21 June 2010

The Boat Trip

31 Jyaistha - Year 1932

Back from our holidays now - as I suspected, they flew by. In fact, I've already been back at work for a week (grumble..grumble..).

Pixie and I hired a narrowboat, in which we planned to head up to Chester and back. The marina we hired the boat from is located in Shropshire. The company is Maestermyn and their prices seem fairly reasonable. The boat we hired is called "Rhonwen" and is a 35-footer...small-ish compared to most of the boats on the canals now.

When we picked Rhonwen up from the marina, we were given a checklist of how to use the cooker, the lights, etc. He asked where we were planning on going...I answered "Chester." He replied with "You won't make to Chester and back in a week...it takes nearly a week to get there." D'oh! So, with a change in plan, we aimed toward Llangollen, in Wales, which was a much shorter distance to traverse. I nearly hit a couple of boats moored up in the marina as we left...such is the sensitivity of the rudder. It took me a couple of hours to really get used to piloting...by which time I had hit the canal bank at least once, along with the sides of bridge through-ways.

We made our way through to Chirk, which seems to be on the border of Wales. Between the over-night mooring spot and the village itself...there's a weird bit of 'no man's land' along the road. The sign stating "Welcome To Wales" is at the end of the road into the village..and at the top of the road is a "Shropshire" sign. I wish I'd taken a photo of it. There's also a huge tunnel to pass through. It felt a bit surreal piloting the boat through there. The light on the front of the boat worked well enough, but unlike the headlights on a car, it looks very dim when you're standing at the back. The ceiling of the tunnel was sliding over my head, but I couldn't really see it. It almost seems like you're not moving at all. We were quite lucky as well because sometimes the canal traffic gets heavy and the tunnel can only accomodate boats travelling in one direction. If that's the case, you have to wait along the canal bank until you are safe to go through...and if it's raining, it becomes a bit of a drag.

The other bit that can be hairy (if you don't like heights) is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, near Llangollen. It has a walkway on one side and the canal bit for the boats on the other. The walkway has a railing--the boat side, however, does not. There's about 12 inches of raised metal to keep the boats from going over the edge..and that's it. The aqueduct is about 120 feet above ground. I mainly just looked ahead of me and tried not to look down over the side...not so easy to do. Luckily, time-wise, it's not too far to go and soon you get into the twisty canal route to the town itself. We moored up and went to have a look around. It's a small, but picturesque place. I found a huge used book-shop and scoured the charity shops for LPs. I ended up buying two Thomas Hardy novels (Tess Of The D'Urbervilles & Return Of The Native) and a Mick Farren sci-fi novel called The Last Stand Of The DNA Cowboys. Looking forward to reading that! We stayed there over-night, which meant getting dinner in town. A pizza restaurant located near the centre of town fit the bill and we enjoyed some yummy grub and a couple of Italian beers, too.



Our plan was to go back toward the marina, then bypass it for a day to trek to Ellesmere. We made decent time back to the aqueduct and Chirk. Past that, though, we underestimated the canal traffic at one of the two locks, which we had passed through so easily just a few days previously. About twelve boats were lined up, waiting to pass through the lock. We held Rhonwen to the side of the canal by mooring ropes, for three hours in the pouring rain. Ugh! Ah well, I suppose that's to be expected. While piloting back from Llangollen, Pixie noticed that the electrics were hardly charging, though we were running the engine constantly. A stop at the marina and a check by an engineer showed that the alternator was kaput. He changed the alternator and chucked a new battery in, in just over an hour.

Ellesmere itself is pleasant enough. The wharf area is under development at the moment and the sight of a massive Tesco, when walking from the mooring spot into the village doesn't make for pleasant scenery. We ambled around for a while, checking out a wooded park area and trying to locate the 'Castle Mound' (possibly the site of a Saxon fortress) among a bunch of small hills. There aren't many shops, so we quickly looked in the more interesting ones. Dinner was at a local pub/restaurant and we shot a couple of games of pool, too.

The next morning marked the end of our journey. We duly dropped Rhonwen back at the marina, loaded up the car and before getting on the road back to Oxford, stopped by Whittington Castle for a bit. The grounds are relatively small and you really only need about an hour to see everything. Pixie suggested we also stop in Shrewsbury for lunch and brief shopping excursion. I found a Manitas De Plata LP in one charity shop and a Gordon Giltrap LP in another. We arrived home in the late afternoon, then picked up the cats from the cattery. For a few days afterward, I still felt as if I were swaying back and forth just a little. I didn't realise you had to get 'land legs' after being on a boat for a week.

5 comments:

Singing Bear said...

Sounds like quite an adventure! Well done. Weird coincidence about the Manitas De Plata and Gordon Giltrap albums - I've only ever known one person who owned vinyl by both of these artists and he used to live in Shrewsbury! I wonder if there's a connection? He's my old sparring partner in The Singing Bears etc. who seems to have decided to no longer talk to me..haha! The vagaries of rock and roll, eh!!! hehe! I did have some Maintas De Plata myself once...amazing guitarist.

Singing Bear said...

By the way..I like your new look. re: your links...'Bunyan' is gone...can you put up 'Bear World', which has taken its place? Cheers!

AlaynaGainer1姿吟 said...

人因夢想而偉大,要堅持自己的理想哦......................................................................

許紀廷 said...

Quality is better than quantity.....................................................................

秋娥秋娥 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.................................................................