Cruising Notes

Well it's been a glorious couple of months. We are lazily dropping down through the locks of heartbreak hill from the the area of Kidsgrove to the overgrown village of Middlewich on a punishing schedule of about two hours a day cruising. It has more to do with keeping the batteries topped up than making real progress. Meanwhile we are enjoying watching summer, it's a rare treat in this country. Our current destination is a marina in the middle of nowhere about 3 hours from Middlewich where hopefully the hull of the boat will be steam cleaned and we can then re-black the part which is supposed to be black rather than rust. We will be attending to some the other things that need attending to such as refurbishment of the propeller. Seven thousand hours of cruising in shallow canals often full of rubbish has taken it's toll and the poor old prop is well gouged, and chipped and generally a shadow of it's former self. Hopefully with a newly cleaned hull and a refurbished propeller we should be set for another few years.

This years cold spring has had quite an effect. The most obvious sign is the waterfowl. We have been passing loads of ducklings and moorhen chicks. That is rather unusual at this time of year, we would expect that in May. We watched a morhen family on the Peak Forest canal that had three adolescents and four, day or two old chicks. Moorhens are our favorite waterfowl as the parents take food back to their young and feed them. In this case the adolescents were helping to feed the chicks as well. I guess it's valuing human traits in non-human species. Ducks will, on the other hand, try to grab food from their chicks.

However having started on about the birds, after all there are very few bees about, I will continue. Herons are very frequent and those near towns and therefore being used to humans, the easiest to photograph.

This is a heron before breakfast

And one after breakfast

They are big birds and are almost as impressive as swans when you see them flying down the river or canal straight towards you about 3 feet above the water. They always miss the boat but I have been known to throw the boat into hard reverse just to make sure.

Despite the incredible natural beauty of the canals, there are some who think that they need “art” as well. This is rather nostalgic and shows what things used to be like. I guess it depicts child labour as horses are now banned from some towpaths. 

And then comes the lack of thinking, art does not really need a dog poop bin to enhance it.

This was in Stoke on Trent, possibly a bit of history, possibly the cheapest way to make a seat. I have never seen anyone sit on it.

Personally I prefer the eccentricities of the people that dwell by or on the canal.

I presume that this cow delivers already packed yoghurt from the way it looks.

Then again some people attract your in other ways. I bet this boat is fully paid for out of the companies advertising account. I'm just not very sure how much light there would be inside.

Advertising is not common on the canals, this is one of the very few static, billboard, type adverts. Then again it is in Burton on Trent, the major brewing town in the UK and Pedigree is a beer. I think it is appropriate.

On our journey north we had to pass through the Harecastle tunnel. Tunnels are quite normal on the canals but this one is always a bit special. It is low, it takes about 45 minutes to traverse, and a count of “souls on board” (humans and pets) is taken on entry and exit. We arrived the night before we wanted to go through and so got to see the “old” tunnel. It subsided many years ago and is now disused.

The old tunnel

And the New. Please note the chains hanging down, rattle one and you don't go through.

And here is a boat exiting to give you some idea of scale. Naturally there is no lighting inside the tunnel which is why boats have a light called a tunnel light. Just imagine driving your car in a very narrow tunnel with the headlights forty foot in front of you. The tunnel is, of course, one way traffic only and just to give you a sense of cosy, they shut the doors on the tunnel at one end as well. We have met a few boaters wives that walk over the top of the hill rather than go through it.

The Harecastle tunnel is just one of the many obstructions we meet. There are lift bridges and swing bridges that are minor obstructions on many canals.

This is a fairly normal swing bridge

Then along comes “wonderwoman” and swings it out of the boats path. That bridge weighs several thousand pounds and was well balanced when it was first placed there, less so now.

This is a typical lift bridge being raised

and once again “wonderwoman” can be found working her magic.

















Some people still use the canals for transport. Some take it a bit further and use them to transport their transport.




It's just one of those things, whenever I take the boat out onto a tideway, I check that I haven’t forgotten to renew the insurance. Why? Well the 15 or so tons of The Beech Nuts is reasonably formidable on the canals and rivers, but beyond the inland waterways it is trivial.

Just a final word of warning, there are times to fall in the canal and there are times not to.

Have fun!