Book 8

Canal Cruising 2012

An eBook and website by Cyril J Wood


The title photograph shows a busy Staffordshire Arm at Castlefield, Manchester


Click on the required section below to follow links

Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2012

Chapter 2 - Ring Ramblings

Canalography 2012


Return to Introduction


Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2012 (in preparation)

We wanted a quiet New Year's Eve and Day so we stayed with out friends Michelle, Ian and Popsy Gilbody who also wanted a quiet start to 2012. After breakfast on New Year's Day we went for a walk to Thelwall Ferry. The weather was overcast but at least it was not raining! We were surprised to see Kevin Wilkinson... the ferryman, on duty and we decided to ask him to ferry us across the Manchester Ship Canal.

Kevin Wilkinson - the Thelwall Ferryman

Ange and Michelle decided to wait with "Lucky" and "Louie" at the ferry station whilst Ian, Popsy and I were rowed us across to the opposite bank of the canal. This was to be our first canal journey of 2012. Once on the other side we were surrounded by waterways both used and disused. To our right was the Manchester Ship Canal, to our left was a disused meander once part of the River Mersey, around the corner was a cut and Woolston Weir circumscribing the old meander with the remains of Woolston New Cut - once part of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation close by. Unfortunately the weather was less than ideal and it started to drizzle not long after we landed on the opposite bank turning to rain about tem minutes later.

Two photographs of the disused meanders on what was once the River Mersey

The River Mersey running from the right to Woolston Weir in the centre

A composite panorama of the same location with the river running from left to right with the meander to the left of centre

An aerial view of the Mersey's meander in the Woolston area with the MSC - bottom and Woolston New Cut - the straight line at the top

(Photograph - Google Earth)

After inspecting and photographing the various waterways we returned to Thelwall Ferry where Ange, Michelle and the boys had taken refuge from the rain and cold in the nearby (dog friendly) Pickering Arms. When we arrived the lattés were just being delivered. More hot drinks were ordered along with warming bowls soup accompanied by hot, fresh bread rolls, all of which was much appreciated and raised our core temperature in a short period of time.

The Pickering Arms in Thelwall Village... a stone's throw from the ferry

Once the food was consumed we returned to Michelle and Ian's and after saying goodbye to our friends we made our way home after a refreshingly quiet New Years Day with not an "Auld Lang Sine", "New York New York" or any of the other annoying "festive" songs in sight (or should that be earshot?) that have tortured us over the years.

The following week was unexpectedly brightened up when I had to go to the Post Office to collect a package the postman was unable to deliver. We do quite a lot of shopping on-line but usually have the orders delivered to the College where I work. But this package came out of the blue and could not think what it was as there was nothing outstanding that we were waiting for. The package turned out to be two copies of "Tiny Homes - Simple Shelter"... the American book about unusual small homes and dwellings written by Lloyd Khan.  Lloyd had approached last year me after visiting "Canalscape" and requested photographs of canal boats and narrowboats accompanied by a couple of columns of text. As well as various canal cruisers and narrowboats "Total Eclipse" has a whole page to itself! I was most impressed with the quality of quality of printing and the standard of photographic reproduction... much better than many books printed in this country. Whilst the book is not everyone's cup of tea it is interesting to see some of the unusual small houses that people all over the world have built. The standard of photography is good as well! This publication can be ordered from any good book shop or direct from Amazon and other on-line booksellers.

The front cover of Lloyd Khan's book... "Tiny Homes - Simple Shelter"

The next weekend Ange and I visited the Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre with our friends Michelle and Ian. Fred Dibnah, who died of cancer in 2004, had been one of my heroes for more years than I care to remember and I even met once him when visiting a steam fair at Grappenhall many years ago. I have many books and DVDs about Fred and I was looking forward to visiting the Heritage Centre to see first hand the location where many of his projects took shape. I was not prepared for the sad tales that Leon Powsney... the owner of the Heritage Centre and one of the guides, told about the period after Fred's death and the acts of vandalism that had taken place.

Your truly and Alf Molyneux

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Part of the Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre

The other guide was Alf Molyneux... Fred's friend and helper who accompanied him on many of his exploits and featured in Fred's last BBC series entitled "Made in Britain". We were shown around the yard and workshops, explored the house and even enjoyed a cuppa in Fred's kitchen before going into the workshop where seating had been installed where Fred's famous steam roller and traction engine once stood to listen to more of Alf's reminiscences. I could feel myself welling up when he told about how the steam engine, traction engine, steam roller and even Fred's Landrover were damaged by unscrupulous people stealing brass fittings, gauges and other items. The Landrover's windows were smashed and the workshops broken into and ransacked. The house did not escape either. When Leon, the current owner, bought the property the doors and windows were boarded up to deter unwanted visitors! Bit all was not doom and gloom. We laughed at the stories related by Alf Molyneux who spoke about Fred fondly... he obviously had great affection for him. When the presentation was over we were then given the opportunity to purchase memorabilia, DVDs, etc before returning to the car and making our way home after an emotional (for me) and informative visit which I would definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in the one and only Doctor Fred Dibnah MBE, steam engines and engineering. Let's hope that the Heritage Centre is a success and becomes one of the major heritage attractions in this country. "Did you like that?"... I most certainly did!

Doctor Fred Dibnah MBE... one of my lifelong heroes

(Photograph - James Daly)

After Lymm CC's AGM in February the social events started off with the Valentine's Dance. We stayed on board the boat which was surrounded by ice but once the solid fuel fire was lit the boat was cosy and inviting. Ian was missing from our table as he was unwell. He missed out on wonderful food, great company and good entertainment. One memorable moment was the Club's Chairman... John Melling took part in Mister and Misses with the Club's Webmaster... Mel Blakey (no - they are not a couple).

Mel Blakey and John (Rosie) Melling taking part in Mister and Misses

A couple of weeks later we spent the weekend at Lymm for a chill-out. Ian and Michelle moored their boat alongside our and after catching up with all the news we went for tea at the Barn Owl near the Club's Agden moorings. After chatting to The food was good even though my steak and ale pie turned out to be a casserole with a pastry lid! We returned to a nice, warm boat and went to bed. The next morning, after a lie-in we helped out moving furniture and tidying in the Clubhouse whilst Phil "Big-boy" collected annual subscriptions and mooring fees.

The tidied part of the Clubhouse adjacent to the bar

Phil "Big-Boy" Anderton collecting subscriptions and mooring fees

Ange accompanied Michelle to their house as they were expecting a delivery. Ian took his boat back to their mooring and I collected him and took him home. After a cup of coffee we said goodbye to our friends and made our way back down the M56 and M53 motorways home after a wonderfully chilled out weekend. Shame we had to go to work the following day!

In Canalscape Book 7 I mentioned that my books were on sale in New Zealand on the Mighty Ape website. Whilst "Googling" my book titles to check metatags I noticed that they are also on sale in Australia at (AU$22.37) which is Australia's largest bookshop and in India at (ζ826 - Rupees) the format of whose website is suspiciously "Amazonian". It is really strange to see the books advertised for sale on the other side of the planet and at prices displayed in unusual currencies.

The "Duke's Cut" page on Australia's - AU$22.37

The "Duke's Cut" page on India's - ζ826 (Rupees)

March was going to be a busy month as far as boating was concerned. First off we had Gary from Coverit Canopies coming to give us a quote on a new rear deck canopy due to the existing one coming to the end of its life. The style we settled on was one where the existing windscreen was replaced with an extension of the canopy coming down to the cabin roof with a roll-up clear section for the windscreen. We had originally planned to box-in the area beneath the handrail but this would prove to be difficult due to the curvature of the handrail so we decided to have the "dodger" replaced as well.

Michelle and Ange accompanying the singer at the Saints and Sinners evening

Ian (saint) and yours truly (sinner)

(Photograph - Phil Anderton)

Saints and Sinners Parade

(Photograph - Phil Anderton)

There was a Saints and Sinners social in the evening at the Clubhouse. In true fashion Ange and I turned up at to event in appropriate dress... Ange as a Vicar and me as a sinner in black. As well as good food courtesy of Derek Ridpath a singer entertained us and got Michelle Gilbody and Ange onto the stage as backing dancers in what was reminiscent of a scene from the film "Sister Act". A great evening with everyone entering into the spirit of the occasion and enjoyed by all.

A couple of days after the Saints and Sinners evening we were invited to the BBC at Media City on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays for the launch of the Webwise Manchester Ship Canal project. After being given refreshments we had the opportunity of seeing the films made last November (see the end of Canalscape Book 7 - Canalalmanac 2011) when I was followed by a film crew for a day taking photographs at Warburton Bridge and afterwards at home demonstrating what I do with my photographs. The series of short films were going live that day and can be viewed at (my film is number 14 and Graham Bridge's film, which may also be of interest, is number 8).

Part of the Webwise Manchester Ship Canal Exhibition

My section of the exhibition

The launch exhibition was impressive, well attended and I was very pleased with the end result (even if I didn't like any of the food on offer). A map of the Ship Canal spanned two walls of the display area with photographs of each contributor and their work at relevant points on the map. A special Webwise newspaper was distributed along with DVDs of the films. Ange and I were accompanied by Ian and Michelle and we met many friends there including the team that produced the films, Stuart Wood (no relation) the Mersey river pilot who I had first met at Radio Merseyside many years ago when being interviewed for a piece about the "Duke's Cut" and the "Big Ditch" and Graham Bridge from Runcorn Locks Preservation Society and BMBC.

Colin Stone (Producer), yours truly and Angela Roberts (Assistant Producer)

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

The cavernous interior of BBC's Quay House at Salford Quays

Ange and Michelle in one of the "Collaboration Pods"

The presentation was held on the fifth floor of Quay House... the northern home of the BBC and what an impressive building it is. As well as a cavernous atrium spanning five floors featuring "collaboration pods" it overlooks the MSC. its location gave me the opportunity to take a few of photographs of Salford Quays from the fifth floor which offered superb views of the Ship Canal. Unfortunately, I had to take the photographs through the windows and the self-cleaning glass used didn't seem to be very self-cleaning but Adobe Photoshop helped to remove any obvious blemishes on the resulting images! This was a fitting conclusion to the project and I hope that my piece (as well as the other contributors) encourages people to use information technology in the pursuit of their passions and for the photographically orientated to take photographs of their locality for future generations to enjoy.

The Manchester Ship Canal looking towards the Lowry as seen from the BBC's Quay House...

... and looking in the opposite direction towards the new Media City Footbridge

On our way back to the car park we saw two Maybach limousines (rich-man's Mercedes Benz) and a Rolls Royce Phantom waiting for their (no doubt) distinguished passengers. The first Maybach looked as though it was made from chrome plated steel and was mirror-like in appearance, even though it was actually covered in a plastic membrane to give this appearance. It had a personalised number plate "RYM4N" which I now know belongs to Theo Paphitis... the millionaire owner of Ryman's Stationers and one of the dragons in the "Dragons' Den" TV programme. I was lagging behind taking photographs (no surprises there then!) and the others waited for me to catch up. Whilst they waited they met Peter Jones and Hilary Devey getting into their limousines and also from the TV series "Dragon's Den". Hilary Devey told Ange and Michelle that she was going to partake her "guilty pleasure" from the cocktail cabinet in the back of the Maybach. A few more names to add to Ange's list of personalities spotted!

Dragon's Chariot..."RYM4N" - Peter Jones' "chrome" plated Maybach limousine

Ange took her grandaughter Shannon to Euro Disney a week later and as it was not my scene I took advantage of her absence to go up to Lymm on the Friday evening to do some work on the boat when I had finished work for the week. Seeing as the car was empty except for myself I took my giant projection screen up and left it in Ian Gilbody's garage in preparation for the "Saturday Night at the Movies" film show I am due to give the following weekend. On arrival my arrival at the boat I put the domestic batteries on charge to give them a bit of a boost as they were a little on the low side. The next morning I started the engine (it started first time) and took the boat to the Clubhouse to fill the water tank. Much to my relief here were no leaks caused by frost thanks, no doubt, to my fitting a drain-off valve last year. Next I returned to our mooring to spring clean the boat's interior. When I had finished that and as the weather was just perfect with not a cloud in the sky (a passing boater observed the summer had come in spring) the exterior got a good washing followed by a couple of coats of much-needed Mer wax polish (Wax on, wax off... two coats now Biff!).

The view from our moorings on near-perfect spring morning with not a cloud in the sky

A nice, tidy interior cleaned and polished

Wax on... wax off! Two coats now Biff - er Squirrel!

(Photograph - Mr Self Timer)

Whilst checking the engine I noticed that the stern gland was dripping a little faster than I would have liked so gave it a tighten up. To make sure that I had not over-tightened it I went for a little cruise to just past Oughtrington and back... mission successful! The only cause for concern was that the domestic batteries did not appear to be holding their charge. As they have not been replaced for a couple of years maybe now is the time for new ones. After finishing my jobs... all of which I had accomplished, I packed up my things into the car. It was a shame to leave the boat on such a beautiful day but I had jobs to do at home in preparation for Ange's return. Before I left I had a quick chat to Derek Ridpath about arrangements for the "Saturday Night at the Movies" film show then it was time to do battle with the M56. One occurrence that made me smile was when I was overtaken by a Suzuki Ignis almost identical to ours and both the driver and passenger waved. This was the first time a fellow-Ignis driver had waved to me. Maybe this is the shape of things to come just like Volkswagen Beetle and Morris Minor drivers do!

On the way home from work later on in the week I was crossing the bridges leading to Wallasey and saw the sun setting over Wallasey Docks. Needless to say I had to stop and take photographs. The resulting photograph was sent to Granada Reports who used it as a background to their weather report. Below is a screenshot of the weather feature with a full-size version of the photograph.

A screenshot of the Granada TV Weather...

... and a full size version of the photograph used

It was with deepest sadness that we learnt of the death of "Auntie" Maureen Shaw from Wardle Lock Cottage at the junction of the Trent and Mersey canal and the Shropshire Union Canal's Middlewich Branch (the Wardle Canal actually!). Maureen was born on a narrowboat and was was one of the original boatwomen who grew up working the oil boats that plied the canals between Ellesmere Port and Birmingham. She was adopted into the Jinks boating family and became one of the last professional horse boaters before marrying boatman Jack Shaw. Maureen lived for many years at Lock Cottage at Wardle Lock which she regarded as "her lock". Ironically, the cottage was sold by auction two days before her death.

Maureen Shaw's coffin on board nb "Tay" passing through "her" lock one last time

(Photograph - Bob McCulloch)

We had known Maureen for many years and admired the way that she guided novice boaters through "her" lock. The last time we saw her she asked me to trim the brambles overhanging the entrance to the lock before we entered. She even supplied a pair of hedge clippers for me to do the job! We first noticed that Maureen had left her cottage last summer and were told that she had gone into sheltered accommodation. She passed away on 17th March 2012 in Leighton Hospital, Crewe after a long illness. We were not able to attend her funeral on the 30th March but we were told that her coffin was to be transported on board a traditional narrowboat through her lock and down the Middlewich Flight one last time on the way to the funeral. The boat in question was the ex-Thomas Clayton oil boat "Tay" and was the sister craft to "Spey" on which she once worked. About fifty mourners followed "Tay" along the towpath on its way to St Michael's Church in Middlewich where the funeral took place. I am grateful to Pauline and Bob McCulloch for supplying the photographs and allowing me to use them.


Maureen's sister watching over the coffin on board nb "Tay" in Middlewich

(Photograph - Bob McCulloch)

Last May we helped on the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Club's stand at the Liverpool Boat Show later renamed Spring on the Liverpool Waterfront (see Canalscape Book 7). One thing that we discovered was that the FBCC did not possess a set of display boards to put the photographs of the Bridgewater Canal that I had supplied on. We managed to borrow a set from the Boat Museum and they were transported across the Mersey from Ellesmere Port to the Albert Dock by barge! I promised Dave Stewart... the FBCC chairman that I would put on a fundraiser so that a set of boards could be purchased. I planned "Saturday Night at the Movies" to be the fundraiser and arrangements were made for the 31st March 2012 to be the date of the show. I made a selection of films from my collection that would be of interest to members including films on the Manchester Ship Canal, Canal Heritage, Lymm Cruising Club, two "Webwise" films and my newly digitised audio/visual presentation... "Canalscape".

Lymm CC Clubhouse converted into the "Lymm Odeon"... note the "Kissing Seats"!

The 1500 Ansi Lumens/SVGA Sony VPL CS7 video projector...

...and the rest of the presentation equipment used at the Lymm Odeon

Yours truly in action

(Photograph - Michael Dawson)

Lymm Odeon Usherettes - Ange and Michelle

The clubhouse was converted into the "Lymm Odeon" complete with "kissing seats" and usherettes (Ange and Michelle Gilbody) selling popcorn, etc. I had brought my monster screen, Jamo D266 loudspeakers, Denon PMA 355 UK amplifier with the signal sourced from my Toshiba Satellite laptop computer with background music fed from my iPod. I had borrowed a Sony VPL CS7 video projector from work to provide the projection facilities whose 1500 Ansi Lumens and SVGA resolution were more than sufficient for the task. Admission was £3 and there was a raffle in the interval with food provided by Derek Ridpath and his team consisting of Phyllis Greenough and Lynda Whalley. The show was a great success and enjoyed by everyone. In total £250 was raised for the FBCC which will go a long way to fund the purchase of the display boards. On a more personal note, this was the first time I had used the computer and a video projector for a presentation and I have to say that it was a lot easier than using "analogue" projectors... both slide and ciné (even if I did have difficulty with one of the DVDs not reading). The loss of quality over analogue sources was not apparent and it has encouraged me to look into the purchase of a video projector in the future. Quite a few members of the audience remember my previous presentations at the Club and they can't wait to see them in high-definition with a digital sound track. I shall have to get cracking on them although I have scanned many of the photographs for them already.

The next morning we returned Lymm CC's Clubhouse back to its normal layout and loaded the equipment into the car. After breakfast I did a couple of jobs on the boat ready for our Easter cruise the following weekend. The alternator drive belt had been squealing and required tightening. Access to this area of the engine required removal of the steps from the rear deck into the cabin... a task that I didn't relish and Ian Gilbody helped me to remove them. The alternator belt was tightened and checked for slippage by starting the engine. When we were satisfied that all was correct Ian suggested removing the lip off the bottom of the steps to make removal easier. We borrowed a small angle grinder, removed the offending lip and greased the guide that the steps slide down into position. The removal of the lip has indeed made removal and refitting of the steps easier and it is no longer a two person job to remove and refit them. Mission successful!

The Bridgewater Canal at Dunham Massey

We had taken the Thursday before Good Friday off so that we could make a quick trip to the shops and then load the car before make our way up to Lymm for the Easter Cruise. This cruise was in two parts. The first part was to Boothstown just past Worsley and the second part was to Castlefield in Manchester. We decided to give Boothstown a miss and spend the extra time at Castlefield. It also meant that we would be able to secure a better mooring. Well... that was the theory anyway! We had arranged to meet Michelle, Popsy and Ian at Dunham Massey where Shannon (who was accompanying us) and Popsy could play out in the fields. We moored close to the Obelisk and we were surprised that we were the only boat moored there as it is usually a popular mooring. Good Friday dawned bright and dry if not as warm as it had been the previous week and we cruised up towards Manchester. Just past Oldfield Quays we came across an old Dawncraft cruiser that had been sunk and we gave it a wide berth as there was no way of knowing if it was partially afloat and would be drawn towards our propeller. As it turned out, it was still partially afloat but it did not move too much and was not too much of a hazard to navigation.

Sunken Dawncraft just past Oldfield Quays

We made good time to Manchester and went into the Castle Quay arm towards Deansgate. The only moorings to be had were at the far end close to Grocers Warehouse where boats turned around. I did not feel happy about mooring there so we retraced our tracks and went into the Staffordshire Arms where there was plenty of space. I couldn't believe how irresponsibly boats were moored at Castle Quay. Some had large gaps between them and a couple even had to be moored at an angle due to the irresponsibility of others. We witnessed one boater struggling to get his elderly dog on board. When you consider that Castlefield is one of the premier city centre mooring destinations in the North West and pride of place goes to scruffy residential boats (complete with the obligatory stacks of pallets and generators running up to 11pm) permanently moored on one of the two working water points it doesn't give a good impression to visitors. Especially when the adjacent Potato and Giant's Wharves and empty and there seems to be no reason why boats cannot moor in them.

One of the empty wharves at Castlefield crying out to be used

We visited the Castlefield Hotel for tea and have to say that the food is both inexpensive and good quality. We had lamb steaks which could not be faulted! The following morning we caught the Metro Tram to Bury to visit the market. We first went there last year and it is a shopping experience not to be missed. As the tram whisked us along we passed stretches of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal, parts of which are in the process of being restored but I don't think that it will be cruisable in its entirety during my life time. I did not succumb to the lovely black puddings that were sold in large quantities in the market.. or the pies that many stalls had for sale but I did buy a new kettle for the boat (even if I did have to take it back and swap it for a more modern version). It was soon time to catch the tram back to Manchester and after a quick detour into the Arndale Centre (no Leica shop for me either) it was time to return to the boat after good day out.

The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal near Radcliffe doesn't look as if it needs too much work to make it cruisable

Participants in the Easter Bonnet Parade

Sunday was the day of the Easter Bonnet Parade and the Children's Easter Egg Hunt and in true fashion the weather wasn't brilliant. The Easter Bonnets were very kindly judged by Jo Williams off nb "Last Un" from BMBC Runcorn. After the games everyone started to leave and make their way back towards Lymm. We retraced our steps to Dunham Massey where we planned to moor for the night and on the way passed the sunken Dawncraft at Oldfield Quay. The owners had removed some of their possessions from the boat and draped bedding etc over the towpath fence. They were desperately trying to rescue the boat by levering it out of the water with a plank on a lifebelt used as the fulcrum in the hopes that the water would empty out sufficiently to refloat their craft. It didn't look as though they were having a great deal of success and our hearts went out to them. Unfortunately there was not much we could do to help and felt guilty carrying on our way. We spent the evening with our friends and the next morning... Easter Monday, dawned extremely dull and showery. After breakfast we started the engine, returned to our mooring, loaded the car and went home. This was the first cruise of the season and we live in hopes that the weather warms up and makes a change for the better.

The front cover of the first issue of "Waterways World"

The following week was brightened up when the latest edition of "Waterways World" dropped through the letter box. It was the fortieth anniversary edition and it came complete with a reprint of the very first edition... Spring 1972. It made fascinating reading and there were quite a few things in it that made me smile... an article on the Bridgewater Canal entitled "The Duke's Cut" (Hmmmmm... isn't that title copyright?), an advert for Deans Marina at Christleton plus another advert for camping/hire boats from Starkey's Farm on the Llangollen Canal (the proprietor was none other than Chas Harden's father). The boats made me smile as well... brand new Norman and Callumcraft cruisers to name but two. It will make a good addition to the collection of "Waterways World"  magazines that are in my loft. We now look forward to the fiftieth anniversary of this erstwhile publication that all dedicated canal enthusiasts look forward to every month. I wonder how many changes we will have seen by then?

The title page of "The Duke's Cut" article showing Dunham School Bridge

For a while now we had been thinking about replacing the futon in the boat's front cabin with a larger sofa bed one that opened in a different fashion. We had visited our local furniture shops and saw a leather one for £169 that fitted the bill exactly except for the colour... it was red! Next the Argos, eBay and Amazon websites were visited and after seeing many that fitted the bill we eventually ordered one from Amazon which was identical to the one in the shop, was brown and cost less than £100. The sofa bed was delivered to work and I had measured the inside of the car to make sure that it would fit for transportation.

The brown leather sofa bed we ordered from Amazon

When it was delivered a couple of days later the delivery truck driver asked me where I wanted it and I told him in the back of my car. "Do you have a Volvo estate or something big?" he asked. When I said that it was a Suzuki Ignis he smiled. put it in the back of the car and beat a hasty retreat. It protruded from the back of the car by a good two feet but after removing some of the packaging and angling it at forty five degrees with the front passenger seat right the way forward the tailgate could be closed... Just! My colleagues came and sat in the car wondering how I would be able to drive safely with it loaded this way. Quite easily as it turned out. It could not slide forward should I have to brake suddenly, I could operate all the controls in the normal manner, see behind well enough and just had to lean forward slightly to see to the left. We have transported larger items in the past without any problems but I have to admit that I was looking behind after I passed a police car in a lay-by on the A41 to see if they were following me (which they weren't)! Once home was reached Ange, who arrived just behind me, helped me carry it into the hall where it would stay temporarily until being taken up to Lymm. You might be asking how is it going to be transported to Lymm? Well, the answer to that is... in the same way I brought it home from work but it would have to be when I am going up on my own due to the passenger seat being right the way forward. Gary from Coverit Boat Canopies was coming to make the canopy template the following week and I would have to take a day off work to move the boat to the canal frontage at the Clubhouse so that he had plenty of space to work. I planned to take the sofa bed up then and bring the old one home until a new owner could be found for it. I should be able to find some unfortunate person to help me lift the old one off the boat into the car and carry the new one onto the boat so watch this space as getting it onto the boat should be a sight to behold!

Ian making the template for our cratch board

Saturday the 21st April was the day before the 2012 Opening Cruise and also the date of the Opening Cruise Dance. Before the dance Ian made a template for the cratch board out of scraps of timber from the woodwork shed. We discussed the possibility of making it out of steel but it would be more difficult to glaze so timber was agreed on. Liam Hewlett of Longford Canal Services punctuated our afternoon when he came past steering "Ariel" with their new butty... an ex-BCN "Joey" day boat, breasted-up alongside.

Longford Canal Services narrowboat "Ariel" with their new butty "Joe" breasted-up at Lymm

A pre-haircut Liam Hewlett at the tiller of "Ariel"

The theme of the dance was 1940's and some of us dressed up in period costume. Ange was a cleaning lady, I was Winston Churchill, Ian was a 1940's business man and Michelle was a 1940's lady. Many other club members entered into the spirit of the period but one of my favourites was Keith Moore who dressed up as a "spiv" complete with nylons and other contraband hidden within his pockets. We returned to a nice warm boat in the early hours after quite a few Smirnoff Ices and Sambucas.

Ange dressed up as a 1940's cleaning lady and me as Winston Churchill

(Photograph - Linda Whalley)

Many other members dressed up in 1940's clothes - notice Mrs Mop!

(Photograph - Phil Anderton)

We awoke early on Sunday morning with rain hammering on the boat roof. This was to be the pattern or weather for the morning. The sun did make a brief appearance but was scared away by yet more rain and later on in the morning even by hail. After the usual assembly and speeches in the clubhouse, the Commodore - Guy Burden unfurled the flag on the flag staff and was escorted aboard his boat by a ensemble of members dressed in their 1940's gear.

Members dressed in their 1940's gear escorted the Commodore - Guy Burden to his boat

The procession of boats making their way to Grappenhall

Thelwall Cutting shortly before the rain turned to hail

Shortly after he lead the flotilla of boats heading for Grappenhall the sun made one of its brief appearances and we joined in at the end of the procession. As we passed through Thelwall cutting the rain turned to hail and we pitied the boaters who did not have the luxury of a canopy to protect them from the elements as they steered. When we reached Grappenhall we turned around, moored and had lunch. The rain stopped before we set off to return to Lymm and even had bursts of sunshine.

Sunshine at Grappenhall on the 2012 Opening Cruise

When we reached Lymm we loaded the car and I put the boat back on its mooring. Earlier, I had asked around if anyone wanted our futon sofa bed and one of the members asked if they could have a look at it to see if it would fit in their boat. It fitted their needs exactly and after dismantling it we put it on their boat where I am sure it will give them many years of service. The resulting space on "Total Eclipse" is now ready to accept our new sofa bed which we will hopefully bring up to Lymm later on in the week when Gary from Coverit comes to make the template for our new canopy.

The untimely trench dug across the lane leading to Lymm Cruising Club

Gary rang me on the next Monday and arranged to come to Lymm on the Tuesday of that week to make the canopy template. I took a day's holiday in order to be there to move the boat and remove the old windscreen, etc. We persuaded Ange's son... Michael to borrow his father's van to transport the sofa bed to Lymm (and help me on the boat with it) as well, killing two birds with one stone. Accordingly, he came the previous evening to collect the sofa bed as I would be on the road early so as to move the boat to the narrow end of the arm in front of the Clubhouse. Talk about the best laid plans of mice and men... guess when the local council decided to dig-up the road across the lane that leads to Lymm Cruising Club. Well it had to be the day that Coverit were coming and when our new sofa bed was being delivered! Fortunately, they were only digging the top layers of tarmac in order to resurface the road and the resulting trench was only a few centimetres deep (even though it looked deeper) allowing vehicles to turn into the lane. At first the workmen were turning traffic away and Paul Durbridge, whose boat "Dominion" was on the slipway being painted had to have his paint, wife Tina and himself ferried across the canal from the towpath. He later gained access by car which is just as well as he had some quite heavy items to transport to his boat.

Gary from Coverit making the "dodger" template

In the meantime, I had brought "Total Eclipse" from her mooring to in front of the Clubhouse in readiness for Gary and his crew who were also making canopy templates for John and Beryl Moult's new boat... "Don Ross". I had been to Sexton's cake shop for necessary supplies of the steak and kidney and vanilla slice variety and the kettle was boiled ready for when they arrived. After an inaugural cuppa they started work by removing the old canopy and frame before fitting the new frame and the first template was for the "dodger" beneath the hand rail. This turned out to be quite challenging and took longer than Gary anticipated due to the top being rounded where it was to be attached to the handrail but changing to a rectangular shape where it met the gunwales. In the meantime, Michael arrived with our sofa bed and was also the unfortunate person that helped me carry it on board the boat. This actually turned out easier than anticipated. We lifted it onto the front deck where it balanced across the gunwales then turned it 180° and carried it through the front door into the cabin. It only required the feet to be screwed onto it and once in position it fitted like a dream as if it was designed to fit there. On reflection, I think we did the right thing by installing it before the cratch was fitted as there is no way that we would have managed it without removing the cratch and front deck canopy beforehand.

The new sofa bed in position

After more liquid refreshment and one of Sexton's cakes Michael left to head back down the M56 and Gary started on the main canopy template... top bit first and then the side screens. We had long admired the canopy on "Hyland"... Brenda and Arthur Malcolm's boat. Theirs did not have a glazed timber windscreen but the canopy extended down to the cabin roof with a "zippable" clear PVC section which acted as their windscreen. As our timber windscreen had come to the end of its life as well as the canopy we had decided on a similar design to Arthur's. It would require an extra frame hoop but this alleviated the necessity for a windscreen and looked neater as well when erected. Where our design differed from Arthur's is that we wanted green PVC rather than canvas which required more maintenance whereas the PVC only requires the occasional wash.

Gary and his colleague completing the template for the side screens

 Gary was assisted by one of his colleagues who had been working on "Don Ross" but as this boat was more straight forward than ours he finished it first and hence him giving Gary a hand to finish off. I was impressed by the ingenuity that Gary and his team demonstrated, especially the magnetic clamps used to hold the template material in place whilst it was shaped and cut to size. When Gary and co left I removed the last bits of the windscreen only to discover that there was rust beneath it. I scraped off what I could and wanted to give it a coat of red oxide but did not have any paint brushes with me. A job for another time! I am not required to be present when the canopy is fitted... possibly on Friday so we arranged to meet Gary to pay him the following day. I had also planned to cut the grass on ours and Peter Corbett's mooring in the afternoon but didn't get around to doing it (sorry Peter!) so I would do that on Saturday as well... weather permitting. I removed the carpet tiles as well as everything else off the rear deck and stowed them inside as the boat would not have a rear deck cover for a couple of days and there was rain forecast for the rest of the week. With "Total Eclipse" being forty feet long it is possible to turn her around virtually anywhere on the Bridgewater Canal. As it was a pleasant evening I took the boat back to its mooring via the winding hole just past the Lymm CC moorings... it is easier to approach the mooring from that direction anyway. My journey home was via Bidston Tip where I unceremoniously deposited the old canopy and windscreen in a skip. They didn't owe us anything as they must have been on the boat since about 1990. Let's hope that the new ones are just as long lived.

Looking towards Oughtrington from the winding hole at the end of the Lymm moorings

Friday afternoon I was at work and received a telephone call from Gary who told me that he had fitted the canopy and it looked great. We arranged to meet the following day at lunchtime when we would pay him. As I was walking along the moorings the following day I could see our new canopy from a distance. When we reached the boat it looked wonderful... exactly as we anticipated. The British Racing Green PVC matched the boat's paintwork and was nicely shaped to match the boat's line. The windscreen had a steeper rake than the old timber one had and gave a better view as well as a greater feeling of spaciousness. Closer examination showed a couple of things that needed slight modification such as there was no zip allowing the windscreen portion to be rolled up when necessary, flaps would need to be stitched on behind the cleats to prevent rain ingress and straps to support the side screens when rolled up. We also think that rain might enter where the handrails pass through the canopy and where the canopy attaches to the cabin roof. After discussing it with Gary we plan to fit a thin batten behind the windscreen to guide any ingress of rain water to the edges of the cabin roof where it will run down the cabin sides.

The completed and fitted new canopy by Coverit looks fantastic...

... and offers a really good view through the windscreen

Once we had opened the boat Ange went to inspect the sofa bed which was also to her satisfaction. Gary arrived and we pointed out to him the couple of modifications that we would like to be made. He promised to rectify them when he came to measure up for the cratch canopy. The business was concluded when we paid him and he left us in peace. As previously mentioned I didn't get the opportunity to cut the grass on Tuesday. Today we had plenty of time and as I cut the grass Ange brushed off any cuttings from Peter's boat and ours. Linda Whalley was having nb "Sapphire" repainted. As the painters passed our boat he pointed to our sign writing and told us that he had done it. After a quick chat Mike (as Ian Gilbody later told me was his name) and his mate excused themselves and left me to finish my strimming. The grass cutting was again interrupted by the sound of an approaching Bolinder. It was not long before the ex-British Waterways narrowboat "Rudd" passed our mooring looking good as well as sounding good. When we had completed cutting the grass we had a cup of coffee, chilled out for a bit then went home... missions successful.

NB "Rudd" passing our moorings

May Bank Holiday weekend featured a cruise to the wide between Saltersford and Barton Tunnels on the Saturday then onto George Gleave's Bridge near Daresbury on the Sunday. When we arrived at Lymm late morning and Ian and Michelle were waiting for us as they filled their water tank. I brought the boat to where the car was parked and it was not long before we were ready to leave. As usual the weather forecast looked grim and we left Lymm with the canopy up and planned to fold it when we reached Preston Brook Tunnel, We stopped briefly at Thorn Marine and reached the tunnel just in time for the 4.30 passage. Ange took the tiller whilst I collapsed the canopy but we didn't have enough time to do it properly, leaving it resting on top of the seats. When our cratch is fitted there will only be room for one headlight but we currently have two different types so we went through Preston Brook Tunnel with one of the lights covered up. The light left to illuminate our way was a Lucas Square Eight fog light which gives a narrow beam of light and did not illuminate the tunnel as well as I had hoped. When we came to Saltersford Tunnel the other light... a Radyot similar in shape to the Lucas but with a clear lens, gave a wider spread of light which illuminated the tunnel better.

Tillers on parade

We were two of the last boats to arrive and after Ian reversed into a place next to "Midnight" we moored next to him stern to the bank. After tying up we erected the canopy and had tea before the Induction of the Rear Commodore Ceremony. This year's Rear Commodore is Paul Durbridge and his "poking stick" was presented to him by our President - Keith Moore.

Keith Moore presenting Paul Durbridge with his ceremonial stick

Paul lighting his first bonfire

After the ceremony Paul lit his first bonfire as the bar opened and burgers cooked. It was warm and dry and we had a good time chatting to our friends. All too soon it was time to return to our boats and go to bed. Next morning we were lying in bed deciding whether to get up or not when we heard Michelle on the loudhailer wishing everyone a good morning and announcing that breakfast was ready (bring your own plate). Ange and I looked at each other and started to laugh... what a nice way to wake up. After breakfast we tried to collapse the canopy neatly and found it difficult. Our old canopy folded up behind the tiller and we had a look at Arthur Malcolm and John Moult's canopies to see how they managed it. It seemed that the new one has to lie in front of the tiller. The arm was removed and after pulling the bars out of their supports we eventually managed to fold it up neatly before replacing the bars. With the canopy out of the way I removed the loose rust where the old wooden windscreen was, rub the area down with emery paper and treat the metal with rust remover ready for painting later on.

Boats preparing to leave Between the Tunnels

The smoking chimney on "Total Eclipse"

Whilst we waited for the queue for Saltersford Tunnel to abate I relit our fire as the weather had turned a little cool. I hadn't had the time to buy coal from our usual source so I had picked up a couple of bags from a local garage. I filled the coal scuttle and banked up the fire. I noticed that there was quite a lot of smoke coming from our chimney and when I looked more closely at the bag of coal it said in small writing "not suitable for smokeless zones!" Needless to say when we made a move for the tunnel "Total Eclipse" was at the back of the queue! It seemed that I had tempted providence when lighting the fire as the sun came out.

"Eclipse" pulling "Saisons" off the shallows near Acton Bridge

We cruised along the side of the River Weaver valley and after Acton Bridge we rounded a bend and saw Ian and Michelle's boat going in reverse. They had encountered a single handed boater who had run aground on the inside of a shallow bend. It seemed that the steerer had Tourette's Syndrome as he swore at everyone and everything in sight... including his boat! After a few attempts, the boat which was called "Saison" (a pale Flemish beer) was pulled of the shallows and was free to continue towards Preston Brook but not before he proclaimed that "You've made my day... the both of you!" No doubt I will get mileage out of this phrase for many months to come.

Narrows after Bridge 123

After this bit of excitement we followed "Saisons" towards Preston Brook in the warm Spring sunshine. Just before Bridge 122 there is a dell on the right hand side of the canal. A brief glance showed what appeared to be violet mist lying in the bottom of the dell. It was actually a blanket of bluebells lining the dell. Unfortunately I was not able to photograph this phenomenon but will "press M+" for next year. It was extremely slow going following "Saisons" so we moored just after Morris Minor Bend until we were due to catch the next tunnel passage. When we set off again we passed through Preston Brook Tunnel without incident and when we reached the M56 Viaduct we pulled in to erect our canopy. This proved easier that taking it down and we were soon on our way to George Gleave's Bridge where our fellow Lymm CC members were moored.

"Total Eclipse" at George Gleave's Bridge with the new canopy erected

Cattle descending to the canal for a drink

Children in the Rape Seed Field

When we reached the tail end of the moorings I painted the treated part of the cabin roof before we had our tea.  Afterwards we watched a herd of cattle run down the field opposite to have a drink of water whilst standing in the canal. The antics of the cows had to be seen to be believed. Some of the children from the boat club had ventured into the adjacent rape seed field. The plants were nearly as tall as they were and when they eventually emerged they were covered in yellow residue from the plants. We sat on the back deck with Ian and Michelle chatting until it was time to go to bed. The next day dawned and was not as bright as the previous one but it wasn't raining like the weather forecast had predicted although we did have occasional showers on the way back to Lymm. By the time we had reached our moorings we turned around in the winding hole and put the boat to bed before carrying our things to the car and heading for home.

The following week on the twelfth day (30th May 2012) of its round-Britain tour the Olympic flame crossed the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct aboard historic Shroppie Fly Boat "Saturn" on its way from Chester to Stoke-on-Trent. This was not the only time the torch will be travelling by canal. On 13th June it took a turn on the Falkirk Wheel on board the replica Clyde Puffer "Maryhill". It will be hitching a ride aboard the historic steam powered narrowboat "President" later on the tour of Great Britain.

The Olympic flame aboard Shroppie Fly Boat "Saturn"...

(Photograph - Daily Mail)

and a few days later on the Falkirk Wheel on board replica Clyde Puffer "Maryhill"

(Photograph -

Muscle powered craft in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant

(Photograph - Daily Mail)

For the Diamond Jubilee Weekend Lymm CC had a cruise to Middlewich planned. Due to various reasons such as Ange having to fulfil family duties plus the dreaded redecorating of the spare bedroom we were unable to attend. The weather turned out to be rubbish on the Saturday and Sunday anyway. On the Sunday we watched the River Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on television. We marvelled at the various boats and craft that took place in this once in a lifetime event which we compared to the scene portrayed in Canaletto's painting entitled "London: The Thames on Lord mayor's Day" from 1747. The Daily Mail published a pair of comparative images which reinforced the similarity between the Canaletto painting and what we were seeing on our television screen.

Canaletto's 1747 painting - "River Thames: Lord Mayor's Day"...

... and the Daily Mail's 2012 photograph from the same viewpoint

(Photograph - Daily Mail)

Narrowboats assembling to take part in the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant

(Photograph - Daily Telegraph)

NB "Beatty" flanked by a Venetian Gondola and other narrowboats

(Photograph - Duncan Grey)

I suspected that there would be narrowboats and other canal craft in the pageant and my suspicions were correct. In the working boats section was a tug that pulled Tom Pudding Boats on the Aire and Calder Navigation and I even saw a Riva Aquarama made on the banks of Lake Garda in Italy and a Fairey Huntsman made a little closer to home on the River Hamble near Southampton. A little later on steam narrowboat "President" flanked by "Tarporley" and "Beatty" passed the camera. "Beatty" is well known to me and I photographed it last year when she visited Liverpool's "Spring on the Waterfront". "Shropshire Lass"... a narrowboat owned by the Lyneal Trust on the Llangollen Canal was also present. Unfortunately, by the time they reached London Pool the weather had taken a turn for the worst and on this occasion I did envy the steerer getting soaked to the skin (or the Royal College of Music Choir on the London Philharmonic Orchestra's barge). The fact that they were taking part in this wonderful River Pageant... the likes of which I don't think I will see again in my lifetime made, no doubt, the soaking worthwhile.

We hoped that the wet weather was going to end as the next weekend "Total Eclipse" was due to be slipped out of the water for her bi-annual cleaning and repainting. Originally we were to have come out the following week but both couldn't get the time off work. As Ian had booked the slipway for the following week he very kindly agreed to swap weeks with us. In the week before I looked around our local paint shops pricing black gloss paint which is what the boat's hull has been painted with since new. The problem was that due to new EEC directives, gloss paint had, with a few exceptions, to comply with the latest legislation and be water soluble. It is not a good idea to paint a boat's hull with a water soluble paint for obvious reasons and I considered using black "Hammerite" smooth but even Hammerite is not what it used to be and would cost around £100 to paint the boat's hull. The only thing left would be to use a bitumastic based paint and after looking on the Internet pricing all available options I headed up the M56 to Midland Chandlers at Preston Brook. I chose their Sealex B130 bitumen (£60 for ten litres) and even treated myself to a brass squirrel tiller pin as well! All the necessary rollers and paint brushes were already purchased and after work on Friday we headed up to Lymm ready for an early start the next morning. Saturday dawned damp and grey but as we would only be jet washing and scraping the boat's hull that day I was not too concerned.

The tractor and trolley complete with wooden blocks ready to accommodate the keel beneath "Total Eclipse"

A jet-washed and scraped "Total Eclipse" showing how well the red oxide had worked

The trolley was prepared with wooden blocks lashed to the cross-members to accommodate the keel and at 10.00 sharp John Moult pulled the trolley out onto the slipway with the tractor complete with "Total Eclipse" correctly positioned. As soon as the trolley was secured I started to jet-wash the hull. Ian helped with a second Kärcher but we wanted to be thorough by removing as much of the gloss paint as possible. John took the Mickey out of us when we eventually finished a few hours later but the hull was virtually free from the old paint with only the red oxide showing and didn't need much scraping. We were soaked to the skin but it was a job well done. Ange and I had both taken a week off work and we would be sleeping on board even though the boat was at an angle on the slipway. The only down-sides to this was as the boat was on a trolley a ladder was needed to climb onboard (Ange doesn't like ladders), everything sloped towards the stern and the refrigerator doesn't work when the boat is at an angle.

Before and after... half-way through the first coat of bitumen

Sunday was dry allowing Ange and I to sand down the hull's paintwork and we even managed to apply the first coat of bitumen. Monday was equally good with a second coat applied and gloss undercoat on the gunwales and around the stern. On Tuesday Ian's welder friend Victor (who was so impressed he bought the company) owed Ian a favour and was coming to weld additional rubbing strips on the rear swim an inch above the base plate to protect it and also to weld a patch on the roof where the solid fuel chimney was originally located. Even though it had been previously been patched and repeatedly treated with resin it was susceptible to leaking and had damaged part of the ceiling and cabin lining. The weather was hot and dry and whilst Vic welded I painted primer onto a few places where I had rubbed the paint off down to bare metal. When the welding was completed the various places were painted with red oxide and when this was dry I even managed to apply a coat bitumen to the rubbing strips as well. All in all a very productive day.

Vic welding the port rubbing strip

The starboard rear swim rubbing strip after being welded in place...

... and after painting with red oxide and bitumen

That was more than could be said of Wednesday as it rained on and off all day.  After a dry spell I managed to apply Isopon P40 filler (the type with glass strands mixed in) to the roof patch to blend it in with the roof line. I found a few off-cuts of discarded "Hexagrip" deck board ply wood in the woodwork shop which I cut it to size to replace our old deck board over the battery compartment. The original board had been subject to the ravages of weather courtesy of a leak under the old dodger and with the new one fitted a month earlier now was the time to replace the affected deck board. As there wasn't a piece big enough to replace the board in one go I cut two smaller pieces which would alleviate the need to lift the complete board when accessing the battery master switch. When the filler around the roof patch had cured it was sanded down and undercoated. Undercoat was also applied to the bow gunwale after it had been rubbed down.

The roof patch where the solid fuel fire used to be after being welded in place...

... and after filling, rubbing down and painting

In the evening Rob Hoyle came and had a look at the leaking stern gland. It seemed fine so he tightened it up a little and had a look at the greaser. It turned out that the grease in it had hardened and was preventing fresh grease going down the pipe and reaching the stern gland. The pipe itself was also blocked and I planned to buy a new one from Thorn Marine next time I went out. Thursday was another hot sunny day and the good weather allowed Ange to paint the beige and red gloss above the waterline at the stern and beige on the bow gunwale. I gave the hull its third coat of bitumen, glossed and primed the roof patch. The bow gunwales were painted with Rylard magnolia gloss which Brian the boat painter had promised to paint our usual red flashed plus a yellow "eye". With these parts painted the boat was ready to be relaunched once the fresh bitumen had cured.

Mission completed - "Total Eclipse" all ready to be relaunched

Gardner 3LW powered "Ferrous" passing Lymm CC with Edwin at the tiller

Friday morning the replica inspection launch "Ferrous" passed Lymm CC. I had seen this boat last year at the Gardner Rally held at Bugsworth Basin. This boat featured a beautiful Gardner 3LW and it swept effortlessly past whilst I photographed it. The boat also features radio remote control for the gearbox and throttle allowing a certain amount of control when negotiating locks single-handed. Ange had gone shopping and I collected a new piece of pipe for the stern gland greaser and bought a piece of ceiling material to replace the section leak damage from the old roof patch. I bought this from D J Southern in Orchard Street... the road next to Thorn Marine in Stockton Heath. This is a really handy shop to know and is a virtual Aladdin's Cave for timber off-cuts and those hard to find items of hardware. After lunch the pipe was fitted and grease pumped through successfully. The damaged piece of ceiling was replaced (with a little help from Michelle) and the fenders refitted. These were the last jobs to be done and I then put the tools away and generally tidied up the boat ready for relaunching the next morning.

Ian's van pulling the tractor which was in turn pulling the trolley with "Eclipse" on it

Saturday dawned another damp and grey day. Alan Savage, Mike Goldberg along with Paul and Oliver Savage arrived to relaunch us and this was accomplished without any problems. Next up was Ian as nb "Eclipse" was next to occupy the slipway. At sixty feet long and twice the weight of our boat in the past it has caused a few problems. The tractor used to pull the boat in the trailer was having adhesion problems so Ian helped with his Mercedes van pulling the tractor which was in turn pulling the boat and trolley up the slipway. This worked without too much drama and with the trolley safely chained Ian was soon preparing to jet-wash his hull. There was quite a bit of rubbish around the propeller and after I had removed it Ian couldn't resist getting the Brasso on it and giving it a quick polish! His helper arrived and he washed one side whilst I did the other. With three of us working and no gloss paint to remove it did not take as long as it did with "Total Eclipse". Once the hull was dry we risked a coat of bitumen which was completed just in time before it started to rain. We hoped that he didn't have a week of rain as it should have been our week on the slipway. At least with living locally, Ian could nip down after work to apply further coats and have his sacrificial anodes replaced and doesn't need to take time off work as we did. Aright for some!

Nb "Eclipse" jet-washed and the first coat of bitumen drying

Ian's week on the slipway was better weather-wise than ours which I was relieved about seeing as he had been good enough to swap weeks. But he did have some rain at the tail end of the week. I spoke to him on the phone mid-week and he told me that he had managed four coats of bitumen on his boat's hull. After a week recuperating at work we were back at Lymm the following Saturday for Sue Burden... Lymm CC's 2012 Commodore's wife's birthday party. We arrived late afternoon (unlike some who were twenty four hours early... mentioning no names Phil) and after a chill-out we got ready for the party. The party went well with good entertainment and good food interspersed with the usual laughter and pranks.

Sue Burden cutting her birthday cake

We did not envisage sleeping on the boat for the next few weeks so we brought the bedding home for washing before our Summer Holiday Cruise. We also hoped to replace the mattress on the bed with a new one. We had the existing mattress (actually two half width mattresses) specially made a few years ago when we thought that we would need to convert the bed back to an "L" shaped seating area and table. With the refitting of the front cabin and having a small drop-leaf table this didn't look very likely but we will store the mattresses in our loft at home... just in case!

The next weekend we had booked to go on the Underground Manchester guided tour. Both Ian and I had an interest in the subterranean features of Manchester as we both had books on the subject, (Underground Manchester and Below Manchester both written by Keith Warrender) no doubt fuelled by my talking about my experiences in the tunnels beneath Liverpool and canal tunnels such as those at the end of the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield and the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal that once joined the Rochdale Canal with the River Irwell. We were due to meet at 2.00 pm outside the Midland Hotel in Manchester where we were supposed to meet our guide that was taking us on the tour. After waiting for fifteen minutes and no guide arriving Ian checked the tickets only to discover that the tour started at midday... we were two hours late! We reminded Ian about taking the Mickey out of Phil a week earlier for coming to Sue Burden's birthday party a day early! There was another tour starting at 2.30 pm and the guide kindly let us come on that one instead.

Manchester and Salford Junction Canal basin adjacent to the Bridgewater Hall

Pedestrian tunnel leading to the Bridgewater Hall that once contained the canal - the towpath is on the left

The tour started above ground and we were shown the entrance to the nuclear bunker not far away before making our way to the Manchester Central Exhibition Centre (formally G-Mex) were we learnt a little bit about the history of the Midland Hotel's association with Oswald Mosley and the Nazis before heading towards the Rochdale Canal and the junction with the old Manchester and Salford Junction Canal not far from The Peveril of the Peak public house on Great Bridgewater Street (the green tiled building). We headed through a pedestrian tunnel leading to the Bridgewater Hall that the M&SJ Canal once flowed through. The towpath and edging stones could be readily seen and at the end of the tunnel crossed Whitworth Street before going the car park beneath what was the Great Northern Railway's Goods Warehouse (now housing a cinema and a leisure complex).

The canal's path  through the Great Northern Railway Goods Warehouse carpark

The Great Northern Railway's Goods Warehouse that the canal once ran beneath

The first bay in the canal tunnel that we descended to

An original mooring bollard in one of the bays

The canal was then lowered by twinned two-step staircase locks into a six hundred yard long tunnel. The canal was abandoned in 1937 and when the Second World War broke out two years later the tunnel was used as an air raid shelter. It had been drained and numerous bays complete with blast walls constructed across the width of the tunnel and it was here that we descended to. Nothing prepared us for the sheer scale of the caverns through which the canal once flowed. The location of the towpath could easily be seen and there was even an old mooring bollard still there! We walked through the various bays and could see the original brickwork arches.

One of the bays with the towpath on the left and a blast wall straight ahead

Our group in one of the bays that the canal once flowed

(Photograph - anonymous fellow tunnel walker)

Close up of the edge of the canal and towpath

Most of the bays were unlit and we had to rely on light from the torches that we were asked to bring along with us. Eventually we reached the final bay that we had access to and it contained water. Not deep enough for boats but at least it was there. It was now time to retrace our steps and climb back to street level. Our guide took us across Deansgate to Camp Street and we stood on the spot that we had previously been beneath and it was here that the tour ended. The line of the canal runs beneath Granada Television's studios (in fact - directly beneath the Coronation Street set) to emerge adjacent to the Victoria and Albert Hotel.

The canal in water (almost) and as far as we could walk

Camp Street looking towards Deansgate - directly above the location of the previous photograph

Here the canal is in water  for a short distance leading to the restored lock that allowed the canal to connect with the River Irwell. Adjacent to the lock a lift bridge has been erected over the entrance to the canal.  The guided walk was informative and the places we were taken to were absolutely amazing. We were aware of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal but it was wonderful to actually see it first hand. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone with an interest in canals to take this tour and who knows... in the future it might even be opened out and the full length of the canal walked. The next time you watch "Coronation Street" try to remember that there was once a canal running beneath it. Coming soon is a section of this website giving more information about the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal.

The end of the canal where it enters the River Irwell adjacent to the Victoria and Albert Hotel

After the walk was over we walked to Castlefield and had dinner in the Castlefield Hotel. After a meal that lived up to their usual standard we walked back to Deansgate to catch the tram home. We walked back the scenic route along Castle Quay and noticed that the old Jackson's Wharf pub had been renamed The Wharf and refurbishment was nearing completion. A few months ago the owner contacted me asking for copies of my Bridgewater Canal photographs to adorn the walls. I sent them a cd containing said photographs and in return I was told that there would be a round of drinks behind the bar when the pub was open in July. It will be interesting to see which photographs they have chosen and what kind of a job they have made displaying them... watch this space!

The Wharf public house in Castlefield

Recently, we have not been able to spend much time on the boat due to Ange's grandfather Les Furber being unwell and admitted to hospital a couple of times. Les enjoyed listening to stories about our adventures aboard "Total Eclipse" and looked forward to seeing the photographs on our return from our journeys. Sadly, Les died on Monday 16th July 2012 and is no longer in pain. Ange posted a beautifully moving message on her Facebook page that read... "A beautiful man left this world today at 3.40am. He was and always will be my Grandad. XXX." We were all very close to Les and his death will leave a big void in our lives.

Ange's grandfather Les Furber - 1932 to 2012

Our next canal-related happening was a trip to the open day of S M Hudson... the builders of Ian and Michelle's narrowboat... "Eclipse No 2". After the trials and emotional rollercoaster we had experienced over the last few months it was good to take a day off from arranging Ange's Grandad's funeral and enjoy the company of our friends Ian and Michelle as well as that of fellow canal enthusiasts. The weather could not have been better and after a trip down the M6 we arrived at the Tamworth yard of S M Hudson located in Glascote Basin on the Coventry Canal.

Glascote Basin on the Coventry Canal filled with S M Hudson boats

The first thing that hit us when we arrived was the number and variety of Hudson boats squeezed into Glascote Basin. They ranged from brand new just-launched boats with nothing in them at all, floored and spray-foam insulated shells, partially fitted boats, past Crick Boat Show exhibits to twelve year old boats that the owners were only too pleased to show to prospective buyers. There were a few boats that featured windows rather than the Hudson trademark portholes... something that I didn't think that they fitted to their narrowboats as they prefer to keep to the traditional designs were possible. It was good to see the boats in various stages of production from a bare hull awaiting its superstructure to be fitted right the way through to brand new boats that had just been completed. It gave an insight to the care, craftsmanship and attention to detail that this renowned boat builder lavishes on their boats. We were made welcome by Steve Hudson (who remembered talking to me at Crick last year) and his team as well as the boat owners in attendance. 

The distinctive "Josher" lines of a Hudson hull awaiting its superstructure

A bare shell just spray foamed.

A lined shell awaiting fitting-out.

In the paint shed

A partially fitted-out shell

The finished article... this one has innovative modular seating and beautiful Karndean flooring...

... and this one is a Hudson with windows!

Hudson's have just announced a semi-trad design and even though we are not in the market for a new boat (even if we could afford one) I was eager to have a look at just for curiosity's sake. Unfortunately, there were none there as Steve had not yet built one! But I got an idea of what they would be like from a couple of boats that had the engines located beneath the steps leading down to the interior. Many owners had brought their own individuality to their boats and a few differed from the the usual Hudson layout. We gained a couple of ideas for our own boat and have a few plans to put into place after our summer holiday cruise. Ian was eager to see one boat in particular which was a tug-style boat that featured a bedroom beneath the tug deck. We had seen an example of this design at Crick last year but not on a Hudson. Ian's eyes lit up when he saw this particular boat that we had admired from the adverts in the canal magazines... this was the stunning narrowboat "Stanley". He was less than impressed with the Dutch barge replica on show and didn't go on board it. This meant that he didn't see the standard of fit-out on it. I would have no hesitation to sell the house and live on a boat such as this (I don't know what Ange would say about that though!). After a while Ian went to see Steve Hudson in his office and came out after a while with a grin on his face from ear to ear. We had guessed what he had just done... secured a building slot later on in the year for a sixty foot tug with a double bed below the raised deck and of course it would have a Gardner 2LW fitted as does his current boat.

Steve Hudson (right) pouring Ian a celebratory pint after securing a building slot

A fleet (if that is the correct collective noun) of Hudsons moored in Glascote Basin

The day flew by and at teatime we had a drink in the beer tent and it is not every day that you have a drink poured for you by such a renowned figure as Steve Hudson. Whilst we had our drinks we had time to contemplate what we had seen during the day. Of particular note was the Karndean flooring and modular furniture in one boat, the space beneath the tug deck of another and the standard of joinery in the Dutch Barge. We then bade farewell to our new friends and made our way home, buying some extra National Lottery tickets on the way... just in case Steve had another building slot or cancellation that we could have! If not, there was always the sailaway that was exhibited at Crick (see below).

The S M Hudson sailaway exhibited at Crick... it could have been ours but the National Lottery numbers didn't come up!

We are now looking forward to our holidays at the beginning of August when we plan to cruise around the Cheshire Ring with an excursion along the Lower Peak Forest Canal to Bugsworth Basin with another through Harecastle Tunnel and up the Caldon Canal... a waterway that I have long wanted to explore (covered in Ring Ramblings). No doubt the British weather has decided to get all the rain out of the way beforehand (hence the recent precipitation and floods) so that we can enjoy two weeks of hot, blistering sunshine (in our dreams). Ian and Michelle are now putting "Eclipse" up for sale. They decided to use one of my photographs for the "Waterways World" advertisement and a couple of mine for the Apollo Duck page. I promised to shoot a video whilst we were away and upload it to Apollo Duck on our return from the holiday.

The advertisement in "Waterways World" for "Eclipse"

"Total Eclipse" all clean and polished ready for our holidays

The weekend after the S M Hudson Open Day we went up to Lymm to take things off the boat that we wouldn't need on our summer holiday, take up some of our clothes and clean bedding, give the boat a good clean inside and out (not that it needed it), gave it a polish (I am now one coat of polish ahead of Ian), check the engine over, dip the fuel tank and to cut the grass on our moorings... all of which we managed to complete. One thing that did surprise me was that when I dipped the fuel tank it was nearly half full. Considering that it had not been filled since our holidays last year the boat is doing really well as far as fuel economy is concerned and there should be enough in the tank for our holidays this year as well!

Lymm Moorings in-between showers

The fact that it was the first day of the London Olympic Games is of no consequence to me as I am not an enthusiast of sport (I'm too much of an anorak/geek to be interested in it) but I think that Ange will be watching some of the heats. Having said that I did see some of the Opening Ceremony where one I was impressed by one of my favourite musicians - Mike Oldfield with a "Tubular Bells" medley, James Bond (Daniel Craig - local boy from Hoylake on the Wirral) accompanied H.R.H. The Queen who "arrived" by parachute to open the Games. The Olympic Flame was delivered by David Beckham on board a speedboat down the River Thames, up the River Lea and newly opened Prescott Channel on which I am sure he was doing more than four miles per hour! But back to our boat... we had a really productive day despite the intermittent showers and we went home on Sunday morning safe in the knowledge that the boat was ready for our holidays the following Saturday - see Chapter 2 - "Ring Ramblings".

The weekend after our summer holiday cruise we had a club cruise to the River Irwell and Salford Quays. I had the Friday off and got everything ready so that when Ange came home from work we could leave straight away. We drove to Lymm, loaded our stuff onto the boat and set-off. We had planned to meet Ian and Michelle at Dunham Massey but they had gone to see Steve Hudson to go over plans for their new boat and were delayed due to traffic on the M6. Ian and Michelle also had some exciting news regarding their new boat... Steve Hudson was starting it the following week and asked them if they would mind taking it to Crick Boat Show next year. No contest there I reckon! They were to catch up with us the following morning. We set off for Pomona Lock and Ian caught up with us around Stretford although we could see them in the distance down the straight at Sale.

In the queue for Pomona Lock

When we arrived at Pomona there were a few boats waiting as well including Sue Barratt and family from BMBC Runcorn. Sue is the daughter of Pat and Roy Wilcox who I have known since the 1980's and with her husband and family have their own boat called "Cosy Toes". Normally we would go straight to Salford Quays but this time when we eventually exited the lock into Pomona Dock we decided to head up the River Irwell and moor outside the Mark Addy pub. We would then walk the short distance to Deansgate to watch the Manchester Gay Pride Parade. Accordingly, we headed upstream in the brilliant sunshine and moored along with the other boats from Lymm CC that were already there. The first thing that I noticed since we were last there was that a new foot bridge across the river had been constructed. I remember hearing that there were plans for the new bridge a few years ago to extend the promenade along the banks of the river but this was the first time that I had seen it. Once safely moored we headed into town for the parade.

Boats from Lymm CC moored outside the Mark Addy on the River Irwell

Some of the participants in the Manchester Gay Pride Parade

Even the torrential rain didn't dampen the proceedings (nice shoes)

Yours truly in a disposable poncho - I can't think why no one would stand next to me

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Ian had not been to the parade before and it was to be an eye opener for him. The parade was very entertaining and we laughed from start to finish at the humorous and flamboyant participants. As I had a camera I seemed to be a magnet to the walking participants and my t-shirt was soon covered with stickers. One guy even hugged me and pulled me into his chest much to everyone's delight. Once the parade was over we had lunch and it was then that the weather took a turn for the worse. The heavens opened and the rain was torrential. When we had finished our lunch the rain had eased off but Ange insisted that I wore her disposable waterproof poncho and we returned to the boats via some shops. Whilst we were looking in the shops no one would stand next to me... I can't think why! Once it went dark I noticed that the new foot bridge was illuminated and I couldn't resist the temptation to take photographs of it. The only problem with this was that where ever I looked I could see photographs just crying out to be taken... time to reset the ISO to 1600/33˚ I think!

The illuminated Mark Addy Footbridge

The Irwell Gorge from the footbridge at night

With having a late lunch we didn't really feel like much to eat for tea so after a butty we got changed and went to the nearby Egerton Arms. We returned to the boats after midnight only to discover that the river level had risen by over a metre and the current had increased to about 10 mph. Whereas we had to step up quite a bit from the boats to the bank previously, now our gunwales were level with the bank. Fortunately, we had tied our ropes sensibly to allow for any rise or fall in the water level but we didn't expect it to rise a metre or so. We noticed that on the railings next to the boats that there was weed hanging from them. This was another metre higher than the water level was at present and we hoped that it didn't rise any further.

High water levels at 3.00 am causing our gunwales to be level with the banking

We were all quite alarmed at this rise so we contacted the Manchester Ship canal Control Room at Eastham on the Wirral. They reassured us that the levels were ok and not to worry unduly as they were monitoring the water levels remotely and would open the sluices at Mode Wheel locks if need be. They also advised us to place someone on rope watch throughout the night just in case the water levels rose any more. Jack off nb "Camarilla" volunteered to be the watchman (for which we were all very grateful... thanks Jack) and would wake us all up if the situation changed. Even so it was after 3.00 am before we got to bed. As it turned out the water levels started to drop and by the next morning they were nearly back to normal even though the current was still pretty fast. Ange and Michelle were heading into Manchester for shopping and afternoon tea at 47 King Street West and arranged to meet us at Salford Quays later on. By 10.00 we were able to head down stream to Salford Quays. In the gorge we must have been cruising at about 10 mph assisted by the current and slowing down when the river widened a little way downstream.

Games at Salford Quays

Usual suspects in the Quay House Beefeater

Sue Barratt and the "Cosy Toes" gang from BMBC Runcorn

When we reached the Salford Quays moorings the other boats were moored stern to the bank and in the deep water "Total Eclipse" was able to perform her reversing party piece in front of an appreciative audience of fellow Lymm CC members. Ian moored alongside alongside me and as soon as we had tied the mooring ropes Guy Burden - Lymm CC's Commodore invited us to join in the games that they were playing. Needless to say neither Ian or myself won (I throw like a girl) and that honour went to Barry Greenough. We both had planned to do jobs and I painted our bow gunwales, the lid for the chimney and the bottom parts of the roof ventilators. I completed my jobs before Ange returned and we had forty winks before getting ready to go out for tea at the Quay House Beefeater on the banks of Mariner's Canal. After an excellent meal we returned to the boat and took some photographs of Salford Quays at night (1600/33˚ ISO again) then sat outside talking and drinking Sambuca ("in one") for a while before going to bed.

Lowry Footbridge illuminated at night

The next morning we set off early for Pomona Lock and back up to the Bridgewater Canal. It started to rain shortly after we returned to the Bridgewater Canal and it accompanied us all the way back to Lymm but we didn't get wet as we could have the canopy up due to the bridges having plenty of headroom. As we neared Lymm the rain eased off and had stopped completely by the time we reached the moorings. We stopped briefly in the arm to load the car and empty the loo then put the boat back on its moorings before making our way home after an exciting weekend that we would remember for a long time to come.

For a while we had noticed an increasing amount of sponginess in the cabin floor adjacent to the kitchen and dinette. I had put this down to water collecting in the lowest point of the front bilge by the back door from a leaking window and the patch over in the roof where the solid fuel stove used to be. I decided to lift the laminated floor and replace the offending section of floor which I had once done nearly ten years ago. On the Saturday after our trip to Salford Quays I started this task. Ian had promised to give me a hand and after I waited for him to arrive I pumped out the water that that caused the problem and commenced the removal of the floor. The plywood had indeed started to rot but on inspection the water damage had spread to the whole of the kitchen area.

With the floor and kitchen removed the damage could be surveyed

Damage to the lining caused by a leaking pipe

When Ian came we surveyed the situation and decided that it would be best to replace all of the rear floor boards. This would involve removing the kitchen which we had planned to replace next year but the floor problem necessitated bringing this task forward. We spent the whole of the afternoon removing the floor and kitchen and cleaning the area. Once this was done we could look more closely at the situation and came to the conclusion that the water was coming from more than a leaking window. With the area cleared we noticed that water had been running down the lining behind the cupboards and closer inspection revealed a leak in a previously hidden water pipe. We had not heard the water pump cutting in to replace leaking water but could not find any other reasons for the presence of water either. We cut new floor boards and fitted them temporarily leaving the exposed bilge to dry out. I would come up the following weekend, paint the underside of the new flooring, top of the now exposed base plate with bitumen and fit the boards temporarily.

Graham Bridge accompanied by members of BMBC

We had originally planned to cruise down to the Bridgewater Motor Boat Club at Runcorn but with the boat out of commission and a mess inside we decided to drive to Runcorn instead. It was Keith Moore...  Lymm CC's President's cruise to BMBC and entertainment was organised in the shape of Graham Bridge's new band... all members of BMBC! In the raffle was a Philips cd/clock/radio that Ian had his eye on but it was claimed by someone else. Sod's Law ruled and Ian's ticket was the next to be drawn winning him a bottle of Champagne. He tried to negotiate with the winner of the cd/clock/radio offering to swap the Champagne for it. But they would have none of it no matter how persistent or persuasive Ian was. We had a good night, raised over £170 for charity and were made most welcome by BMBC. We look forward to being invited back to Runcorn in the future.

Philips cd/clock/radio... just for you "Miluvva"

The next week was spent brainstorming kitchen layout and equipment ideas. Ange wanted white cupboard doors and a black worktop. We also drew up plans for the kitchen layout (not too dissimilar to how it used to be) and looked at possible cooker replacements. One model that we were considering was the Thetford Spinflo Caprice MK3 which was on offer from Kings Lock Boat Chandlery at Middlewich. It is a little wider than our old Flavel Vanessa but it did have four burners as against two. We will have to see if the extra 70mm width can be accommodated. We were also looking at another Spinflo product... a sink with a glass lid that comes own over the bowl. It looked as though special folding taps would be required as there were no visible tap holes on the unit. On our way up to Lymm we planned to have a look in Midland Chandlers to see them in the flesh It was decided hat we would retain the Electrolux RM 212F refrigerator and overhaul it as to replace it with another of the same model would contravene the Boat Safety Certificate. To install a new gas one would cost over four figures. A mains model would require an inverter, additional batteries and a larger alternator which was not considered. The nearest possible replacement would be a 12 volt model but this would also require additional batteries (not as many as an inverter) but would be the most affordable and current efficient option. I wondered how our base plate had dried out and hoped that there would be no water collecting in it.

The following Saturday we visited Midland Chandlers on the way to Lymm. We had looked on-line at a variety of cookers and sinks but wanted to see them in the flesh before we committed ourselves. On inspection we thought that the Thetford Spinflo Caprice MK3 was a little "tinny" but another cooker caught our eye. This was the Stoves 500 DIT "built-in" unit. At £635 it was more expensive than the Thetford and had a storage compartment below the oven for pans as did the Thetford but it felt more solidly built and features a safety cut-out so that when the glass hob cover is lowered the gas supply to the burners on the hob is cut-off. Thus protecting the toughened glass lid from shattering from the heat from the hob burners if accidentally left on. When talking to the salesman we learnt that there was a "Freaky Friday" at Midland Chandlers coming up on the 5th October when there would be a 20% discount on anything bought that day. This would make the price of the Stoves cooker less than that of the Thetford and also less painful.

Stoves 500 DIT cooker

We also looked at the sinks and taps that they had on display. We originally wanted a circular stainless steel sink with a separate matching drainer. After looking at the ones that Midland Chandlers had in stock and searching on-line when we returned home we came across the set illustrated below from Screwfix for £100 (including the mixer tap)... much less than at Midland Chandlers who, incidentally are not stocking them any more. We later decided against fitting a circular sink and drainer due to problems associated with cutting circular holes in the worktop and chose a more conventional design.

When we reached Lymm we stopped at Sexton's bakery for a couple of their wonderful pies and and cakes for our lunch. I couldn't wait to see if the bilge was still dry and as luck would have it, it was. As soon as the pies and cakes were consumed I painted the exposed base plate with bitumen and the underside of the new flooring before laying then in position... not as easy as it sounds especially when the boards have just been painted on the underside with bitumen. It was a hot sunny day and as I was painting the perspiration was running off my forehead onto where I had just painted. The boards had to fit beneath the room divider and the cooker draught screen behind the door. This proved especially difficult as it was the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle to be completed.

The new floor boards in position after painting the base plate with bitumen

With this completed we tidied up and headed for Nantwich Canal Centre to see what sinks they had in stock. When we eventually arrived their chandlery was not as I remembered it. It had been relocated into a Portacabin and they did not have the range of stock that they did in the past. It wasn't a wasted journey though as we had a good look around and a chat to the salesman before an ice cream which we ate watching the boats from the narrow bridge adjacent to the basin entrance. After taking a few photographs we then headed for home. At least we had decided on the cooker.

Nantwich Embankment from the narrow bridge adjacent to the basin entrance

Even though we had decided on our cooker, one thought that came to me was whether or not it would fit through the door. We were conscious of having to have it reserved at Midland Chandlers. Michelle very kindly went onto the boat and measured the door apertures. The front door was the widest at 520mm and seeing as the cooker was 500mm wide (according to Midland Chandlers) we could go ahead and have our name put on it. In the meantime Ian had sourced the white "Edmonton" kitchen cabinets from Wickes and we hoped to start the installation the following Saturday. Saturday came and I put the boat in the slipway at Lymm CC with Ian's van parked next to it.

Kitchen unit carcasses assembled and the fridge relocated in its own unit...

... and in the other direction with the cooker housing waiting to be filled

We assembled and fitted the carcasses for the kitchen units and after lunch (Sexton's best!) we had to visit Midland Chandlers to take some measurements from our proposed new cooker in order to set the cooker carcass (four inches bigger than anticipated). This four inches would be robbed from the cupboard opposite. On our return we set the carcass and it wasn't long before we were able to relocate the fridge in its own unit. We had done enough for the day and after putting the toys away we left the boat in the slipway and headed for Ian and Michelle's house. We got cleaned up and changed and went to the Barn Owl at Agden for tea. When we arrived we heard an Irish accent in the bar that we recognised. It was none other than Keith Duffy from Boyzone... one of Ange's favourite pop groups and had also starred in "Coronation Street". He was with another celebrity in the shape of Chris Bisson who was also in "Coronation Street" and is now in "Emmerdale". Chris Bisson left the Barn Owl before I could cajole him but Keith Duffy didn't escape my camera when he kindly posed with Ange, Michelle and Popsy.

Keith Duffy (ex Boyzone and "Coronation Street") with Popsy, Michelle and Ange

Lymm CC were due to have a cruise to Worsley Cruising Club but Barton Swing Aqueduct was closed so they decided to relocate to Sale Cruising Club.  After the Barn Owl we drove to Sale where we caught the floating bridge to their club house. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours there before returning to the "mainland" on the ferry and returning to Ian and Michelle's house where we were staying the night as the boat was in too much of a mess to stay on plus the water was currently turned off. We planned to have an early start the next morning and we soon fitted the doors to the units and Ian had a couple of pieces of black granite worktop that was originally destined for their new boat but in the end was too small. When Ange learnt this she told Ian that it had her name on it and asked if it was suitable could we have it it would fit our new kitchen. Ian said that it was suitable and that we could have it. Michelle told Ange that she would then have a better worktop than she had. Ian wanted to collect the black granite worktop from his house whilst I channelled the wall for the cooker's 12 volt electrical feed cable. When he returned we lifted it out of the van, manoeuvred it onto the boat and placed it on top of the kitchen units in order to check the measurements and cut it (and the smaller, lighter piece) to size. I don't know how Ian managed to lift it into his van as the larger piece is the heaviest thing I have ever lifted in my life. You would not believe the juggling act we had locating it in the kitchen and what's more it would have to come out again... twice!

The grain in the black granite worktop

The kitchen units and granite worktop fitted hiding our tatty Electrolux refrigerator...

 ... and from the other direction awaiting the cooker and sink /drainer unit

Whilst they were in position I also checked the boat's trim to make sure that everything was in order in this department and, much to my relief, it did not appear too dissimilar to how it was before. After doing this we took the pieces off the boat, cut them and put them back into position on the boat. The larger piece would have to be removed again to cut it for the sink and drainer and the smaller piece to have the front edge chamfered and polished. The round sink and separate drainer was, as previously mentioned, decided against due to difficulties cutting a circular hole in the worktop. Consequently, a different type was sourced from eBay. We had now done as much as we could and next needed the cooker and sink/drainer before we could continue. We packed away the tools and put the boat on its mooring before I took "Eclipse" up to Oughtrington where Ian was meeting me. I had previously steered "Eclipse" but only for a short period of time. It was an wonderful experience steering this beautiful boat for a longer distance and I marvelled at the sound made by the classic Gardner 2LW engine (British engineering... you cant get better!) and the ease with which the bow thruster positioned the boat just where I wanted it to go. Once back at Ian and Michelle's we collected our things and headed for home surprised at the amount we had achieved over the weekend.

The sink and drainer that we eventually settled on

The following days provided one of the wettest September weeks on record. This rain weakened the Trent and Mersey Canal at several locations and caused it to breach dramatically between Dutton Stop Lock and Little Leigh (just after Barbed Wire Bend). The breach was of major proportions and will cause the canal to be closed for the rest of the year and the Canal and River Trust do not envisage the canal opening to through traffic until Easter 2013 at the very earliest. Around twenty five boats were trapped on the River Weaver including Liam Hewlett with his narrowboat and butty. The Canal and River Trust are planning to arrange for Seaworthiness Certificates for the trapped boats which would allow them to return to the connected canal system via the Manchester Ship Canal to Ellesmere Port. This would involve a lengthy voyage around the Cheshire Ring to reach the Bridgewater Canal but I heard that Liam was planning to return to the Bridgewater Canal via the Manchester Ship Canal through Manchester.

The breach on the Trent and Mersey Canal near Dutton

(Photograph - Little Leigh Village)

All was not doom and gloom though, Lymm CC's Harbourmaster... John Moult had collected our cooker from Midland Chandlers (and got an extra discount to boot) and the sink and drainer had been delivered to Michelle's parents' house. With these items now obtained we were ready to complete the major parts of the kitchen installation.

The next Saturday was the Harvest Festival and a Scottish themed night at Lymm CC. Shannon accompanied us to Lymm and whilst Ian and I worked on the boat Ange, Michelle, Popsy and Shannon looked after a temporary member of the clan in the shape of Harry... a miniature Poodle belonging to a friend. The first thing we did was to remove the worktop and cut it to accommodate the sink and drainer... harder work than it sounds. When we unpacked the sink and drainer we discovered it was not exactly the same as illustrated on eBay but we liked it nonetheless and it when the worktop was cut and refitted onto the boat it was installed. The granite work top off-cut was placed beneath the kitchen units as additional ballast.

The sink and drainer fitted

Once in the boat the cooker fitted perfectly

The water supply was connected to the mixer tap and the water pump turned on. Once pressurised there was a small leak on a joint but this was soon tightened and we turned our attention to the cooker. In theory it should have fitted through the front door but it had to be removed to get the cooker into the boat. It fitted perfectly in the unit but the existing gas pipe work would need modification before it could be permanently screwed into place, the 12 volt power supply for the ignition and the gas supply connected. The draft board that caused me so much trouble when fitting the new floor boards was removed in order to allow the cooker unit to sit properly... pity I didn't know it was going to be removed at the time! Our work was interrupted by the distinctive sound of a National DM2. This turned out to be fitted to nb "Alcor"... a converted "Star" class narrowboat built by Harland and Wolff and painted in Grand Union Canal Carrying Company colours.

Nb "Alcor" passing Lymm CC

With the cooker installed the major parts of the kitchen were completed

Ian cut a couple of small fill-its for either side of the cooker and we could go no further until the gas supply was attended to. After tidying up we measured for a wall cabinet to be fitted above the cooker. It will cover the old electrical cupboard and provide extra cupboard space in the kitchen.

The entertainment for the Harvest Festival evening was a Céilidh band who played music for members to dance to. As usual Derek (Dezza) Ridpath's food was second to none. Consequently, the evening was a great success and was attended by many members but the stars of the evening had to be Popsy and Shannon who danced nearly every dance as well as collecting glasses and dirty plates. Commodore Guy Burden was impressed by their efforts and included them in his announcements at the end of the evening.

Shannon and Popsy (nice boots) dancing with Michelle and Sue Burden

Commodore Guy Burden twirling Shannon

We had reports of the Manchester Ship Canal being emptied of water to remove a forty foot tree trunk trapped in a sluice at Latchford Locks and we went down to the Ship Canal at Thelwall Ferry to investigate. On arrival we discovered that the water levels were back to normal. Twelve months ago, when we were on the Mersey Ferries cruise down the Manchester Ship Canal we saw a collection of sunken barges near to Thelwall Viaduct. As we were in the vicinity we decided to walk along the banks of the canal but could not find the illusive barges. Back at home I looked on Google Earth and found the images below...

An aerial photograph illustrating the sunken barges off the MSC at Thelwall

(Photograph - Google Earth)

It appeared that the barges were only a couple of hundred metres upstream from from where we were walking. According to Google Earth they are redundant concrete barges that have been sunk in a disused section of the old Mersey and Irwell Navigation Woolston Cut that was dissected when the Manchester Ship Canal was constructed in 1894. We will just have to revisit the location next year when it is warmer and the light is better to photograph them.

We made arrangements for a gas fitter friend of Ian's to come and modify the gas pipes behind the cooker location, connect the cooker as well as tidy up the existing gas pipes feeding the refrigerator and gas test point. I took a day off mid-week and planned to refit the laminate floor at the same time as seeing to the gas fitter. There was a problem with one of the fittings for the cooker and the connection was postponed until the correct fitting was obtained. In the meantime I completed the floor even though I had to piece together a few pieces adjacent to the door. The original pieces in the kitchen would no longer fit either due to the change in positioning of the units but I had a couple of spare planks at home that I had brought with me which solved the problem.

The kitchen nearly completed after having our first cup of coffee

The following weekend there was a cruise to Dunham Massey. Once darkness falls we were to illuminate our boats and a prize would be awarded to the best illuminated boat. On our arrival at Lymm we discovered that Ian had been with Stuart the plumber and had fitted the correct part to our cooker which was now connected and fully operational. We couldn't wait to have our first cup of tea/coffee and christen our new cooker. Once loaded with food etc we lit the fire and cruised up to Oughtrington to  wait for our friends to arrive, have a quick catch-up and set off for Dunham Massey. We decided to moor at the Old Number Three public house for tea before carrying on to Dunham Park where the other boats from Lymm CC were moored. I had their  wonderful shepherd's pie for tea and I can honestly say that this was the best I have ever tasted... really superb and thoroughly recommended!

John and Helen Jackson chatting to Commodore Guy Burden

Sue Burden and Derek (Dezza) Ridpath

Rear Commodore Paul Durbridge doubled over with laughter at our "minimalist" illuminations (nice hat Ange)

After tea it was going dark when we left the pub and we switched on the headlights to illuminate our way to join the other boats at Dunham Park. Once safely moored we joined the other members of the club and had drinks on the towpath before the judging of the illuminations. Helen Jackson told me that as we arrived our boat slid through the mist with our headlights illuminating the surroundings and it was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen. Pity I wasn't on the bank to photograph it! As far as the illuminations are concerned we had gone for the "minimalist" approach. Rear Commodore Paul Durbridge nearly fell over with laughter when he saw our effort. Needless to say... we didn't win but it is the taking part that matters! Afterwards we retired to the boat and watched TV for a bit before climbing into bed after a most illuminating evening.

Twenty nine Lymm CC boats moored in the early morning mist at Dunham Massey

Sailing in autumn early morning mist

The next morning I was up early and when I opened the curtains I could not believe my eyes. We were surrounded by mist illuminated by the rising sun. I was out like a shot... camera in hand. I walked up to Dunham Town Bridge just as a boat was coming and photographed it cutting through the mist. A really magical moment. I also saw my first frost this autumn on the stop planks adjacent to the bridge. After breakfast Ian helped me do a couple of jobs on the kitchen. The electronic ignition on the cooker needed connecting but on inspection there was no visible way to connect it. A phone call to Stoves... the manufacturer is in order I think. We set off later in brilliant sunshine and planned to stop at the Old Number Three where we had lunch on the canal bank outside the boats for most probably the last time this year before returning to our moorings and heading for home.

Dunham Town Bridge in autumn sunshine

Lucky and Louis enjoying autumn sunshine at The Old Number Three

The next day I telephoned Stoves... the cooker's manufacturer who were not very helpful as I wasn't the registered gas engineer who did the installation so another phone call, this time to Midland Chandlers who supplied the unit, came up trumps and they told me exactly how it should be connected to the 12 volt supply. Another job ticked off the list!

BBC Scotland contacted me out of the blue in connection with a television programme they are producing about the Mid-Scotland Ship Canal. This ship canal was first proposed during the First World War to connect the rivers Forth and Clyde via Loch Lomond and the (Dunbartonshire) River Leven allowing a quicker route between the Irish and North Seas than going around the top of Scotland. It was hoped that this would be of strategic benefit to naval vessels as well as of economic benefit to commercial vessels. The plan was not pursued but was resurrected in the 1930's and again in 1945. I had not heard of this canal before, which is not surprising as there is very little information about it published in books or on the Internet. On page 119 of my copy of Charles Hadfield's "British Canals" its entry only has a single paragraph. However, starting on page eight of the website for the Institute of Civil Engineers 1952/53 Inaugural Address there is quite a bit of information dating from 1945 regarding the alternative routes for the canal as well as other information.

The possible northern route of the Mid-Scotland Ship Canal in relation to other canals in the area

The Mid-Scotland Ship Canal would have run from the North Sea into Firth of Forth and then to the River Forth, cutting across the Scottish Lowlands to and through Loch Lomond, down the canalised River Leven to the River Clyde, the Firth of Clyde and the Irish Sea. It would have been constructed "on the level" and be lock-free except for the entrance locks at either end. There were already two canal routes across Scotland in the shape of Thomas Telford's Caledonian Canal and Hugh Baird's Forth and Clyde Canal which connected to the Union Canal (known today as the Glasgow and Edinburgh Union Canal, part of which Thomas Telford was also involved in). John Rennie's diminutive Crinan Canal (later modified by Thomas Telford) is generally thought of as a remote extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal and cuts across the Kintyre Peninsula, removing the need for the long diversion around the Mull of Kintyre. The canal featured in the Ealing comedy film "The Maggie"... all about a Clyde Puffer. These canals could not be described as ship canals by modern standards. The Caledonian Canal was initially described as a ship canal based on the size of vessels of the day but most certainly would not be described as one today plus was too far north for the purposes of this proposal. The Glasgow and Edinburgh Union and the Crinan Canals are broad canals that could accommodate "scows"... horse drawn and sailing barges of the day and in later years Clyde Puffers... shallow drafted commercial, steam driven craft that frequent the Scottish lochs and rivers.

A Clyde Puffer on the Forth and Clyde Canal

The BBC were comparing the Mid-Scotland Ship Canal to the Manchester Ship Canal and were interested in why and how the the MSC was constructed, how successful it had been and what traffic used it today. They were using my book... "The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal" as reference material and asked if I would be interested in being involved with the making of the programme. I told them that I would be very interested and they contacted me again later on in the week to discuss possible filming locations as well as other details connected with the MSC. The Mid-Scotland Ship Canal would have been built to much larger dimensions than other canals in the area, similar in concept to the MSC which utilised existing river navigations (the Mersey and Irwell Navigation) in its construction as well as new cuts and collaterals (an artificial waterway running parallel to an existing river), hence the BBC contacting me about it. The locations that I suggested were at Runcorn where the two types of construction of the MSC can be seen... the lower collateral section where the canal hugs the banks of the River Mersey Estuary from which it is separated by an embankment a few metres wide and a true canal section upstream of Moore Swing Bridge. They also wanted a countryside location to which I suggested Warburton High Level Bridge. The added bonus of this location is that one of the infilled meanders of the original route of the River Mersey can be seen as well. This promises to be an interesting project and no doubt many of my friends will be taking the Mickey out of me by saying "Local celebrity strikes again!"

We had arranged to meet Gary from Coverit at Lymm on Saturday morning.  Gary was going to make some alterations to our rear deck canopy and suggest how it should be taken down when necessary. One problem we had is that the folded canopy would not clear the tiller or seats without removing it from the frame which runs the risk of one or both of them falling into the cut or trailing behind us and fouling the propeller. Gary suggested an adjustable track to which the rear part of the frame was connected and would hopefully solve the problem. He had to take the canopy away to his workshop to fit the zip for the windscreen but would be returning to Lymm later next week and would refit it then. In the meantime the 12 volt electronic ignition on the cooker was connected and tested and we then measured for the wall tiles and wall cupboard which was to be fitted above the cooker. Half of this cupboard would also hide the unsightly electrical cupboard, the contents of which would be tidied up and the mains ELCB, distribution box and sockets re-wired.

With the jobs completed I judged the entries for the Canalscape Trophy due to be awarded at the Dinner Dance later on in the month. The entries were to the usual high standard but I cannot announce the winner yet... for that you will have to wait until after the Dinner Dance later on this month!

Lymm CC's President's Evening

The next item on the Lymm CC Social Calendar was Keith Moore... Lymm CC's President's Evening.  We had an enjoyable evening in the company of our friends Michelle, Ian and Popsy Gilbody. When it came to the raffle I managed to win a brown leather ladies handbag. Keith hosted a TV Theme Music Quiz from which I was eventually disqualified from for being too much of an anorak! The evening was a great success with entertainment and refreshments to the usual high standard.

After breakfast on Sunday morning we went to Wickes in Warrington to buy the wall cupboard for over the cooker and look at wall tiles. The cupboard wasn't in stock and we had to order it from Wickes' website when we arrived home. They didn't have the tiles we wanted either but we ordered them online as well. Later on in the week Ian collected the ordered items and kept them until we were ready to fit them onto the boat.

A screenshot of the Granada TV Weather forecast...

... and a full size version of the "Sunrise at Woodside Ferry" photograph used for the back-drop

The day before the Lymm CC Annual Dinner Dance I was on my way to work and photographed the sunrise at Birkenhead's Woodside Ferry... a few hundred metres from Wirral Metropolitan College's Twelve Quays Campus where I work. When I reached work I emailed the photograph to Granada Reports for them to use as a backdrop to their weather report... which they did.

The dinner dance coincided with Michelle's birthday and we decided to have a cake made for her. One of Ange's colleagues makes speciality cakes to order so we asked her to bake one in the shape of Ian and Michelle's narrowboat... "Eclipse Number 2". The cake was due to be delivered to Ange at work but for various reasons we had to pick it up after tea. We had arranged to meet the cake lady outside Toys R Us in Liverpool (not as good as Smyth's toyshop in Bromborough). When we returned home we opened the cake box and we were blown away by what greeted us. Whilst not a scale model it was more of a caricature of the boat complete with edible "brass" ventilators, rivets, edible ropes and signwriting. The colours were so accurate that they had to be seen to be believed. Our next problem was how to get it to the Etrop Grange Hotel near to Manchester Airport where the dinner dance was being held without raising Michelle's suspicions as we wanted it to be a surprise.

Michelle's birthday cake in the shape of "Eclipse Number 2"

The following day, after the visit to the hairdresser we made our way towards Lymm but via the Etrop Grange Hotel where a few of our fellow Lymm CC members had already arrived for lunch and entrusted the cake to them. We then made our way to Ian and Michelle's where we were going to the dinner dance from. Ian and I then went to the boat club. "Eclipse Number 2" was out of the water having had a survey for the people who were buying her. Ian was touching-up the hull where the bitumen had been scraped off for the ultrasonic testing of the thickness of the steel... not that there would have been a problem with it as Steve Hudson's boats are renowned for the quality of materials and construction and wanted to apply another coat to the offending areas before the rain set in. The new owners were also having a Certificate  of Seaworthiness Inspection as the boat was going to its new home on the Shroppie via the Manchester Ship Canal and this certificate would be required for the journey. It would most probably be the last time that I saw "Eclipse No 2" and I was quite sad and even gave it a stroke and said goodbye to it with a tear in my eye (soft or what?)

Coverit still hadn't refitted our rear canopy and seeing as there had been a lot of rain I was worried that there would be rainwater in the engine compartment of "Total Eclipse". I needn't have worried though as the self-draining design of the rear deck ensured that there was minimal ingress of water beneath the deck boards but I would like the canopy to be refitted before the weather takes a turn for the worst. When the rain started Ian had fortunately finished painting and hopefully the rain would not impair the smooth finish on the hull. We then made our way back to Ian and Michelle's and after a snack we got ready for the dinner dance. When we were ready we drove back down to the boat club where minibuses had been laid on to transport us to the hotel.

The function suite in the Etrop Grange Hotel near Manchester Airport

On arrival I took the obligatory photographs for the club's magazine before we were invited to sit down at our allotted tables and it was not long before we were being served our meals. In the intervals between courses there were various toasts to past Chairmen, past Commodores, Committee Members, etc. Then came the awarding of trophies, the results of the Chairman's Photographic Competition and the awarding of the Canalscape Trophy. When I was judging the photographs for the Canalscape Trophy there was one photograph that stood out from the others. It was a landscape featuring a bridge over a river with sunlight shining through the arches. I was captivated by the light shining through the arches of the bridge and the soft sunlight creating a serene atmosphere in this beautiful landscape. After I had made my choice I discovered that the photograph was taken by my old friend Arthur Malcolm... himself a keen photographer which is evident in the quality of the photograph. I later learnt that Arthur took the photograph of the River Goyt (a tributary of the River Mersey) at the Torrs near New Mills in Derbyshire on his Canon Eos 450 DSLR whilst out for a walk along the river with his partner Brenda. Arthur used a process called HDR - High Dynamic Range to take the photograph. This is where three photographs, usually Raw files, are taken one after another. The first normally exposed - the second two stops under exposed and the third two stops over exposed (bracketing). The three images are combined in an image editing program to enhance shadow detail (over exposed frame), high light detail (under exposed frame) and add them to the normally exposed frame. Brenda told me that she had to wait a quarter of an hour whilst Arthur waited for the light to be just right before taking the photograph... the sign of a dedicated photographer and a man after my own heart!

Yours truly presenting Arthur Malcolm with the Canalscape Trophy

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Arthur Malcolm's 2012 Canalscape Trophy winner... "The River Goyt at the Torrs"

(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)

Michelle being presented with her birthday cake

With all the business out of the way it was time for the entertainment and dancing but first Michelle was presented with her birthday cake. Even Ian was impressed with the attention to detail. After the presentation it was returned to the kitchen for safe keeping and to be put back in its box ready to be taken to Ian and Michelle's house. In the meantime Ange got to ride Michelle's "horse" (don't ask) in the ladies' toilets much to the amusement of all concerned! The rest of the evening flew by and it was soon time to drink up and make our way to the minibuses which were to take us to either the boat club or home after a most enjoyable evening with good food and good company.

Another screenshot of the Granada TV Weather forecast...

... and a full size version of the "Wallasey Docks at Sunrise" photograph used for the back-drop

The next week I had not one but two photographs used as a back drop to the Granada Weather Forecast. Like the previous one they were taken on my way to work... one was of sunrise over Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks taken from next to Duke Street Bridge, adjacent to where the Mersey Ferryboats are moored (just out of shot to the left). The water was like a sheet of glass and the light was just right... a photograph I am really proud of. The second one was taken a while ago of the sun rising over the River Mersey at Eastham. I had not expected this photograph to be used  but it was the following day.

Yet another screenshot of the Granada TV Weather forecast...

... and a full size version of the "Eastham Sunrise" photograph used for the back-drop

Also this week, Gary from Coverit had refitted the canopy with a new zip for allowing the windscreen to be rolled up whilst cruising. At the weekend it was the Lymm CC Children's Christmas Party. We had planned to take Shannon to the party and return home afterwards then Ange planned to go to Liverpool for Christmas shopping the next day with her son Michael. Ian rang me in the week to ask if I would go with him on Sunday (the day Ange had planned to go Christmas shopping) when he accompanied the new owner of "Eclipse No 2"... Mike Stoddard whilst he took it down the MSC to Ellesmere Port. I asked Ange if she would change her plans so that I could go as it is not very often the opportunity to cruise virtually the whole length of the MSC comes up. Fortunately Ange did change her plans and got into trouble with her son into the bargain! Saturday morning we made our way up to Lymm for the children's party.

Lymm CC's Children's Christmas Party in full swing

Santa arriving by illuminated narrowboat

Whilst Ange was in the clubhouse with Michelle, Shannon and Popsy I checked on the boat and took the bedding off plus a few other things that were needed at home. Ian had been up to Salford Quays with "Eclipse No 2" but came back to Lymm by car for the party as he was one of Santa's reindeer (the naughty one). After the usual food and drinks Santa arrived by illuminated narrowboat complete with his sack of presents. Once in the clubhouse he distributed the presents to the children before leaving, apparently, for Sale Cruising Club! When the party was over the remaining die-hard members stayed for a fish and chip supper from Lymm Fish and Chip Shop... one of the best in the area. We stayed for a while afterwards chatting to fellow members before making our way home.

Santa and his helpers in the grotto

Fish and Chip Supper in Lymm CC's Clubhouse

(Photograph - Danny Abbott)

The next morning Ian and I were up bright and early in order to reach Salford Quays. "Eclipse No 2" was due to enter Mode Wheel Lock at 08.30 so we would have to leave Salford Quays no later than 08.00. It was still twilight when we reached the mooring but the new owner Mike had the engine running and the kettle on ready! It was windy and started to drizzle as we left but that did not deter us... we were soon at Mode Wheel and Ian leapt off the boat to inform the lock keepers that we were present. "Eclipse No 2" looked minute in these gigantic locks designed to accommodate ocean-going ships. The weather wasn't conducive to photography but I cranked up the ISO to 1600/33˚ on the camera and did manage to take a few worthy of inclusion here.

"Eclipse No 2" at Salford Quays all ready to set off down the Manchester Ship Canal

They didn't really have to swing Barton Aqueduct for us!

Plenty of fresh flowing over Irlam Weir where the River Mersey enters the MSC

Mike's GPS unit told us that we were averaging 7 mph and with the tail wind managed 8 mph. The Gardner 2LW was nowhere near full throttle and was taking the conditions in its stride. When we were near Thelwall Viaduct the weather cleared up a little but it was still windy. At Latchford Locks we were greeted by a reception committee consisting of Phil (Big-Boy) Anderton who had seen us whilst he was crossing Thelwall Viaduct, Michelle, Popsy, Michelle's Mum and Dad, Ange and Shannon. They took photographs, commented on how small "Eclipse" looked in the lock and waved us on our way when we had descended the lock.

Approaching Thelwall Viaduct the weather started to clear

"Eclipse No 2" entering Latchford Lock

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Michelle's Mum and Dad with Phil Anderton on the right at Latchford Locks

Ange and Michelle taking photographs of us in Latchford Lock

"Eclipse No 2" leaving Latchford Locks

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

After passing Moore Swing Bridge there is a section of woodland that has been cleared in preparation for the construction of the Mersey Gateway Bridge due to be completed in 2016. The weather took a turn for the worst and became increasingly windy when we approached the exposed section at Runcorn. The waves on the canal were about a foot in height but the boat took them in its stride and remained stable with little or no rolling. When we approached Weaver Sluices there are quite a few marker buoys indicating the channel and my knowledge of the canal came in useful at this point. This is the widest part of the canal and turned out to be one of the windiest. When we were navigating the canal to Weston Marsh Lock in 2010 it was windy but not as windy as it was on this occasion.

Woodland cleared at the location of the Mersey Gateway Bridge due to be completed in 2016

Windy waters just past Runcorn Bridges

Channel markers at Weston Point

Before long we were passing Ince then Stanlow and at Telford's Lighthouse we turned into the basins at Ellesmere Port. The swing bridge over the bottom lock had been swung for us the previous day and we had no problems with this or the other locks that raised the boat up from the MSC. Once "Eclipse No 2" was safely moored Michelle arrived and it was time to take our leave and leave Mike and his wife in peace. I felt quite sad leaving the boat even though it wasn't Ian's any more. It was time to say goodbye and we wished Mike well and trust that "Eclipse No 2" will give him as much enjoyment as it did to Ian and Michelle.

Journey's end... "Eclipse No 2" at Ellesmere Port

Later on in the week I was contacted by Jo Blythe... one of the Granada Weather presenters. They had received a request from a local newspaper on the Wirral for my details as they had seen my "Eastham Sunrise" photograph and wanted to use it. I replied giving my consent for them to release my contact details and as well as attaching a photograph of the sun setting on Leasowe Sand Dunes I suggested that they might like to hold a competition for the best weather photographs and include the winners in a calendar to be sold in support of charity. Jo Blythe thought that it was an excellent idea and would suggest it to the Granada Reports Team in the near future. Oh... yes, they did use the photograph as well!

Another screenshot of the Granada TV Weather forecast...

... and a full size version of the "Leasowe Sunset" photograph used for the back-drop

The next event in our social calendar was the Lymm CC Adults' Christmas Party. In addition to the buffet laid on by "Dezza" we were entertained by Gary T Davies... a musical entertainer and impressionist. Unusually, we were sat right next to the stage. This made us a prime target for the entertainer's jokes and in particular Ian was singled out. The entertainer was very good and we enjoyed listening to him... I'm not sure that Ian did as much as we did though! We suspected that because we are the "naughty table" we were placed by the stage as punishment but we will have revenge on the perpetrator one way or another (you know who you are!)

The Christmas Party in full swing

Gary T Davies - the larger than life entertainer

 Yours truly and Ian sharing a joke

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

We had planned to have our Christmas dinner on board "Total Eclipse" but for various reasons this didn't happen and we spent Christmas Day at Michelle and Ian's house. We also hoped to manage to take part in the Brass Monkey Cruise to The Old Number Three at Bollington on Boxing Day. The only other time we have managed to take part in this cruise was when it was held on New Year's Day but seeing as we were not planning to be at home on Boxing Day we would be able to take part. Boxing Day dawned dry and bright and a table was booked for lunch at the Old Number Three.

Passing through Oughtrington on the Brass Monkey Cruise

We headed up to Bollington on "Total Eclipse" with Ian, Michelle and Popsy on board as with the sale of "Eclipse Number Two" were boatless until their new boat "Ted" was ready next summer after Crick Boat Show. After mooring we were a little concerned that there was only one other boat from Lymm CC in attendance but we needn't have worried as there were more on the way plus many members arrived by car. Boxing Day is also when many transport enthusiasts descend on the Old Number Three to see the traction engines and other classic examples of road transport that use the pub as a lunch stop on their Christmas outing.

An old Massey Ferguson tractor outside the Old Number Three at Bollington...

... accompanied by this classic traction engine...

... and an Austin Champ plus other examples of classic road transport

Shortly after we had finished eating our lunch the vehicles started to arrive. The two traction engines that arrived were accompanied by other classics such as an Austin Champ, Chevrolet Impala, Reliant Sabre, Sentinel steam lorry, Dodge and Chevy pick-up trucks, Massey Ferguson, Fordson Major and Nuffield tractors to name but a few. Fortunately the rain didn't prevent me from christening my new Leica D-Lux camera although I didn't take as many photographs as I would have liked. We returned to Lymm in the rain and put the boat in the slipway at Lymm CC as Ian was going to finish off the kitchen later on in the week and we were soon making our way home after a most enjoyable Christmas bringing the year to an end.

The new wall cupboard over the cooker and white mica cladding

(Photograph - Michelle Gilbody)

The white mica cladding compliments the black worktop and white cabinets

(Photograph - Michelle Gilbody)

One surprising canal-related event over Christmas came in the shape of Raymond Briggs' animated film of "The Snowman and the Snowdog". Imagine my surprise when, in the flying over London sequence is a shot of that includes a narrowboat called "Eclipse" on the Regents Canal. Maybe Raymond Briggs is a fan of S M Hudson narrowboats!

A screenshot of Raymond Briggs' animated film "The Snowman and the Snowdog"

2012 had been an emotional year for us. We had lost Angie's grandfather Les just before our summer cruise and a couple of Lymm CC members in the shape of Terry Biltcliffe (nb "Zulu) and Norrie (the Mad Irishman) Kelly just before Christmas all of whom we will miss. A couple of my personal heroes also died just before Christmas. They were Patrick Moore the astronomer and author and Gerry Anderson the creator of "Thunderbirds" as well as many other tv series that were a big part of my child (and adult) hood. On a happier note there were many boating milestones during 2012... BBC's MSC Stories went live, a new canopy was fitted to the boat, the boat's hull was repainted, we explored canals previously un-cruised by us, walked the length of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal, installed a new floor and kitchen in the boat plus cruising nearly the whole length of the Manchester Ship Canal to name but a few. We now look forward to 2013 and wonder what the year has in store for us... I can't wait!


Our canal cruising experiences continue in

Book 9 - Canalmanac 2013

Regular readers and fellow anoraks may be interested in the new Wheels and Props  section

on Canalscape's sister website...

that is now completed.


Chapter 2 - Ring Ramblings (in preparation)

Lymm CC's 2012 Summer Cruise was to be along the Bridgewater and Leeds and Liverpool Canals to Burscough, down the River Douglas Branch to Tarleton, down the River Douglas and up the River Ribble to Preston Dock for the 2012 Preston Guild Celebrations. We were in Preston Dock for a couple of days in 2009 when we were en-route to the Lancaster Canal. The couple of days spent in Preston Dock was long enough and the thought of being there for a week did not excite us. As well as that, our cruising partners... Ian and Michelle would not be able to go those weeks due to their daughter Popsy still being at school. Bearing these points in mind we decided to cruise on our own and thought that a leisurely trip around the Cheshire Ring with an excursion down the Lower Peak Forest Canal to Bugsworth Basin with another through Harecastle Tunnel and up the Caldon Canal sounded good. It was quite a few years since I cruised the Cheshire Ring and when I did last cruise it the Lower Peak Forest Canal to the then derelict Bugsworth Basin was missed out. I have never cruised the Caldon Canal either and it has long been on my "To Do List". This cruise would give us the opportunity to explore (and photograph) them provided that we don't spend too much time at other locations. So... sorry Lymm CC (and Guy) but the lure of un-cruised canals was just too much for Preston Dock to compete with!

Just a couple of many of my photographs used to decorate the Wharf Restaurant

On the first Saturday of our holidays we arrived at Lymm with Ange's granddaughter Shannon who was spending the two weeks of the cruise with us. We loaded up the boat with the rest of our clothes and fresh food when Michelle arrived with their car and we gave her a lift up to Oughtrington by boat. After a quick cuppa and a catch-up we all set off for our first stop which was to be Castlefield, Manchester. The weather was dry and pleasant and we moored in the Staffordshire Arm adjacent to the Castlefield Hotel where we later went for tea. Ian and I visited the recently opened Wharf Restaurant to see which of my photographs they had used. There were quite a few on display and we promised to return at a later date to collect the round of drinks promised by the owner Patrick. Sunday morning Ange and Michelle caught the tram into town for some last minute shopping and on their return we set off to climb the Rochdale Nine to Piccadilly Basin.

Lock 92 - the first lock we climbed on the Rochdale Canal

The weather was sunny as we rose in lock 92 there were quite a few gongoozlers watching our progress from the Duke's 92 pub adjacent to the lock. The area is quite different from the last time I cruised through it over twenty five years ago. The old Hacienda Club location is now up-market housing, the entrance to the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal (which we had explored a few weeks earlier and is covered in The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal section of this website) is now in restored and reinstated as far as the Bridgewater Hall, Canal Street is the hub of Manchester's Gay Quarter and is lined with bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, the access to the canal has been removed and so there is effectively no towpath. The paddles on the locks are very low and one has to almost kneel down to wind them up. Ian was winding one up and did not realise that he was being watched (eyed-up) by three men from a gay bar on the street above!

The junction of the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal with the Rochdale Canal

Ian being watched from Canal Street

The weather changed and it started to rain just in time for us to shelter beneath the Piccadilly Plaza building where the canal and lock eighty five are actually located beneath the building. There were a few rent boys hanging around in the tunnel but they did not bother us. On the off-side of the canal, adjacent to the lock, two men were taking photographs of each other next to a painting on the wall. We were later to learn that one of them was an artist and had painted the work onto the wall which depicts Andy Warhol (complete with pink poodle) looking at Coronation Street. When we emerged from this subterranean world we had one lock to negotiate and we were at Dulcie Street Junction where the Ashton and Rochdale canals meet. We turned right onto the Ashton Canal and moored for the night in Piccadilly Village just before Store Street Aqueduct.

Andy Warhol looking at Coronation Street

In the lock beneath Piccadilly Plaza

The following morning we prepared ourselves for the climb up the Ashton Canal. The weather had cleared up and promised a pleasant climb up the locks provided that the local youths were indoors playing on their computers. Some of the bridges and tunnels on the canal are extremely low. So low that our "pylon" had to be removed, Shannon's bike was relegated to the front deck and we had to lean over the starboard side of the boat to give extra inches of clearance for the chimney which was well and truly stuck onto the collar. We survived the Ashton Canal without seeing any youths except for a group at the Top Lock who wanted to jump over the lock using the boat as a springboard. Once safely out of the way at the water point we filled the water tank and headed towards Duckinfield Junction and the Lower Peak Forest Canal where we moored for the night in Portland Basin.

Unusual modern architecture beside the Ashton Canal

Duckinfield Junction and the start of the Lower Peak Forest Canal

I had received a couple of emails from Canal and River Trust notifying us that there were problems at Marple Locks where a banking wall had collapsed into the canal between locks six and seven and a side-pond had breached between locks one and two. We decided to see what the situation was like when we arrived at Marple and set off along the Lower Peak Forest Canal in drizzle that turned to rain and it only let up when we eventually reached Marple. Along the way were a couple of very low tunnels and a few lift bridges but the weather was not conducive to photography. We followed "Eclipse" over the Marple Aqueduct and beneath the railway bridge beyond when a loud crash was heard from their stern. I suspected that they had gone over an underwater obstruction that had knocked the rudder out of its socket as it was "clonking" and hard to turn in one direction.

The wide section after the railway bridge where there is an underwater obstruction

We pulled in to investigate and see if their were any moorings nearer the lock flight. There were a couple of moorings at the bottom of the flight and talking to boaters who were already moored there we learnt that boats movements up and down the flight were being limited and that the lock keeper would be along later in the day to up-date us. In the meantime Ian decided to brave the coldness of the water and get in to guide the rudder into its socket whilst I lifted it.

Ian checking his rudder after being relocated in its socket

After a couple of attempts the rudder was relocated in its socket and Ian clambered out to get undressed on the towpath before having a hot shower to warm him up (Ange just risked the one eye). Whilst we waited for an update from the lock keeper we walked into the town for some shopping just in time to hear the latest on boat movements. Four boats would be let up the flight at 09.00 the following morning and a couple let down afterwards. Then there would be no boat movements whilst remedial work was carried out to the breach at the top of the flight. We were told to take care and avoid the fallen wall mid-flight as there may be some stones that had not been recovered. We were to be the first two boats up the flight and two other boats had arrived that would be after us.

Marple Bottom Lock in early morning sunshine

The fallen canal banking between locks six and seven

Angie's grandaughter Shannon and Popsy Gilbody helping on the locks

The next morning dawned bright, warm and sunny and once the gates had been unlocked we started up the flight. All went well until Ian reached the pound between locks seven and eight when additional water had to be flushed into the pound to allow him into the lock. I could hear his engine working hard from the lock below where I waited for Ange to tell me to proceed. When the water level had risen I was waved out of the lock and I could see that the water level was nearly a metre down. Needless to say I got stuck as well and the lock keeper allowed two boats to come down in the hopes that the water that they brought with them would help matters. It didn't and we had to wait nearly an hour whilst the water level rose. Once the water level rose we managed to "ride the flush" and get into lock eight. We had no more problems until we were stuck in lock two due to the fenders catching on the top coping stones. After a bit of tugging and lowering the water level slightly the fenders were lifted and we had no more problems. Once at the top of the flight we thanked Dave the lock keeper for managing to get us through and emptied the loo at the sanitary station before mooring up for a well deserved lunch.

Water levels nearly a metre down

Dave the Marple Locks Lock Keeper

Site of the side pond breach between locks one and two

Marple at the junction of the Upper and Lower Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals

There was a marina at the junction of the Upper and Lower peak Forest Canals with the Macclesfield Canal and I noticed the glint of varnished mahogany on one of the mooring piers. The boat in question looked like a Taylor boat that used to moor at Nantwich many years ago. I walked over to investigate and take photographs. The boat was called "Tamburo" and I had a chat with the owner who informed me that it wasn't a Taylor but was built to one of their designs by Charles Martin of Rock Ferry, Birkenhead. Even so it was a very beautiful craft and warrants a photograph here even if it was partially covered up.

"Tamburo" looks like a Taylor boat but was actually built by Charles Martin of Rock Ferry, Birkenhead

After lunch we carried along the Upper Peak Forest Canal towards Bugsworth Basin. This has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of canal I have been on and rivals the Llangollen Canal for natural beauty. At one of the lift bridges I had lifted it for Ange to take "Total Eclipse" through and a woman with a couple of dogs came and was huffing and puffing at being held up. When the boat had gone through she said to me "Are you going to close it or what?" I said no as there is another boat coming to which she became really irritated. Once "Eclipse" had gone through I noticed that there was a GRP Nauticus coming but the woman would not wait any longer and told me to close it as she lived here. I politely informed her that the canal was here long before she was and before the public right of way but I thought it best to lower the bridge and avoid further confrontation. I apologised to the owners of the Nauticus and explained the situation to which they said that they understood my quandary and would have done the same. I tried not to let this encounter spoil what was a beautiful summer's day but it just goes to show that there are nasty, horrible people even in the most beautiful of locations. The canal wound around the valley side overlooking rolling Peak District countryside until we passed the entrance to the Whalley Bridge branch and made our way to Bugsworth Basin.

A sultry wooded cutting on the Upper Peak Forest Canal

One of the lift bridges on the Upper Peak Forest Canal

Our moorings in Bugsworth Basin

We found moorings in the Lower Basin and it wasn't long before we had tied up. The footpaths around the wharf complex gave the children a chance to stretch their legs and ride their bikes around safe in the knowledge that there was no road traffic around. When we attended the Gardner Engine Rally last year we stayed at the Navigation Inn and we were impressed by the standard of food served by them so we had promised ourselves a meal there. We were not disappointed either. After a late start the next morning we retraced our way back to Marple and we started along the Macclesfield Canal. The September edition of "Waterways World" had an article in it about the 1973 breach on the Upper Peak Forest Canal at Disley. When we passed the location which is dominated by a beautiful cottage and garden we could see no evidence of the breach except for the change in the bank lining, such is the power of British Waterways and nature,

The breach at Disley in 1973...

(Photograph - Hugh Potter - Waterways World)

... and the same location today showing no evidence of the breach except for the change of bank lining

Looking towards Marple Junction from the Canal and River Trust Maintenance Yard

Overnight moorings at High Lane

The "Macc" is another beautiful canal and it wasn't long before we were admiring the beautiful countryside through which this canal runs on another hot summer day. We cruised to High Lane near Poynton and moored for the night at Bridge 11. There is an excellent playground and park where the children could burn off their excess energy. Another beautiful day followed and we made our way to Oak Grove via Bollington and Macclesfield. On the way we passed beautiful canalside properties one of which had three helicopters in the garden. Near Bollington we saw Big Boy's old boat still sporting the name "Rensol". This idyllic day defies description so I will let the photographs say them for me.

Beautiful countryside lining the Macclesfield Canal

Helicopters outside a canalside house

Big Boy's old "Rensol" near Bollington

Wooded cuttings give way to...

... open rolling countryside

Oak Grove Swing Bridge where we moored for the night

We moored for the night at Oak Grove where, after showering and changing visited the Fool's Nook for what was a truly excellent meal in beautiful surroundings.  Our third day on the "Macc" was yet another warm, sunny day and we basked in the morning sunshine as we approached Bosley Locks. As we came to the locks a father and son were sitting on a lock gate playing a Solitaire board game as their boat rose in the lock. Their boat was a narrow boat with a Gardner 2LW engine fitted and was towing a butty that was waiting below the lock. The man was none other than the professional motorcyclist and world record holder Nick Sanders who has also taken his narrowboats across the English Channel across France to the River Danube on to the Black Sea. I was not aware of his attainments at that time but I have to say that after a brief conversation this quietly spoken and unassuming man has my greatest respect.

Nick Sanders' narrowboat "Unspoilt by Progress" towing...

... butty boat "Tewksbury" out of Bosley Top Lock

Ange (alias Mrs iPod) singing in Bosley bottom lock

"Total Eclipse" moored in the shadow of Bosley Cloud

A Hudson... with windows?

Nb "Borolo's" kitchen complete with Aga

We made mincemeat of the Bosley Locks and moored for lunch at the foot of the flight. The weather was so hot that the girls had a water fight whilst we relaxed in the brilliant sunshine overlooked by Bosley Cloud. Ian chatted to a fellow Hudson owner whose boat we had seen at the Hudson open day a few weeks earlier and as well as chatting I took photographs of the boat which was unusual for a Hudson as it possessed windows! Also at Bosley was a William Piper tug "Barolo" which was unusual in design and featured a country cottage type interior complete with an Aga range. Very nice but a bit too "woody" for our tastes. After lunch we continued on to Congleton where we moored for the night. Overnight the dry spell was broken by showers that had fallen overnight. The morning was dry but we got the impression that the rain was never very far away. On the outskirts of Congleton is Dog Lane cast iron aqueduct that Thomas Telford built using the same castings as at Nantwich and also at Stretton both on the "Shroppie".

Telford's Dog Lane Aqueduct, Congleton

After stopping briefly to photograph it we carried on to the Trent and Mersey Canal which we crossed on Poole Aqueduct... one of the few canal flyovers in the country before joining the canal at Hardings Wood Junction a little way further on. We made our way to Harecastle Tunnel in the rain which only stopped once we were in the queue for the tunnel. We were first in the queue and we made preparations to enter the tunnel which included removing the chimney.

"Eclipse" and "Total Eclipse" (minus chimney) waiting to enter Harecastle Tunnel

The disused original 1777 Brindley entrance to Harecastle Tunnel

This proved a little harder than anticipated as it had stuck solid onto the collar and needed a little persuasion from a hammer. I gashed my finger in the process and Ian took over to successfully remove it albeit at the cost of a few dents. After a quick chat with the tunnel keeper we visited the sanitary station and had a look around whilst we waited for the boats coming through the tunnel to exit. Since my last visit the Tunnel Keeper's Portacabin has been replaced with a purpose-built block containing a sanitary station as well as the office facility. There was an old narrowboat moored diagonally to prevent access to the disused Brindley tunnel.

The inside of Telford's 1827 Harecastle Tunnel Northern Portal

This area has now been in-filled and the drainage water from the old tunnel channelled into the canal. Before long the boats came out and we were given the go ahead to enter. We had been told that there was a shallow section at the tunnel entrance and we took care to avoid it. Our passage took thirty minutes and we didn't have any problems with the low-roof section about a third of the way in. As we neared the southern portal the ventilation fans became increasingly noisy and it was with relief that the doors opened and the fans turned off. After waiting for Ian to emerge we carried on until we reached the beautiful Westport Lake where we moored for the night. We had promised the children a trip to the swimming baths and a couple of miles up the canal at Etruria was Waterworld... swimming baths with attitude! Next morning we set off and passed through Longport with its bottle kiln and wharf which didn't seem to have changed much over the last twenty-odd years since my last visit. Longport Wharf looked virtually the same as it did in 1985. The same could not be said about about Shelton Steel Works which has now been flattened. Just before the location of the old Shelton Steelworks we passed the start of the Burslem Port Arm. With their being so much written about the proposed restoration of the arm I, as was Ian, a little disappointed to see little or no progress from the canal. Maybe there is work going on upstream from the junction that is not evident.

Bottle Kiln at Longport 1985...

... and the same location in 2012

Longport Wharf in 1985...

and the same view virtually unchanged in 2012

Shelton Steel Works in 1985...

... and in 2012 with no trace of the steelworks

We moored close to Festival Park opposite the site of Wedgwood's Etruria Factory of which only a round house remains. Close to where we moored was the Toby Carvery where we planned to have tea. First though we walked to Waterworld. Ange had not brought her bathing costume and Michelle had shopping to get. That left Ian, Popsy, Shannon and myself to go to the baths on our own. And I cannot swim! Having said that we did enjoy ourselves on the waterslide. However, Shannon would not come with me on the Rapids. I went around the rapids about half a dozen times and when I tried to exit there were either people in my way preventing me reaching the exit or the water jet propelled me past it. In the end I went around another five times before I managed to rejoin the main pool. We left the pool and after drying, changing and being ripped off by the vending machines we made our way back to the boats. Later we had a most enjoyable meal in the Toby Carvery and even went the next morning for an "all you can eat breakfast" (that really set us up for the rest of the day ahead) before setting off for the Caldon Canal.

The James Brindley statue at the start of the Caldon Canal

After setting off it wasn't long before we reached the junction with the Caldon Canal. We had to make a stop at the sanitary station and fill the water tank and after admiring the statue of James Brindley we were in the queue for the staircase lock. We were delayed at this lock due to boaters not adhering to the correct operating procedure but it was not too long before it was our turn to enter the lock. One feature of this particular staircase lock is that when emptying the top chamber the bottom chamber does not need to be emptied due to an overflow feeding directly into the spill way which runs at the side of the lock. I have only seen this feature at one other lock and that was on the Ribble Link Staircase Lock a few years ago. It is a good feature that prevents the lower chamber overflowing which is safer for people at the side of the lock and saves time as well.

Two lonely bottle kilns seen whilst cruising through Stoke-on-Trent

We had heard a few stories about Stoke-on-Trent and even formulated a plan whereas the girls would take the boats whilst Ian and I walked along the towpath. We didn't experience any problems in this area although there are a couple of nasty low bridges that required removal of Shannon's bike from the roof and the dropping of the "pylon". The weather was wonderful and the day was turning into another of those classic English summer days that we had been graced with during this holiday. Stoke-on-Trent was rapidly being left behind and it was not long before we were out in open countryside. There are some really beautiful locations along the Caldon Canal... far too beautiful for words so I will let photographs do the talking!

Leaving Engine Lock at Norton in the Moors

Long Butts Lift Bridge (23)

Disused railway bridge at Stockton Brook Locks

Beautiful Stockton Brook Locks

Artwork besides one of the Stockton Brook Locks celebrating Staffordshire Industry

Leaving Stockton Brook Locks

Stockton Brook Locks were particularly attractive, almost rivalling Tyrley flight on the "Shroppie". At the side of one of the locks was a piece of artwork celebrating Staffordshire's industrial heritage. I have an issue with the people of this area though - they don't pick-up after their dogs. This point was made very clear to me when I put the windlass down to take a photograph and when I bent down to pick it up again I put my hand in a dollop of dog muck which was lurking in the grass. As well as being on my fingers it went down my nails as well and I had to go on the boat when it rose in the lock to wash and disinfect my hand! We were conscious of the fact that we were running out of time. The problems at Marple had put us nearly a day behind schedule. Accordingly, we decided to moor for the night at Stanley Moss, close to Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club's moorings and retrace our steps the next day after turning around. I shot a short video of "Eclipse" to upload to Apollo Duck when we returned home. After tea we went for a walk to look at the rail-canal interchange nearby that had been cleared and landscaped and admire Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club's immaculate moorings. I would have liked to have photographed Hazlehurst Aqueduct and Locks as well as Cherry Eye Bridge and Rudyard Lake but we plan to return to this beautiful canal in the not too distant future and dedicate a longer time to explore it in full.

Stanley Moss... our turnaround point...

 ...and as far as we had time to go on the Caldon Canal (this time)

Stoke-on-Trent Boat Club's moorings at Stanley Moss

Stanley Moss canal-rail interchange

The next morning was sunny again and we retraced our steps back down the Caldon Canal but as we approached the junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal the weather took a turn for the worst and it rained torrentially. By the time we reached Harecastle Tunnel I was well and truly soaked to the skin. We passed through the tunnel without incident although it did take nearly an hour... twice as long as our outward journey to pass through due to craft in front of us going slowly (don't they know that the faster you go in a tunnel the easier it is to steer - due to the "Canal Effect"... one of Archimedes' Principals). We moored for the night in the shadow of Poole Aqueduct and as soon as we tied up and raised the canopy Ange made me strip off my wet clothes, get a hot shower, dry myself and get in bed to warm-up. Before too long I was suitably warmed-up and it had stopped raining so we went for tea at the Red Bull Tavern where we had an excellent meal in pleasant surroundings. The rain kept off the next day which is just as well for we were descending Heartbreak Hill to Middlewich... all in one go! The lovely weather added to the enjoyment of this challenging stretch of canal that was prettier than I remembered it. The duplicated locks meant that "Eclipse" and "Total Eclipse" could descend alongside each other. Ian decided to have a drag race (in narrowboats?) through a couple of them and I will not embarrass Ian by saying who lost but what I will say is that experience triumphed!

"Eclipse" and "Total Eclipse" alongside each other in duplicated locks

Back to reality - the M6 motorway crosses the canal below Lock 57 on "Heartbreak Hill"

We moored at Middlewich next to the children's playground (which they were glad of) and whilst betting off the boat I heard a lady walking along the towpath say "That man looks like Cyril Wood!" She was correct... and so she should have been as she was one of my colleagues from Wirral Metropolitan College. I knew that one of my colleagues had a narrowboat that they moored at Orchard Marina but I didn't expect to bump into her and my other colleagues in Middlewich whilst they were out for a cruise. We were joined by Michelle's mum and dad and after a quick shower and change of clothes we had planned to go to the big Lock for tea. Unfortunately they had stopped serving food ten minutes before we arrived so it was "Plan B" to the Narrowboat pub and restaurant in Lewin Street. Ange and I had never been here before and we enjoyed what was most probably the best meal of our holiday cruise and didn't leave until after midnight. After an enjoyable evening we retired to our boats after an exhausting but enjoyable day. We were on home waters now and we cruised through the lush countryside of the Weaver Valley. Shannon had asked if she could sit on the roof of the boat as we cruised along. I do not approve of children sitting on the roofs of boats but she had asked so nicely and promised to do exactly as she was told, lying flat when we came to bridges, etc, so I relented. She later told us that this was one of the highlights of her holiday and said that it was like flying.

Shannon enjoying "flying" on the roof of "Total Eclipse"

Our lunch stop was at Anderton where we met the crews of "Hyland" and "Philbarmar"... fellow Lymm CC members fresh from their voyage across the River Mersey from Liverpool to Eastham Locks, up the Manchester Ship Canal and River Weaver to the Anderton Lift. They told us of their adventures on the Mersey and how my good friend Stuart Wood; the Mersey river pilot, had guided them across the narrows to Eastham. Originally I had planned to take photographs and video of them in the river but their dates coincided with our holiday cruise dates and I was unable to do so. However, Arthur and Barry had taken some photographs enroute and promised to send them to me for inclusion on the website. We visited the shop at the boat lift to buy presents for our friends and families when we returned then carried on to moor for the night at Morris Minor Bend. An early start next morning saw us passing through Dutton Stop Lock, Preston Brook Tunnel and onto the Bridgewater Canal. Our holiday was now at an end and we packed our clothes, etc as we neared our Lymm moorings. All that remained was to pack the car and bid farewell to our friends before heading for home.

Home waters - leaving behind Preston Brook Tunnel



This had been a slightly ambitious cruise for two weeks but we should have managed it comfortably. However, we hadn't banked on being held up at Marple Locks. Consequently, this put us behind schedule and we had not explored (and photographed) as much of the Caldon Canal as we would have liked. Even so, we passed through some beautiful countryside, especially on the Macclesfield, Lower and Upper Peak Forest and Caldon Canals and renewed acquaintances with previously cruised waterways. It was good to see that most of these places had changed for the better but, especially on the northern Trent and Mersey Canal the cutting back of weeds needs to be a priority for the Canal and River Trust for in some places the weeds encroach over three quarters of the canal leaving a narrow channel for navigation. In the wettest summer since records began it is good the report that we only had two and a half days rain and I only got soaked to the skin twice. My theory from before the cruise that the weather was getting most of the rain out of the way before we left just might have been correct! Once again "Total Eclipse" has taken us on our holiday cruise with wonderful reliability and didn't once miss a beat. We plan to return to the Caldon canal and spend a more leisurely cruise exploring it in full... I can't wait!


Timetable for our 2012 Summer Cruise

Saturday 4-8-2012 - Lymm to Castlefield, Bridgewater Canal

Sunday 5-8-2012


Castlefield via Rochdale Canal to Piccadilly Basin, Ashton Canal

Monday 6-8-2012


Piccadilly Basin, Ashton Canal to Portland Basin, Lower Peak Forest Canal

Tuesday 7-8-2012


Portland Basin, Lower Peak Forest Canal to Marple, Lower Peak Forest Canal

Wednesday 8-8-2012


Marple, Lower Peak Forest Canal to Bugsworth Basin, Upper Peak Forest Canal

Thursday 9-8-2012


Bugsworth Basin, Upper Peak Forest Canal to High Lane, Macclesfield Canal

Friday 10-8-2012


High Lane, Macclesfield Canal to Oak Grove, Macclesfield Canal

Saturday 11-8-2012


Oak Grove, Macclesfield Canal to Congleton, Macclesfield Canal

Sunday 12-8-2012


Congleton, Macclesfield Canal to Kidsgrove, Trent and Mersey Canal

Monday 13-8-2012


Kidsgrove, Trent and Mersey Canal to Etruria, Trent and Mersey Canal

Tuesday 14-8-2012


Etruria, Trent and Mersey Canal to Stanley Moss, Caldon Canal

Wednesday 15-8-2012


Stanley Moss, Caldon Canal to Kidsgrove, Trent and Mersey Canal

Thursday 16-8-2012


Kidsgrove, Trent and Mersey Canal to Middlewich, Trent and Mersey Canal

Friday 17-8-2012


Middlewich, Trent and Mersey Canal to Morris Minor Bend, Trent and Mersey Canal

Saturday 18-8-2012


Morris Minor Bend, Trent and Mersey Canal to Lymm Bridgewater Canal


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Canalography 2012

Our canal cruising experiences and milestones during 2012


1st January 2012 Went on Thelwall Ferry over the Manchester Ship Canal and walked along old Mersey and Irwell meander
3rd January 2012 "Total Eclipse" features in the book "Tiny Homes - Simple Shelter"
13th March 2012 BBC Webwise Manchester Ship Canal Project launched at Media City in Salford Quays
31st March 2012 Saturday Night at the Movies FBCC fundraiser at the "Lymm Odeon" - £250 raised
5th April 2012 Easter cruise to Castlefield, Manchester
22nd April 2012 Lymm CC Opening Cruise
24th April 2012 New sofa bed fitted
27th April 2012 New rear deck canopy fitted by Coverit
6th May 2012 May Bank Holiday Cruise to between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels
9th June 2012 "Total Eclipse" slipped for hull cleaning and painting at Lymm CC
30th June 2012 Conducted tour along the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal
4th August 2012 Summer cruise around the Cheshire Ring, Upper Peak Forest and Caldon Canals
25th August 2012 Cruise to the River Irwell - Upper Reaches and Salford Quays... Manchester Ship Canal
8th September 2012 Commenced fitting new floor and kitchen to "Total Eclipse"
10th December 2012 Navigated Manchester Ship Canal from Salford Quays to Ellesmere Port on "Eclipse No 2"
26th December 2012 Brass Monkey Cruise to the Old Number Three at Bollington
30th December 2012 New kitchen on "Total Eclipse" completed

Click to return to Contents



Our canal cruising experiences continue in...


Book 9

Canal Cruising 2013

Finances, health and time allowing!


Click to return to Contents

or select another book below...


 Book 1 - 1960 to 1982

 Book 2 - 1983 to 1999

 Book 3 - 2000 to 2005

 Book 4 - 2006 to 2007

 Book 5 - 2008 to 2009

 Book 6 - 2010

 Book 7 - 2011

 Book 9 - 2013

 Book 10 - 2014

The History of Lymm Cruising Club

The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal

The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal

Shroppie - The Shropshire Union Canal System

The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal
Mersey  Connections
The Wonders of the Waterways

2011 Gardner Engine Rally Report

Foreign Forays - Canals of the World

Worsley Canal Heritage Walk

Castlefield Canal Heritage Walk

The Liverpool Docks Link

NB Squirrel

NB Total Eclipse

Don't Call it a Barge

Canis Canalus
Canalscape Photography
Lymm Cruising Club Website

Footnote and Acknowledgements

Site Map
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Updated 09-12-2013