Bandit Country –  13th June 2022

Today was to be our most challenging day with regards to getting through an area of the Rochdale Canal that has a reputation for harassment and possible problems with the locals. Mostly young kids who can create difficulties by jumping on your boat and maybe nicking stuff. You just don’t know how much of it is myth or legend, but we set up the boat in such a fashion that reduced chances of conflict.

So, the bright green shows the Rochdale Canal starting in Manchester at lock 92. Yesterday we did the first nine locks. We had a very secure mooring last night and got up at the ungodly hour of 6.00am to be on the go by 6.45am as we had 20 locks to do.

This whole area was a huge cotton milling area with a number of the old mills still here and repurposed into flats or commercial space. What mills still do exist, be they derelict or refurbed are a fraction to what was in the area.

We set off doing lock 83 first. All was going splendidly until lock 78 then our day turned into a nightmare from hell. Nope, nothing to do with the bandits. Didn’t see any of those. People we did see were fascinated by our presence as not that many boats come up this way. They were very keen to help us and friendly.

The target today was to get to lock 63 where we would moor for the night outside the Rose of Lancaster pub and have dinner there to celebrate Di’s birthday. Instead, we ran out of water. If you look closely at the photo, you will see a metal piece of whatever sticking up above the water line. We could not distinguish what it was, but it gave us a marker for the water level. This is the pound between lock 78 and 77 (locks are counting backwards). Halfway down the pound which was about half a kilometer, we beached badly. In fact, we were stuck solid on the bottom of the canal.

Fraser walked up the next four locks which were all close together thankfully and opened up the paddles on the gates to let water down to the pound where the boat was beached. It took about 30 minutes before the boat refloated and we crawled into lock 77. The picture doesn’t really show it, but we were very much near the bottom of the lock.

We filled the lock and sat there whilst we rang up the Canal and River Trust to let them know that there was a water shortage and that we were going no where. We were told to sit tight as they had a problem further up the canal at lock 60 which they thought was causing the issue.

By now it is 1.00pm and after another phone call we were told to stay there for the night as they would not be able to fix the water problem until lock 60 was repaired which might be tomorrow. They also told us to get out of the lock as it was a leaky lock and if we tied up there for the night, we would end up hanging by our mooring ropes. We could not go forward as there was no water ahead. Hence, we let the water out of the lock and reversed out.

Remember that metal thing sticking out of the water, well we had to let all the water out that we could find to almost cover that to reverse up down the pound.

Meantime, at the next lock, mum and dad swan with their two offspring decided to get themselves caught in the lock with us even though we had had serious discussions with them that it was not a smart move on their behalf. All went well though and they exited once the doors were open.

So, we reversed out of the second lock and moored up in the next pound which is where we thought we would spend the night. Though, not before have to pull crap off the propellor shaft. This is close to one of the yuckiest canals we have been on when it comes to flotsam and jetson.

After setting ourselves up in the next pound for the night we noticed after an hour that the water in that pound was going down. It was now decision time. Do we reverse through yet another lock, turn around in that pound and head back to Manchester or risk waking up in the morning at a bad angle because we are sitting on the bottom of the canal? As you can see, a bit of a no brainer.

Into reverse again and into the next lock. We had lots of help from some locals to help pull us backwards as the water was making it difficult to use the propulsion of the motor.

Another problem with the propulsion was that we had a mountain bike tyre wrapped around the shaft. It took poor Fraser over half and hour to finally pull it off using a knife, wire cutters and a hacksaw.

This is what came off the propellor shaft after a visit down the weed hatch. There were three trips into the weed hatch for the day with a myriad of gross stuff having to be pulled off.

We finally got through the last lock and turned around and headed back to where we had started at the beginning of the day – in the secure mooring.

Our dream of doing the Rochdale Canal was over. We could have waited for the issue on the canal to be repaired but there were no guarantees as to how long it would take and what we saw of the water issue convinced us that it was not going to be an easy fix.

This is the second time we have tried to do this canal and we admit defeat. Having said that though, we did give it our best shot. We will spend the next few days revisiting our canal plan for our time here. What we have lost on the roundabout we will make up on the swings as there are still lots of other sites we can go and visit.

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