Earl Aagaard’s opinions about everything that interests him. Og also enjoys gardening, travel, reading, woodbutchery, and lots of other stuff.
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Gail and I have dreamed for years of canal-boating around England…especially after she had a couple of experiences of day-trips. There’s something impossibly romantic about chugging quietly along (maximum speed four miles per hour) behind hedgerows, through the secret places in cities (including all over London) from Scotland to Kent, and from Norwich to Wales.
One of the most scenic and engineeringly interesting canals is the LLANGOLLEN in WALES, and that’s where we headed for two weeks to celebrate our retirement this summer. This is what we had in mind…..
First, of course, we had to get the boat, and here it is – all 65+ feet of it at the dock
But this doesn’t begin to express the reality of the ANGLO-WELSH mooring basin – this is what it looked like
Ours is the boat at upper right, and someone is using the “winding hole” to turn around ahead of us. To the right is the dead-end canal to the town of Llangollen – where much of the water we’ll be using comes from. We’ll go there the first day, and then return to the basin and start downstream. Slightly left of straight ahead in this photo is our course for tomorrow—the World Heritage Site that is the enormous aqueduct for carrying the canal (and drinking water for people downstream) across a deep valley.
Looking upstream, it’s not quite so congested – Emily’s car is in the lineup at left, along with the pub where we ate a wonderful lunch before leaving. Under the bridge is another “winding hole” where boats are turned so the novice boaters get to leave the basin headed in the correct direction. Turning a 65-foot boat is definitely a challenge!
The AngloWelsh man took us on a tour of the boat, pointing out safety features, emergency procedures, and all the minutiae of running the boat and life afloat. Then he got on and gave us “driving lessons” for about 10 minutes – just to the first bridge, where he left us and walked back to the basin.
We were off……Captain Thor at the tiller:
Doesn’t he look serious? There’s a reason for that! None of us has any clear idea of just how to maneuver this boat we’re driving, and there are other boats, plus bridges, tunnels, etc. to navigate! Learning by doing…… Here’s the view forward:
and you can see another boat up the canal a bit. It’s bad manners (not to mention virtually impossible) to pass someone – if a boat is catching you up, you’re supposed to pull over and wave them by….and passing moored boats is done dead slow to avoid shaking them up with your wake. If you forget, some experienced boater in the shaken boat is likely to come out and remind you!
THIS is the sort of thing we had to learn to be good at
Going slow helps, but throttle and tiller technique is what it’s about. The tendency is to start the turn too early, and clunk the side of the boat on the left front corner. Heading for the right front corner for what seems ‘way too long, and then pulling the rear of the boat around with a hard right rudder works better. We got better and better at this – but, so long as one isn’t speeding, the bumps don’t harm anything but one’s ego.
At Llangollen, they’ve closed the upper canal leading to the falls that feed this system, except to horse-drawn boats like in the olden days:
We stayed overnight at a tie-up, then “parked” in the basin and walked into town for supplies
It’s a lovely little picturesque town, highly touristed and fun to walk in. We looked at local crafts, bought produce at a wonderful fruit and vegetable place, and other things at a convenience store. Then back to the boat. Sights along the canal included this folly of a house, decked out to mimic a castle by the builder or a later owner.
Notice the terrain – very steep up here at the head of the canal. We’ve had wonderful weather, so far – knock on wood. Emily needed to check e-mail about a job she’s trying to get, and Gail had invited a friend to spend some time with us, so we hunted up a canal-side pub with free wi-fi….
Inside we were observed with bemusement by the regulars
When we arrived back at the Anglo-Welsh basin, it was a right turn onto the canal in the sky!
This is the PONTCYSYLLTE AQUEDUCT, a wonder of the technological world….completed in 1805, it is made of cast iron and remains the highest cast iron aqueduct ever. Its joints were sealed with wool felt dipped in boiling sugar, and then leaded – and they have not been replaced for 200+ years! It was incredible—here’s a YOU-TUBE LINK that will help you visualize it.
THOMAS TELFORD, the engineer and builder, was exceedingly proud of the fact than in its 10 years of building, only one workman was killed…… From the canal, it’s a bit difficult to photograph the aqueduct, but here you get a sense of its 125+ foot height….
Here’s a view from about half-way across – just imagine what this must have been like to people who didn’t know flight…whose perspective was resolutely land-bound, except from (perhaps) a steeple or a treetop!
From here (remember, this is only the day after we picked up the boat) we headed “downstream” toward Chester and Ellesmere Port…..but that story will have to wait – I’m posting from a pub and there’s no more time right now…..and yes, I WILL get back to Africa and the last posts from Kenya! These things take time. J
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