The time was upon us once again to empty our waste tank. The weather forecast was abominable! Unfortunately the services to do this are located a full days round trip in either direction from our winter mooring and in winter this can be a challenge with the shortage of daylight hours (roll on spring!).Our plan was to go to Plank Lane pump out station in Leigh on the Saturday to empty the tank and travel as far back as possible in the day. An overnight stop would then leave us the following morning to get back ready for Mr F's shift that afternoon. Simples!
It didn't quite go to plan...After changing our plans anyway due to the high winds forecast and deciding to put it off for a week, we heard on social media that since replacing the lock gates at Poolstock in Wigan, the pound in between the two locks was suffering from low water levels and even draining completely. In the summer months this can happen due to kids who get great amusement from emptying the canal but is less likely in winter. Happening so soon after repairs seemed to point towards a different cause. Deciding we to take a look for ourselves by car we discovered an empty pound and were relieved not to have set off in rotten conditions only to be faced with a dry cut.
Due to the location of this pound, which is also quite long, it isn't just a simple job of opening paddles to let water through. The pound before is directly at the bottom of the Wigan flight of 21 locks to one side and Henhurst lock which takes the level down on the other. It can take hours to feed water through and is usually done by the Canal & River Trust staff.
Not wanting to have wasted the weekend altogether, we decided to head back to our boat and go in the opposite direction to fill up with water.
Isn't there supposed to be more water than that?
Always good to get out on the boat
Lone swan framed by the motorway bridge reflection
I think he's laughing at me...
A short trip but a lovely stretch of canal
Never miss the opportunity to collect wood!
The tug deck comes in handy sometimes
Looking towards Crooke in the fading light
Cheeky black swan just waiting for an opportunity to bite the hand that feeds
So the following weekend we decided to try again. Forewarned is forearmed as they say, so Mr F called to check the water level on his way home from work and all seemed fine. Off we headed, this time accompanied by our friend Devon. We got away early (for us) and having extra crew made a huge difference through the four locks to navigate before arriving at the Poolstock locks.
We don't normally do early mornings
Black swans trying their luck in the marina
Sitting down on the job
Wigan Dry Dock
Passing CRT North West Office
Henhurst Bridge & Lock
Getting arty on the footbridge as I go on ahead
Disaster strikes again
Arriving first on foot I was greeted by a trickle in the bottom of the pound. It had drained! Again! I turned on my heel to try and get back to the lads on board as soon as possible, there is nowhere to turn round here (we are 62') and the further down this bit they got, the further they would have to reverse. And as anyone who had reversed a narrowboat will tell you, they don't behave! Unfortunately they had already got quite a way (I'm not a good runner). Oh well, it's always good to practice you boat handling skills! We had contacted the CRT out of hours number (it was Sunday) to get a message to the Canal & River Trust staff in case someone was available to help with rewatering but after a while it became apparent that no one would be coming anytime soon. We decided to turn round.
There was less rubbish in the bottom than I was expecting!
Devon waiting with the boat while we decided what to do
At least it was a nice day for boating
Passing the iconic Wigan Pier (again)
Trencherfield Mill is an impressive sight in the sunshine
The obligatory prop foul
Wide winding area is a haven for the birds
It hadn't been a very productive couple of weekends really and it was looking like we might need to get the emergency portaloo out of retirement to tide us over. As we formulated a plan for getting to the pump out at Scarisbrick on the way back, the kettle on the back stove keeping us toasty warm and full of tea (and cake), we all resolved that no weekend boating is really ever wasted.