Sunday, 24 September 2017


But no picture. I'd forgotten the wonderful garden we pass coming down towards Acton Trussell, though my best beloved hadn't. As we cruised by the riot of autumn glory I thought – that would make a nice one for the blog. However, all thoughts of the photo were immediately obliterated by the sight of a Countrywide Cruisers hirer coming at top speed round the corner.

Danger averted, I tried to pull in, to walk back along the towpath for a piccy, but it was too shallow to get near the bank. We were grounded and had to carefully manoeuvre off again. By the time we were at a point where I could have got us in safely, it would have been a quarter-mile hike back to the garden, and I was no longer in the mood.

Now you know I make enormous sacrifices for this blog, to satisfy the extraordinary demands of its discerning readership, but on this occasion I'm afraid I just have to present my apologies!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Not Goldberry

As we started out towards Great Haywood Junction this morning, I thought for a moment I had an addition to my list of Tolkien-themed boat names.

River Daughter reminded me immediately of Goldberry – Tom Bombadil's companion. Alas, it was not to be. Later research showed that she was known as "River-woman's daughter". Goldberry has her own honourable entry in the list, but no additional alias, I'm afraid.

After picking up water and getting a pump-out we came down through Tixall Wide,

impressed as ever by this tribute to the family through whose land the canal passed, and of whose estate the only remaining visible relic is the gatehouse (still hireable, apparently, for functions).

Speaking of relics, the Wide was playing host to a rather nice wooden launch,

not that the white satellite dish did a great deal for its lines. Also out and about (and not at all relic-like) was the Stafford Boating Club.

They were on their annual mystery cruise. It would be more of a mystery, said one member, if they didn't cruise to the same place every year!

We left them enjoying themselves, though it seemed the gazebos might be needed more as protection from the rain than from the sun. But we did find ourselves in some afternoon shine as we tied up at Radford Bank, opposite a tidy garden.

Tixall Wide might be Goldberry country, but Radford Bank certainly is not, with the A34 rushing over the bridge a few yards away. However, it's very convenient for a quick walk down to the local Aldi.

Friday, 22 September 2017


I'm not sure we've ever done a shorter distance from one mooring to the next, except when we've tootled round to Tixall Wide from the marina for the night – perhaps not even then. We needed to do some stuff in Great Haywood but didn't want to have to go back to our own marina berth, so we came up Haywood Lock and found a good space in the sun between the lock and the junction.

It was all about various jobs – pick up a package from the Post Office, get some 2032 batteries for the kitchen scales and some more kindling. Drying clothes – washing them is easy courtesy of our little Candy, but drying them isn't straightforward in this weather. And then, when I was checking some storage, I noticed we'd shipped an inch of water in the chain locker at the front, what with all the rain. So I wanted to clear that out and dry it, which meant leaving things open and therefore not unattended.

In the end, I got the package and the batteries from the Post Office, and the kindling from the farm shop, while my best beloved stayed on sentry duty. Then she put the washed clothes in the shopping trolley and pulled it down to the marina's laundry room to put through the dryer, while I was extremely busy doing things on Erin Mae. Unfortunately, there was a queue of people for the dryer, so she came back with the washing still damp. That merited a restorative cuppa, while I rigged one of our drying frames and pegged out the wet stuff. Who knows what an evening of the Squirrel pumping out dry heat will do?

Juggling, as everybody knows, is an extremely demanding and clever activity.

Thursday, 21 September 2017


They knew what was promised!

So did we, so we left our overnight mooring early, travelled 3½ miles to a spot overlooking Shugborough, and tied up ready for a drowning.

In the event, we got a bit of rain for a short while, a spattering hardly worthy of the name for a bit longer, and have spent the rest of the afternoon drowsily wondering what all the fuss was about. Meanwhile, one of the coal boats came by, so I laid in three bags of SuperThem. Now that will be important!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


Last night's food at the Mucky Duck was carefully delivered by our attentive teenage waiter, who also went on little errands for us: what was the nature of the Thursday night folk sessions? please could we have more custard with our sticky toffee pudding; please could we have some spoons to eat the pudding with.

The two pies (for £15) were, I suppose, typical pub food. Quite tasty (we cheerfully cleared our plates), rather long on carbohydrate but rather short on protein. When you added in the pudding, we ate more simple carbohydrate in an hour that we would normally imbibe in a week! But if you're going out for a meal, you've got to at least consider having a pudding. It wasn't home-made (neither were the pies) but it wasn't bad.

Today's target was to replenish the larder in Rugeley, so we'd become comestibly self-sufficient once more. That was accomplished, courtesy of Morrisons and the fruit & veg shop opposite, but we decided not to remain on the very convenient visitor mooring in the middle of town. We'd never stayed overnight by the aqueduct where the T&M crosses the River Trent, and thought we would do so. Tomorrow is threatening lots of rain, so if we hole up here it should be more pleasant than in town.

At least, so we thought until our mooring neighbour came to warn us that this spot is sometimes prone to teenagers out for a laugh coming and jumping on and off the gunnel. Hopefully the promised rain will keep them away. If not, it transpires that our neighbour is in the process of making a claymore – a traditional two-handed Scottish sword. If he gets that out on the towpath, I doubt our little boating community will have any trouble!

Though I don't think I should really approve.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


We don't eat out a lot – it seems to cost quite a bit to get something better than what we do at home, even on Erin Mae. This has the benefit that, when we do go out, it feels a bit more special (though I feel a bit of a rat writing that – I'm sure my best beloved would like to go out more often!).

On the other hand, when the larder runs bare of the meaty essentials, there's a decision to be made. We could make do, and make something tasty out of veggies, supplemented with a tin of this or that. We could tie up temporarily at a point where it's a 300 yard stroll down to a small Co-op. Or we could decide to eat at the Mucky Duck (The Swan at Fradley). Guess which won!

Since it wasn't very far from our overnight mooring, near King's Orchard Marina, to Fradley, we took it nice and gently, enjoying the warmth of a very pleasant autumn day, and the sights along the way.

Only an hour and a half of engine time – something of a record. We tied up in the same spot we'd moored at on the way down. It was a change to have lunch sitting down instead of on the move.

We were about to go for a walk to check out the pub for tonight, when along came Helen and Andy Tidy (aka Captain Ahab) in NB Wand'ring Bark, with the Jam Butty behind. That was the chance for a short chat, and a convenient purchase of some of their Wildside produce – it makes excellent Christmas presents!

Finally we did go for our walk, checking out The Swan, and then sauntering through the woodland trails behind the Fradley locks.

Tonight is pie night at The Swan – with a variety on offer at two for £15. Now that's something we don't often do. If it's remarkably good, or remarkably bad, I'll tell you tomorrow.

Monday, 18 September 2017


This is the first time we've been using the new tachometer in the wild, and getting used to it is an interesting experience.

It's nice that the engine hours counter works – it was a classic complaint about the old model that it failed fairly quickly. Of course, it's early days…! It's a little different in that the calibrations correspond to 100 rpm – on the old one they corresponded to 200 rpm, so I sometimes have to think twice.

But the main difference is that I found, during the installation process, that the old one had clearly been calibrated wrong, so that it significantly under-read the engine speed. I'm now getting used to a new set of "standard" readings for different situations. Engine speed for going past moored boats is now showing as 1000 rpm, whereas it used to be about 800. That takes some acclimatisation, though my ears tell me everything is fine. Normal cruising speed is now nearer 1500 than 1200, and top canal speed on a stretch where you can do it is up around 1700 rpm.

You get used to this, and you keep listening and you keep an eye on other things, like whether you're producing a wash. But in between times, especially if (a) there's nothing riveting to look at, and (b) you have a mind that works like mine, you start calculating how many amps the alternators are putting into the batteries, given these revised engine speeds. Since the time when I began to think seriously about Erin Mae's electrics, I've had a chart of alternator speed versus current imprinted in some part of my brain, ready to be called up and interrogated. So now I have fun thinking about how many electrons are getting stored away, under the new regime. It's a very satisfying procedure – not just the maths but the fact that they're doing much better than I used to think they were. Apologies to those readers who either don't have a clue what I'm talking about, or think it just shows what a very sad case I am.

There are times when speed is no mere theoretical consideration. As we left our Fazeley mooring this morning, I decided to reverse the couple of hundred yards to the bridge at the junction. I saw a boat coming about a quarter of a mile away, but thought I'd have plenty of time to get to the junction without interfering with his progress. How wrong I was! In the first place, he was coming a lot quicker than it had seemed, and didn't appear inclined to slow down for moored boats. In the second place, the shallowness of the canal (I think) kept causing Erin Mae to get off line, far more than she normally does when reversing. So I had to make regular corrections, for which you have to go briefly into forward gear, which slows you down. After about 50 yards he'd caught me up and decided he didn't want to wait. He rammed Erin Mae's bows to push them out of his way, which left me with no choice but to pull across and let him by. He obviously felt offended by what I was trying to do and asked me a few rhetorical questions as he came by. I chose to apply the principle of "a soft answer turns away wrath" and said I was saying nothing (for the philosophers among you, that's a self-stultifying statement!). So, no harm done, but I must confess some relief when he went the other way from ourselves at the junction!

It's one of those occasions when you're not sure about the effect of having a BCF sticker in Erin Mae's window!