breaks at 4ish in the morning. All very well but how do they cope in winter?

At 10 am we moved across the quay onto the facilities mooring and emptied our rubbish and filled our water tank. Sonya has a handy water level guage in the lounge, something sorely missing on Jannock. At 10:30am, Leamington Lift bridge was lifted for us and we left India Quay heading towards Glasgow.

During our trip from Edinburgh to the M8 bridge (21a) we met the same fourIMG_2363 widebeam tripboats that we had happened across on our way into Edinburgh. When we got to bridge 21a it is obvious that the Union canal used to be truncated by the M8 motorway as the route veers around a couple of bends before going under the motorway where the field fences indicate that it used to go straight at this point. The bridge is identified as being built in 2000 so was obviously done as part of the millenium push to re-open the canal.

IMG_2364We passed Gamebird again and this time I managed to get a photo. As the afternoon drew on, it became colder and colder in the wind and so Brenda took refuge inside the boat and put the heating on. Once I had moored us for the night later on she was fast asleep so I hope she’s not sickening for something.

IMG_2376As I passed back through the strange landscape near Fairnie Hill it became obvious that these mounds are man made so there must have been mining or quarrying going on in these parts long ago. I continued on and moored up for the night at Linlithgo.

An ABC hireboat crewed by two Australian couples pulled in onto the mooring behind and so I chatted with them for a while before coming in aand preparing dinner. Brenda is still not too bright so I’ll wait and see how she’s feeling in the morning before booking the lock passages needed to continue on into Glasgow.


Monday, June 20, 2016

McBoating on Sonya–Day #3

Monday 20th June 2016

Half past eight and we’re off from our lovely peaceful IMG_2344rural mooring, so I thought I had better get out of bed ;^)  Immediately we cruised through a strange landscape; natural or industrial spoil tidied up by mother nature – better look that up. (Bridge 38 – Fawns Park Bridge) Could it be Fairnie Hill? As we went along natural seemed the answer, there were outcrops all along what would have been a sandstone ridge.

We passed Ian and Anne’s boat Gamebird moored at Drumshoreland, We’ve not been able to get hold of them to let them know we are on their patch.

IMG_2347Graham spotted this shed disguised as a castle on an island in the canal just before Ratho. We approached Edinburgh as our tummies approached lunchtime. When on holiday you have to try new local delicacies. I warmed up a couple of Macaroni pies. They will have to go on my repertoir. G. normally dislikes macaroni cheese but declared that the pies were nice. Macaroni cheese in a pie case, what’s not to like?

As we finished our lunch we met a sequence of four wide beam trip boats heading West. The passengers in the fordeck of the last one offered us sandwiches from a vast and varied selection. Sadly we declined. Half an hour earlier would have been different.

Into Ediinburgh and then through Leamington bridge in order to wind and then tie upIMG_2349 in the Quay area. There was a very strong wind rushing down the canal at the winding point and G. had great difficulty turning Sonya around as the wind was pushing the bows around faster than he could turn them. In the end he had to rely on the end of a pontoon to act as a pivot point in order to get the boat turned around. We then moored against the North bank pointing West again.

IMG_2359The sun finally came out again as we went for a tourist mooch around Edinburgh, we avoided the crowded areas find little alleyways to take us to interesting places. A lovely city. As we walked back towards Sonya our tummies made themselves known, normal food time is 6pm and that is usually too early for a lot of restaurants, but just 5 mins from the quay we happened across the Guchhi Indian Restaurant. We went in and although we were the only customers there, boy was the food good – in fact so good, they get the full plug :-

Guchhi, 50 East Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 9BH – 0131 228 6666  they deliver takeaways between midday and 3am. We joked that they didn’t do haggis pakora (Graham is detemined to find some in Glasgow) on the menu but were told that if we had asked for it, they would prepare it. Never mind, we’ll save that delicacy for Glasgow.IMGP4653

We looked up Dormouse to try and identify what G. saw yesterday and apparently there are none in Scotland. He’s still wondering what it was he spotted on the bankside.

P.S. I love the little ‘beach hut’ type sheds all the Scottish Waterways residential moorings get.


McBoating on Sonya–Day #2

Sunday 19th June

ThePropDuring Graham’s morning tasks (check coolant water, check weedhatch etc.) he found that Sonya’s propellor is very badly damaged with large chunks missing from the blades, no wonder she isn’t very good at stopping or reversing.

We set off from our peaceful overnight mooring and whilst we were heading towards Falkirk tunnel G. spotted an unusual mammal that he could not identify. It was a bit smaller than a squirrel with not much tail at all and fawn/grey colouring. As we do not have Jannock’s reference library on board we will have to wait until we’ve got good internet connection before researching what it was. CouIMG_2324ld it have been a Dormouse?

On into the tunnel, which is very well lit such that the construction and roof geology are clear to see. Unusually, for us, IMGP4651much of the roof consists of flat great slabs of ancient rock. The next feature we passed across was the Avon Aquaduct which afforded us a lovely view down and across the countryside. Onward to Linlithgo where we moored just before the wharf in order to explore the town having beenIMG_2331 told it was ‘quite pretty’. We didn’t expect a palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, splendid.

The town square adjacent is attractive, the Cross Well. The parish church has an interesting replacement aluminium spire, IMG_2333c1964 on a church consecrated c1242. Then behind the Palace are the parklands, the Peel and a loch. You can walk all around these for free but be prepared to pay to enter the Palace. It would seem we missed the town gala by one day. There were plenty of eateries in evidence.

Walk over, we set off again and G.went inside for a shower IMG_2335whilst I stayed at the tiller for mine – from the clouds. I had a close call with the Linlithgo Canal Centre trip boat, which we had been following, as it suddenly appeared around a corner which I was trying to get round – luckily we could pass on the wrong side. That must have turned around quickly! As G. finished his shower I came across a ‘Yeti’, a floating island of weed, the biggest ever as it completely blocked the canal. All my skill got me nowhere as it did not split and just jammed itself onto the base of the bow post (obviously an eyelet down there for attaching a cable to the boat). With no hacking tool on board G. just attacked it with the boat hook until we were able to drive through it.

Rain stopped play at about 4:10pm as we found somewhere quiet to stop for the night just before the rain changed from drizzle and started hammering it down. As G. types this up at 9pm the sun has just come out.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

McBoating on Sonya–Day #1

Saturday 18th June 2016

We have left Jannock moored up on her mooring and switched our alegence to Sonya, a Black Prince Duchess 4 based at Falkirk. We have always wanted to ‘do’ the Falkirk wheel as well as the Forth and Clyde and Union canals in Scotland. Therefore for the next two weeks we will be blogging from Sonya instead of Jannock (which is an ex-Black Prince Duchess 4)

We travelled up to Falkirk via Lytham St Annes and Blackpool where we stopped forDSCF2248 the night. Ever since Brenda missed visiting the seaside on Christmas day due to hurting her ankle at Brinklow last December she has been hankering after going to the beach. I thought visiting Lytham St AnneIMG_2286s would solve that problem but when we got there the tide was out and we could not see the sea. Luckily, by the time we’d travelled on to Blackpool, booked into our hotel and gone out for a walk again the tide had come in enough to keep her happy.

This morning we set off towards Falkirk and arrived at the hire base just after our allotted arrival time of 2:30pm having called into Tescos for lunch and to provision for the start of the trip. We were amazed by the amount of items we found with price reductions with most of the regular prices being lower than at home. We treated ourselves to some Scottish favourites as we enjoy trying out local delicacies when we go on holiday.

IMG_2291On arrival at Capercallie cruisers base at the Falkirk wheel the reception was very friendly and efficient. We were advised how to take the car canalside and we started to unload our belongings onto Sonya. Once loaded and briefed about how things worked we were taken through the swingbridge into the lock up to the wheel basin. Brenda steered whilst I manned the bow rope. Once through the lock we went straight into the wheel and ascendedIMG_2316 to the Union canal. Once through Falkirk tunnel we turned left and straight into the Falkirk wheel top locks. Once through those, the Scottish waterways guys went off duty and we set off eastwards towards Edinburgh.

About three quarters of a mile past the locks we came across a small spur off of the canal with visitor moorings (and a water point) and so with some difficulty I managed to reverse into the spur and we moored on a pontoon for the night.

Sonya is a very different to control compared to Jannock. When you hit reverse on Sonya not much seems to happen apart from a lot of water being thrashed about. This made stopping, and then reversing into the spur a very difficult manouvre. She refuses to steer at all in reverse and when not moving forward at a reasonable speed IMG_2319the bows are un-controllable. I suspect she is drastically under-propped.

After a locally themed meal of Scotch Pie with salad followed by a Chocolate fudge brownie pizza (yes, you read that correctly) we spent the evening packing all our stuff away and finding out where everything lives on a different boat. We are saving the macaroni cheese pies for another meal.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Whitsun–Day 4 “The longest day”

Monday 30th May

Just as well we didn’t have our visitors today. We set off from our overnight mooring and into the first lock that I had set, only to be told by the volunteer lockie that he Stuck in a lockwould like us to stay in the empty lock and not come up as there was a problem with the gate paddle on the next lock, it would not close. I walked up and there was a queue of three boats waiting to come down. Then another boat joined us in the empty lock. The CaRT emergency response man #1 soon arrived to assess the situation, the keb he had brought with him was not long enough to have a good furkle and so he needed to go away again to find a longer one. He was soon back but still unable to un-jam the paddle and so a long ladder and waders were sent for while he emptied the pound above us by opening both the top and bottom paddles of the lock we were sat it.

Using the keb

CaRT emergency response man #2 arrived in another van and nearly drove the long ladders into the overhead power cables. Luckily he stopped just averting disaster and untied them from the back of the van and drove the rest of the way Replacing the boltwith them balanced level on the roof of his truck. Then emergency response man #1 donned the waders and went down into the lock and found the offending bolt which was stopping the paddle from closing. Unfortunately the nut was not on the other end so a replacement bolt, with nut, was found under the drivers seat in the van of emergency response man #1, by emergency response man #3 who had arrived whilst all this was going on,  .

The new bolt was then fitted into place, but amusingly it was so low on the gate that it was well underwater. This meant that emergency response man #1’s waders started filling with water as he bent to reach it. Now, on completion of the task he resembled emergency response Michelin man #1. This gave emergency response man #4, who had replaced emergency response man #3, a good laugh before he too departed. Finally, after 3 hours of patiently waiting we were told that the pound above our lock had refilled enough for us to work up through and continue on our way. Brenda and I even prepared and ate lunch in the lock whilst all this had been going on, so we were happy to be on our way. Well done to all the emergency response guys – a terrific job which meant we didn’t have to pull back out of the lock and peg Jannock in for a week.

DSCF2232Out of the top of the flight and off towards Cowraost on the tring summit pound. No sign of any Kingfishers during this transit. At Cowroast lock I spied Mike Askin on Victoria approaching below and so I opened the bottom gate and let him up through before we entered. By this time our previous lock partners hadstopped at Bulbourne and so we were joined by a Wyvern hireboat who had been waiting below us at Marsworth. We shared with them all the way to Berko lock where they were turning to return up through the lock in order to start heading back.

As I approached Berko lock on the mighty lock-wheeling bike there was another boat going down in front so I asked if they would let us share the next lock with them. When I arrived at Raven’s Lane lock they were waiting patiently for us. Oh good, I thought we’ll soon be home. I cycled down to prepare Rising Sun lock, filled it and opened both gates with no problems. Once both boats were in the lock I found that I could not close my top gate. The crew from the other boat came across but with us all heaving on the gate we could not budge it. Closer examination revealed that the collar holding the gate pillar into its socket had broken and dropped the gate down onto the bottom of the canal.

It was my time to phone the CaRT emergency line (08004799947) this time. It wasReplacing the bolt answered by a call taker who initially thought we were at G.U. Lock 55 near Birmingham. The duty manager, Keith, rang me back to inform me that he’d called out his engineers. Here we were, stuck in a lock for the second time today, so while Brenda prepared our dinner I took advantage of the convenient lock-side pub and got myself a pint. We then had our dinner in the lock and finished just as the next emergency response team arrived. Two guys this time riding in the same truck. Having looked at the collar and stating ‘they never usually break like that’ they agreed with our suggestion to use a ratchet strap to pull the gate back into the pivot so that we could be let out of the lock. They would then have to get a day shift in to repair it tomorrow.

Broken CollarSetting up the strapAnd the gate opens

I lent them a spare mooring rope to attach the ratchet strap to a bollard and they ratcheted it up tight, but still the gate would not move. We then volunteered to provide some ballast on the beam end to help, and they managed to get the gate to close. This meant that the water pressure would hold it in place until a new collar could be fitted. Having retrieved my rope we dropped down through the lock and continued down another three back to our mooring.

A long day taking over ten hours to complete a journey that normally takes us about five. We tidied up our stuff, packed the car and headed home – tired but happy.