The objective for the day was simple – get to Plank Lane Bridge No 8 before 2pm which was pretty easy to do, and we did do it with time to spare despite a couple of problems…
It was a coolish, but dry morning when we cast off and made our way to Appley Lock No 91 where our extremely long anchor warp came in very handy as it allows you to work this extremely deep lock with just one person on the boat. The lock is in a bit of a mess – only one of the bottom paddles works and only one of the two top ground paddles can be used (the other is padlocked shut) and the steel gates are really starting to show their age. Apart from the Tar works there is just about no sign of the industry that used to border the canal – for example at Finch Mill Swing Bridge the houses occupy the site of the old glue works (which I guess might have been called Finch Mill but I don’t recall anyone ever calling it that).
At Dean Locks No 90 we found another boat that was just about to go up the lock after watering, and as wide locks are so much easier to work with two boats we slipped in along side them. We found that they were going all the way through to Worsley and that they’d been through Plank Lane several times since it broke down. We mentioned timings and the told us that according to Canalplan we had plenty of time. We didn’t let on immediately that it was our site but we did eventually tell them.
Approaching Wigan Pier there were some workmen clearing the overgrown vegetation outside the old warehouse buildings : not sure if it was the start of something big or just a small amount of long overdue maintenance. As I got close to the Orwell I sounded the horn and started the turn under Pottery Changeline Bridge and saw a boat coming the other way. I slammed the boat into reverse and opened up the throttle but the boat just went forward even faster. The person on the other boat shouted at me saying I was going too fast. I shouted back that my gears were stuck and I’d sounded my horn so why hadn’t he.. he just swore at me. We actually missed each other and I dropped the boat to tick over.
Looking under the deck I saw that the gear shift cable had come loose from it’s mountings and so, avoiding a bunch of kayakers I drifted the boat over to the side. Nick hopped on and we determined that the gearbox was still working and so we tightened the mountings up and found that it was not really going into forward very well (we’d had problems with it going into forward from time to time) . worked out way through Dockyard Lock with Nick basically sitting with his feet by the gear box and kicking the gear shift lever up so we could go forward.
We’d also noticed that, once again, the bracket that holds the CAV fuel filter on had sheared so we made a temporary running fix with several cable ties and at the same time we wound the adjusters on the gear lever cable to its very end and tightened everything up as tight as it would go…. after 15 years I guess there is very little left on the forward gear clutch plates so we’ll probably have to get a new gearbox this winter.
The pound between Poolstock Top Lock No 1 and Poolstock Bottom Lock No 2 was very low and the other boat bounced off something quite solid in the middle of the channel (it actually made their boat lean over).
Leaving the lock we checked the time and knew we had plenty of time to get to Plank Lane before 2pm, and we actually made it with nearly an hour to spare which gave us time to put in a new, temporary, bracket for the CAV filter, so we could get the boat back to Market Drayton.
The bridge opened a few minutes late, and there was a bit of jockeying for position in the old lock narrows as C&RT wanted to keep the bridge lifted for as short a time as possible.
At Leigh Bridge No 11 we left C&RT waters and entered the Bridgewater Canal who make you welcome with the following notice
Nice one Peel Holdings… “Enjoy your stay” now basically means C&RT boat owners power through the canal as fast as possible to avoid being harassed by “Sonny” their self titled “enforcement officer”… I’m sure the local businesses love you for it….
We’d done some calculations and worked out that we’d not be able to make it into the centre of Manchester so we took our time. As we came up to Worsley Bridge No 52 we could see a hire boat attempting to turn in front of the Packet House… they weren’t having much luck as their stern was in towards the delph where there is very little water.