Cruise Manager’s Reports – Caldon & Lancaster


Our second cruise this year was to the Caldon Branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Dates: June 20th 2015 – June 27th 2015. Six boats attended:
Joie de Vivre
Aquarigo II
Lucky B
Cormorant II

During the week of the cruise, 27 locks were used and around 45 miles were covered
The original intent was to meet at Etruria Junction, but information about security fears from local boaters required a change of plan. In addition, a failed domestic water pump on a participating boat created a further delay.

While Jim and Joyce went forging ahead, others waited in Barlaston then made a dash up the Stoke locks to Etruria. Here a blocked Elsan disposal point caused a long-running series of jokes! The un-named cause will report his faulty cassette to the manufacturer I’m sure.

After eventually meeting at Hazelhurst Junction, a few hours late, a couple of boats had already explored the Leek Branch, with its dinky little tunnel and sturdy aqueduct which crosses the canal running to Froghall.

Unfortunately, the Leek branch ends some way from the town, and the walk from mooring to the town, for the later arrivals, (who went the following day) was extremely wet and cold. PIMM’s o’clock that evening was one of hot toddies!

During the very pretty and quiet run down the river Churnet the following day, the Commodore’s boat engine broke an injector spring. Quite dramatic pictures exist of the resultant smog-bank!

The Pimm’s o’clock at Consall Forge was memorable for two reasons: It was the first (and only) time where all crews were together and it was Jim Hanks’ birthday. The Black Lion helped celebrate by getting a cake for us!!

Eventually and slowly we made our way down to Froghall itself, and two boats (Unique and Cormorant II) made passage through the ultra-low tunnel and down the first lock of the Uttoxeter Canal. From previous visits, this is the darkest and quietest place on the system!

While some boats and crews stayed in the area to sample the steam trains of the Churnet Valley Steam Railway, others had to leave for a home visit.

So now, two down – one to go. Onwards and upwards to the Lancaster Canal.

The Lancaster Canal

Our final club cruise this year was to the Lancaster Canal.
Dates: July15th 2015 to August 6thth 2015. – (Original Plan) but September 25th )  (Actual)Five boats attended:
The Great Escape
Clara Grace
Minimum Momentum
Cormorant II

Mileage covered –
Minimum 90 (including Millenium Link, Lancaster Canal (40 miles each way) Glasson Branch (3 miles each way))
Maximum mileage – A lot more than 90!
Locks operated –
Minimum 30 (Link + Tarleton Lock + Glasson Branch) each lock operated twice
Maximum – Some boats transited the Glasson Branch up to five times!

All boats were successfully booked onto the Millenium (Ribble) link at the earliest possible date in January.

After the cruises to the BCN then later the Caldon Branch, the boats gathered together, arriving singly or in pairs, until at Tarleton visitor moorings all boats assembled for a briefing by Harry Mayor the resident expert on the link.

On the appointed day, the boats locked out in 3 pairs (a sixth boat (non 4 c’s) had joined our convoy at Rufford).

Due to the tide heights and timing, Tarleton Lock was descended and as the gates are opened, boats exited onto the River Douglas, into a full flooding tide (i.e. resulting in a high rate of flow against the boat). Engines were left at, or close to, full throttle for a period close to 1 ½ hours. At this point an unexpected sight was the first 2 pairs of boats apparently heading back towards the last pair of boats (Cormorant II and Clara Grace)! This, we noted later, is due to the angle formed by the joining of the two rivers. Now the tide had just turned to ebb, and the Astland Lamp, – the marker for the sandbank and training wall where the Douglas joins the River Ribble, – was rounded and we made the sharp right turn onto the Ribble, heading now for Preston.

Now against an ever increasing flow rate of the ebbing tide, we again opened up to full power and headed for the Savick Brook and the ascent of the eight locks up the Link proper. CaRT staff assists by ensuring there is sufficient depth of water above the rotating sea lock, (the gate forming the lock lies on the bottom of the channel and is raised to retain water to navigate to the bottom lock), and unlocking the paddle gear and re-locking when boats are through.

The first 4 boats by now were safely onto the link and waiting for the level to drop to transit under the Blackpool Road Bridge. The last 2 boats now entered the link, apparently with 2 minutes to spare before the link would be closed!

Ascending the 8 locks was easily accomplished, with the last 3-lock staircase being ascended in reverse! This mode is adopted as the staircase is built on a sharp double bend. CaRT staff operate the staircase in its entirety.

Technically, at this point, the official cruise ended – at least until the return crossing, due to take place three weeks later.

In the event, the five boats chose to stay very much in touch – if not together – during our stay on this fascinating canal. As we arrived on the canal, a breach on the River Lune Aqueduct had already split the canal in two and wasn’t repaired for two weeks after our arrival, but it caused no hindrance to us.

The list of activities which took place over the next few weeks is far too long to detail. It became longer when through a breach occurring in the Rufford Branch (of the Leeds and Liverpool) our return was prevented  for a further six weeks!

A few of the highlights were:
Steam train trip over the Settle and Carlisle railway, bus trips to Keswick, train trips to Barrow in Furness, guided walks across Morecombe Bay (with the Queen’s Guide to The Sands no less!) extensive walks, shopping trips, home visits, all joined together with boating on this lovely canal.

The Glasson Branch, leading down to Glasson Basin and then the open sea, has six locks and was transited a number of times. While in the basin, a real gem of a location itself, the “Dalton Arms” public house was discovered and then regularly frequented. We were so well accepted there that we presented a 4C’s burgee during our last visit. During this last visit, an awards ceremony was held, with certificates and small appropriate prizes presented. Details of this are contained in “Notes from the Lancaster Canal” on the website (see Club News).

A couple of members joined the cruise for a couple of days by hiring one of the number of hire boats and cruising all forty miles of the canal and joining us for Sunday Lunch at Tewitfield, as well as making a walking trip down the Glasson Branch to The Dalton Arms!

It is to be noted here, that when the breach occurred in the Rufford Branch, that despite frantic demands to CaRT from other visiting boaters to be craned past the stoppage (which took six or seven weeks and £500,000 to repair), the 4C’s boaters, philosophical as ever, continued to enjoy the canal. As the organiser (?) of this cruise, I am impressed even more than normal by the 4C’s approach to boating, help and cooperation.

Eventually, we assembled at the head of the Staircase on 15th September, our plan being to be on the Rufford branch before bad weather or tide height blocked us in again.

This time on the Link, being at the end of the season, growth of sedge grass almost closed over parts of the link, in addition, the Ribble level (below the last lock) was heavily silted and although the first two boats managed to get onto the Ribble after a huge effort, the remaining three boats were delayed by the tide and had to overnight in Preston Dock, yet another experience!

After a further week moored on the Rufford Branch or in a local Marina, we finally “broke out” on 25th September.