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19th May
A hectic morning doing last minute jobs before heading off to Ripon. It was made even more hectic, having topped up my Three dongle account, when a last minute check that it was working OK revealed that my upgrade of the laptop to El Capitan had rendered the dongle useless (nothing beyond OS X 10.6, or even Window 8 was supported). Conversation with India and China got me nowhere. The only resolution was a dash to the Three shop in Redcar where a suitable Mobile Wi-Fi device was purchased. This has proved to work well, and at least, by sticking the sim card from the dongle, into it allows me to use the data allowance just purchased. At Ripon a hasty transfer of goods and chattels, followed by a trip to Morrison’s, meant that Alison could make her back to Guisborough, before it got dark. Once she had gone I rinsed out and then filled the water tank and headed down to Oxclose Lock, ready for an early start down to York in the morning.

End of Day Location: Oxclose Lock

20th May
A beautiful sunny morning. Prepped the lock and was about to head off into it when a realised that the buzzing noise that I could hear was neither my tinnitus or something mechanical in the nearby property, but was coming from Kestrel’s engine compartment. Investigation revealed that it was the bilge pump valiantly trying to empty the bilges, but without success. Fifty dirty and greasy minutes later I eventually got it working efficiently, proved with a couple of buckets full of water from the canal.

The journey to York was uneventful except when, just below Nun Monkton, a Roe deer, plunged into the river and started to swim across my bow, pausing briefly do give me a very reproachful look, before crossing in front of me. It was that close that I had to slow down to avoid hitting it.

On arrival at York I moored up close to Scarborough Bridge, and then headed up to the Minster where I met up with George. He is working on the pops. for the Mystery Plays and I was able to get in to have a sneak preview – not really a preview, as I will be away all the time they are on. It was a fascinating experience to watch a technical rehearsal for such a major production in a such a fine and unusual setting.

Eventually tore myself away, as I planned to get down to Naburn Lock for the night, since I was due to have an early start down to Selby in the morning. It was almost pitch dark when I eventually arrived there; fortunately the only other traffic was the York Rescue boat and a ‘party boat’ up from Naburn. To add to the sightings of numerous heron earlier, I was treated to a kingfisher fly-past and a tawny owl, which flew right across in front of me while I was standing on the bank at Naburn.

End of Day Location: Naburn Lock

21st May
My alarm woke me at the horribly early time of 5.05am – not a time of day that I have been used to witnessing these last few years. I had still not had a call back from the Naburn lock-keeper to confirm transit time of 6.15am, so I had to be ready, but I decided to check the tide-table again and found that it should be 8.15am not 6.15am, so went back to bed! At 7.45am a cruiser went past so, looking out I notice a lock-keeper in evidence. He confirmed the departure time, so after some hurried preparations I was ready for the off. By 8.30am we were on the river and heading south against the flood tide. A couple of hours later the tide turned and progress was more rapid. At 10.56 I missed a call from the Selby lock-keeper wondering where I had got to. Once I realised that I had missed his call I called him back and reassured him that I hadn’t got lost along the way. By 11.30am I made a clean entry into the lock and was soon moored up in the basin. Definitely time for a nap.

Later I motored on down to the Selby Boat Centre to get some engine oil and check on what the oil level should be in the gear box, which I wasn’t too sure about. Them moved back to moor near the swing bridge to do some shopping. By this time it was very wet, and wasn’t to let up for several hours. Suitably re-provisioned I turned Kestrel round again and headed south once more, to spend the night at Gateforth Landing, my favourite stopping place. Having put on my dingy suit for mooring up, I decided to take the opportunity to give Kestrel’s roof a bit of a brush down as she was definitely showing the ravishing of winter and early spring – OK, not perfect, but a lot more respectable. Concluded that my dingy suit wasn’t as waterproof as it once was…

End of Day Location: Gateforth Landing.

22nd May
River levels were right on the cusp between Green (Safe to proceed) and Amber (Proceed with caution) and so all three flood locks were closed and had to be operated. Not only that but all the other locks were also set against me when I arrived, so had to be emptied. All in all, it made it a long day, but a good test of my stamina and current level of fitness. At Casteford Junction I topped up the water tank, which also slowed me down - it always surprises me how much water I need to take on each time, as I don't tend to be extravagant with it.

At Lemonroyd I had a bit of a senior moment: while operating the lock I had noticed Marie in the Marina compound and wanted to say a quick hello. Unfortunately, by the time I had moored up, she had moved to the far side of the Marina, so couldn't make contact, so returned to Kestrel. It was only as I headed off and glanced behind me that I realised that I had not actually finished off doing the lock and that my keys were still in the control panel...

The weather today was sunny and not too windy so a T-shirt was adequate most of the time. The May blossom was in full display and I almost waxed lyrical about in it a text to Alison - not my usual size. The Pussy Willows were also bursting out all over with seeds being blown about like snowflakes and leaving a carpet of white on the river in places.

An early start planned for the morning to get through Leeds in good time. Just hope there's plenty of help on hand

End of Day Location: Fishpond Lock

23rd May
Photo: Early morning at Fishpond Lock.

Had set my alarm for 7am, but a glorious sunny morning woke me early and I was underway by 6.20am, having topped up the engine oil and coolant. Saw the extensive engineering works underway at Knostrop Falls Lock and flood lock, evendently needed after extensive damage from the floods. I guess that the boats now moored at Thwaite Mills (previously heavily marked up as Private No Mooring) where the ones that used to be moored up at the basin at Knostrop Falls. At Leeds Lock I had an interesting conversation with three ladies of a certain age and weight who were shortly to start a walk to Liverpool and just wanted to check which direction they should go! I saw them a bit later, determinedly going in the correct direction. At Oddy 2 Locks I met the first of only three boats on the move I met all day. I gave some assistance and in return the gentleman offered to help me up through the locks, but once into the second lock I persuaded him to get back to his wife, who was still hanging onto their boat, expecting him to return at any time. The next lock was being operated by the other two boats that I saw, so at least I didn't need to prep it. The triple locks Forge Locks and Newlay Locks were both manned by volunteers, so I had an easy ride up. Then came Ross Mill swing bridge; it was fitted with a brand-new very shiny chain, so I reckoned that if I could push it open sufficiently from the tow path side and get Kestrel through, and then close it again with the chain. This would have worked neatly had the bridge not swung closed again as soon as I turned my back to go to Kestrel. With a bit of pulling and bumping I finally managed to get Kestrel through without damage. And then came Moss Swing Bridge... The Canal Planner program that I use has a navigation note that says "This swingbridge can be very hard to open in summer or on hot days. Try pouring quite a few buckets of canal water on to the parts of the bridge that rub to cool the metal down." What it doesn't say is that this bridge is almost impossible to open singlehandedly. By now it was raining quite heavily, so asking an unprepared passer-by to stop and get even wetter helping me out seemed a pointless - so I moored up, put the kettle on and had some lunch. By the time I had finished the weather was a lot brighter and I collared a worker from the Nature Reserve, which the bridge gives access to, to open the bridge for me, which he kindly did. I was then able to get to the visitor moorings in Rodley for the night, dead on schedule. I had been hoping to get a bit ahead of schedule, but by then I felt I had done enough for the day. News on the towpath from a scottish lady cycling from Liverpool to Leeds, was that Timothy West and Prunella Scales were somewhere ahead, being filmed. Perhaps I will get to meet them on the morrow.

End of Day Location: Rodley Wharf Visitor Moorings

24th May
One might describe this as mildly frustrating day... After a reasonably early start, Rodley Swing Bridge was easy enough as a passing woman agreed to close the bridge for me. A short way further on Owl Swing Bridge was suitably chained and again proved easy enough. The next bridge, as marked in our book was open as usual. Then came Apperley road bridge - impossible to do single handed, and very busy with traffic at 8.30am. I strolled up to Dobson Locks and found a boat about to come own, which they eventually did and I was once more on my way. Dobson 2 Locks was easy enough and in no time I was at Idle Swing Bridge. I checked the chain and found it was broken so repaired it with a piece of chord. Thne with a hearty shove I started it opening and started back across it. It was then it came to a juddering halt and just wouldn't budge. Somehow the chain had caught under it. There was nothing for it but to call out CRT. Jonathan (?) arrived about twenty minutes later armed with a crowbar, having walked from the depot at Dobson Locks. With a lot of proding, levering, pushing and pulling we eventually managed to pull the chain out and the bridge swung freely once more. I was on my way again. Strangford Bridge is a much heavier bridge, not equipped with a chain. A couple of requests to passers-by were unsuccessful, but then three guys on electric monocycles came along and they willingly operated it for me. At Field 3 Locks, after a chat with Andy from Pontoon A at Ripon, I found a wide beam was just starting the descent, to be followed by a narrow boat travelling with them . Unfortunately, the crew of the wide beam forgot to close one of the paddles on the bottom lock, so that when it came to empty the middle lock they kept emptying it until the boat ended up aground on the bottom of the chamber. At that moment, Steve, a CRT lock-keeper arrived and slowly got everything back to normal without swamping the narrow boat, and then worked me up the flight, but it all took precious time. My chance of getting up Bingley Five Rise was fast disappearing. The next three swing bridges, all fitted with chains, worked a treat. Steve had told me how great the new controls at Dock Swing Bridge at Shipley were - really easy to use. However, on my approach a passer-by helpfully told me that there was a problem with it, but CRT were there already. Sure enough my friend Jonathan (?) was there, with another narrow boat waiting on my side, and a broad beam on the other. Unfortunately Jonathan hadn't been able to fix it and an engineer from the system suppliers was being called - from Loughborough. Several hours later an engineer duly arrived, and a while later they successfully opened the bridge under manual control, so I was once again under way. After twelve hours from starting off I thankfully moored up at Saltaire, ten locks and three miles short of my schedule. What time Jonathan (?) and the engineer got away I shall never know - I did offer them cups of tea, but this was declined.

End of Day Location: Saltaire

25th May
I think I'll be having nighmares about swing bridges tonight - apparently there were 22 of them, only one not in use. Most of them were manual, with chains in place, so easy enough to do. Some were automatic ones, with the control box on the towpath side, so even easier for me to do. Three had the control box on the 'wrong' side, which I couldn't do, so had to wait until I found someone to help. Selecting a suitable 'victim' was an interesting process; since it was raining, or drizzling it had to be someone at ease with the weather, with no dogs in tow, call me sexist, but most likely to get a positive from a male (correct me if I'm wrong, Jane Garvey). The first man I selected duly obliged. At the next bridge it was a mother and grown up son I picked on, she having shown some interest in my plight - they managed sufficiently for me to get through and across to the control box to get traffic flow running again. At the third bridge, after a longish wait, a hire boat appeared in the opposite direction and I was able to proceed.

Excitement for the day came at the upper chamber of Dowley Gap 2 Locks, when the stern of Kestrel became wedged under the smallest of overhangs on the bottom gate. It took me a moment or two to realise what was amiss as the bows started to rise up in the water. Closing both ground paddles to stop the fill involved sprinting round the lock, which although leaving me breathless, seemed to have no other deleterious effect on me. Fortunately there was no deleterious effect on Kestrel either. Must return to mwnprevious policy of opening paddles and sluices on one side of the lock only.

Bingley Three and Five rise locks were both manned, although trying to get information from CRT about opening hours proved impossible - their website page about them contained no such information,their search facility for Bingley kept wanting to search for Bagley (?!?!?!) and two attempts to phone consisted of 9mins 42secs and 9mins 48secs of recorded messages. Trying to phone the Wigan Office direct just resulted in being told to use the central number. Unfortunately I didn't spot the small notices pinned to a couple of the balance beams, giving the number of the Five Rise lock keeper.

At the top of the Five Rise Locks I was treated to the sight of 'Worcester', the hire boat being used for the filming of Timothy West and Prunela Scales 'trip' on the Leeds Liverpool Canal. They were apparently waiting for a drone to arrive to film the boat cruising - not however, with the Wests on-board - only their stunt doubles!

End of Day Location: Skipton Junction

26th May
The planned trip has been aborted, and Kestrel will be returning to Ripon in due course.
  Post cruise note: Medical appointments back on Teesside had squeezed the available time slot for getting to the Ribble Link for the booked crossing to a bare minimum, leaving a punishing daily schedule. Although traffic on the canal was light (and therefore little help available with swing bridges and locks), I had managed up until this point to keep to the daily target - and that, inspite of the bridge break-down. The weather had been fair and warm, but by Gargrave it had turned cold and wet, which is enough to dampen anyone's spirits. This was meant to be fun, and it had ceased to be so. A couple of days spent with my brother and his wife near Settle revived me enough to get me back on board, and with his help for a couple of days, and then joined by Alison for several days, I was able to get Kestrel back to Ripon without further set-back, and a lot more enjoyment. The booking for the Ribble Crossing was duly cancelled.
Note: To avoid rounding up errors the Total Miles is recalculated from Ripon Marina each day (using Canal Plan), rather than adding the day's mileage to the previous day's Total Miles.