Friday, 31 October 2014

All fired up

When we were out cruising for an 11 week stretch in the summer of 2013, we came back to find that the car battery was flat, in spite of a 2.5 watt solar panel from the AA shop having been in place. In the autumn, after a six week cruise, it was just able to fire the engine. So during the winter I researched and then bought a 7.5 watt panel, of the folding suitcase sort.

The 11 weeks that have just ended have been its first serious test. When we arrived last night I tried the button on the key to see whether the car would unlock, but it just sat there and I feared the worst. But when I unlocked the door manually, the alarm began to sound and turning the key in the ignition brought the whole dashboard to light. The engine started fine. I turned it off after a few seconds and measured the battery voltage at the cigar lighter. It was reading 12.58v, which is about what it was when we left it, maybe a bit more. I used my new clamp meter to measure the current into the battery with the engine running, and it was was just over 20 amps, which I think indicates a battery charge well above danger levels. I conclude that the solar panel has done a great job, and that the failure of the doors to unlock from the key button was simply an indication of the depth of sleep into which the car had fallen. That's a bit of a result, after last year's experiences. Let's hope what I have planned for Erin Mae's batteries meets with the same success!

We met one of our new neighbours today – Scott on NB Thistle Patch. It's his first boat, a 2005 56 footer from Liverpool Boats, freshly painted. So here she is, looking a treat alongside Erin Mae on this quiet evening.

Nice to meet you, Scott! Hope we run into you again soon. And hope you have a lot of joy in your boat.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Home run

All good things must come to an end, they say. It isn't true, of course, but our late summer cruise has finally done so.

We started out under some blue sky from our lonely mooring, to wend our way through territory that's now quite familiar, though we haven't actually been here since last autumn. Across the aqueduct over the River Sow…

through the beautiful but now practically deserted Tixall Wide…

past the last stretch of moored boats…

before the handsome bridge at Great Haywood junction. 

Then round the corner and through the last little wiggle of the canal…

before arriving at the entrance to the marina.

We took it slowly, and even found time to stop in the Wide for a lunch of the two remaining home-made Scotch eggs with a salad – my best beloved is much better at preparing that sort of thing than I am.

It's strange to be tied up on our home mooring again, after 11 weeks out on the cut. We have new neighbours both sides, neither of which are home. One of the odd things will be to sleep in a bed whose orientation to the horizontal is practically normal, instead of being sloped slightly one way or the other by the way Erin Mae is tied to the bank. But we'll need to sleep well – tomorrow will be the big clean-up!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Grumpy gill-catchers

Is there an archetypical fisherman? They seem to me to come in every type available. But the ones we met today on the approach to Penkridge took the prize for being the grumpiest ever!

Could have been the weather – it was cold with some damp in the air. But anglers are supposed to enjoy that sort of thing, or at least to turn up their noses at the thought that such conditions could depress them. Could have been that it was a midweek competition and nothing was biting, but they really didn't look as though they were having a lot of fun.

I think among the first twenty there was just one that actually met our eyes in a greeting as we approached. Perhaps another two muttered sort sort of unintelligible response to our cheerful "Good morning". The rest looked the other way, messed around with their bait, fiddled with a line – anything except acknowledge a couple of passing boaters. Apart from the one who cynically commented that we'd lost the guy behind on water-skis, apparently not noticing the extent to which I had slowed down to aid his pastime.

Ah well – takes all sorts. Perhaps Jaspers the exceptional Penkridge bakers had decided not to open this Wednesday when they went to buy their day's nourishment. But that angling club could do with calling in a therapist or two. Perhaps the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen could open an inland section. If they do, I nominate Penkridge as the place to start.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Normal service resumed

The Three signal was strong over the weekend, but the speed of the actual internet connection was appalling, so we've one or two days to catch up on. Went to join with those nice people at Brewood on Sunday morning…

and then pushed off to one of our favourite moorings on the Shroppie, just a mile and a half out of town.

Come Monday morning, we completed the rest of this canal down to Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton, and turned right for our date with some more nice people, this time at Oxley Marine.

We've visited them before – once for a non-functioning alternator, and again for a replacement tiller bearing. This time we'd decided they were the folk to fix the bit on the stove which had broken.

There's the broken-off half, and the two new ones I got Ely Chandlers to send in the post. They are the supports for the grate at the front of the stove.

15 minutes with Phil from the boatyard, and the new ones were in place, and he was even able to use the old machine screws. It wasn't quite the problem I'd thought it would be – I was fairly sure he would have to drill out the old ones, and that was one reason why we'd gone to them in the first place. But these are people I trust – to do a good job and charge a fair price. I told Orph Mable (the proprietor) I would let my readers know he was a gentleman!

We went on down the Staffs and Worcs a bit, winded at the junction with the Wolverhampton branch of the BCN, came back tied up just the homeward side of Autherley Junction. This morning we were trying to identify this amazing tree, flaunting its remaining upper white leaves in the morning sunshine.

For the last day days of October, it really was a lovely day for cruising.

We took it gently, enjoying the autumn warmth,

and eventually tied up at Gailey Wharf. Not quite as far as we'd thought we'd come, but now that the end is on sight, we're not sure we want to hurry!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Inspector gadget

I.e. a gadget for inspecting, not the TV cartoon character.

A late birthday present from my best beloved. Ordered from Amazon, picked up yesterday from Brewood Post Office, and put to work today to measure current through various battery and alternator cables.

Working out which cable to stick it around, and what the readings mean when you do, is something I shall gladly get used to, if it helps me to get rid of the angst around how the various things in the engine compartment are doing.

I'm still getting used to the idea of measuring a current by putting a gadget around the cable in question, instead of wiring a meter in series with it. I was obviously on a different planet (or possibly out of the country) when these things were first introduced. Even if the readings are not precision accurate, it's already provided some very useful information during a morning's experiment and analysis. My thanks to nicknorman on the CanalWorld forums for suggesting it.

Friday, 24 October 2014


The list of boats with Tolkien-themed names continues to grow. Recently we encountered NB Mithril.

Mithril, in case you don't remember, is a wondrous metal, resembling silver, stronger than steel, much lighter than both and, by the time of the settings of Tolkien's stories, unimaginably valuable. Bilbo was presented with a chain-mail shirt made of it, retrieved from the dragon Smaug's hoard. Later he gave it to Frodo, and it saved his life on several occasions.

I reckon this an excellent name for a treasured boat and it is gladly added to my list, which now reads:

Arwen Evenstar
Bilbo Baggins
Earls of Rohan
Many Meetings
There and Back Again

That's nineteen! Any further contributions to get it into the twenties will be most welcome.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Approaching Tyrley

The first time we came this way on the Shroppie, I got stuck trying to get into the bottom lock of the five at Tyrley. I'd been trying to hold Erin Mae's bows out in the stream, and got caught by the by-wash emerging from the overflow channel just below the lock. Took me a long time to extract myself and progress.

Most of the five locks have a strong by-wash, which can throw you to one side. This time I simply waited on the towpath holding the centre-line until my best beloved had opened the gates and then powered in considerably faster than I normally would. It worked perfectly, and I didn't touch anything as I entered. Another boat had come down the first four, and was waiting for us. They'd left the gate of the next one open, so I just drove straight across the pound and into it at the same sort of speed, with the same perfect result. And so it continued. In a flight like this, my best beloved sets a lock and closes one of the bottom gates once Erin Mae is in. I climb out of the lock via Erin Mae's roof, a ladder or both, and close the other gate. My best beloved starts to fill the lock while I control Erin Mae's movement with a centre-line. Once everything is stable and the lock is filling nicely, she goes to set the next lock. I open the top gate, bring Erin Mae out slowly and get off to drop all the paddles and close the gate behind me. By the time I've done that, the next lock is waiting with the gates open. It's a good system! And with the addition of a few engine revs, I got into all the locks with just the tiniest of contacts at the top one.

Unfortunately for the boat coming down who left the second lock's bottom gates open for us, they had waited against the towpath. But there is a serious shelf just there, and they got seriously stuck. I left Erin Mae gently rising in the second lock and went down to see if I could help, but by then, and with the aid of a passer-by, they were just managing to get their boat floated again.

You have to be careful how you approach the Tyrley five!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Market quest

With the wind dropped away to a mere whisper today, we left Audlem and came through to Market Drayton. After the contour-driven lengths of the Liverpool / Manchester / Middlewich sections, this was a reality check – 18 locks before lunch!

We walked into the centre of Market Drayton to see whether we could find a shop selling the sort of clamp meter that one of the guys on the CanalWorld forums had suggested for measuring battery and alternator currents, but to no avail. We'd forgotten it was market day, and got there as everyone was packing up. One of the stalls sells tools and mind possibly have had one, but it was too late. So we did a shop in Morrison's and then popped into Wetherspoon's to download something from iPlayer onto the computer. But the connection was incredibly slow and in the end we gave up and came home.

It's really interesting to ask people for directions when you want to buy something – and then tell them you're on a boat and are walking. A sort of glaze comes over their eyes as they try to think what that must mean, in particular not being able to drive somewhere. It's good to have your worldview challenged from time to time!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Wind instrument

At the session last night in the Bridge Inn at Audlem, John played the recorder as though it were a penny whistle. It's hard enough to play that sort of Irish and Scottish music on the whistle, but doubly difficult, I think, on the recorder. I enjoyed listening to the recorder player on Young Musician of the Year, and I've got some excellent baroque recorder music at home, but you don't often find someone using the instrument to play the sort of stuff we got last night. An excellent evening! Lots of musicians, and a whole range of instruments.

The hurricane hadn't hit by the time we went to bed, but the wind certainly got up this morning. I wasn't worried about our pram hood, since it had coped fine with last winter's gales. However, it catches the broadside wind, which as a result tends to rock Erin Mae. Even my sprung mooring lines can't do much about that. But the sky is proving immensely changeable today. One moment it's grey and looming, blowing like crazy and chucking down the wet stuff, and the next the sun is streaming through our windows.

In view of the wind, I took our new chimney off last night. I wasn't afraid of the chimney itself blowing off, but its hat is a different matter. Without the hat, rain gets down the chimney, so I thought I'd keep it simple by removing everything and putting on the cover made from an old tin painted nice Erin Mae Green. Anyway, our experience is that if the cover is left loose on the roof, just tied with string, it becomes an instrument itself in a storm – but in the percussion not the wind section.

Monday, 20 October 2014


Last Tuesday I mentioned the case of our invaluable Prestige pressure cooker. A slight accident had left the valve mechanism in a state I didn't trust. I rang the manufacturer, and Marion in customer services told me they'd had a recall two years ago and would I like a whole new lid. No brainer! She arranged for them to send it to Audlem Post Office, and to do so by Royal Mail since that (or ParcelForce) was the only carrier the Post Office would accept.

Today we walked up to collect it. The package didn't seem quite as large or as heavy as it should have been, so we were wondering what we would find when we opened it.

First signs were positive…

and there it was…

ready to be installed on our base. This must be a rather unusual selfie!

So – thanks to Marion at customer services. You're a star! As is the poste restante system around the post offices.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Black and white wonky

Walked into Nantwich again this morning. Cheshire really is black and white – black and white cows, black and white buildings.

The buildings are considerably more wonky than the cows, even on the inside.

The worthies of the town have done a great job of preserving this aspect of their heritage…

but how some of them manage to stay up is something of a miracle,

or about being supported by those on either side. We left Nantwich with the wind blowing, and with the promise of a hurricane tomorrow we hope the buildings will continue to maintain their more-or-less verticality.

Because of the expectation that the wind is to get worse, we came all the way through to Audlem. Shortly after we tied up there was a knock on the door from Tony of NB No Brass, with whom we came through some locks on the upper Shroppie some weeks back. He'd been at Overwater marina doing some work on their boat, saw us going past, so decided to come and find us on his drive home. That was really nice. Thanks, Tony! Good crack.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Vanishing lion

Finally having left Sykes Hollow, and on our way to Nantwich, we passed NB Lionheart No 2. I'd acquired an interest in this boat over the last couple of days, and knew Nantwich was her home base, but was surprised to see her moored up on line here. So, when we stopped for water just round the corner at Barbridge Junction, I walked back up the towpath camera in hand. Walked as far as the first bridge, but couldn't see her anywhere. Now I was confused, because I was sure she was tied up in that stretch, and I did want a photo.

Thinking that it would do the batteries no harm to cruise for an extra half-hour, we reversed from the water point, and set off back down the canal in the direction from which we'd come, to find the boat. The gongoozlers were out in force…

but there was no sign of Lionheart No 2. Eventually I came to the winding hole, which was going to need careful negotiation, because it was blowing a hooley. Would you believe…

there was a boat coming the other way just at that moment, making my approach rather awkward – especially when he didn't seem to appreciate the situation and just dawdled through.

Ah well, made it round in the end, and came back checking the boat names again. Definitely not, so presumably it had been moored here…

or here…

but had nipped off in a Middlewich direction while we were filling the water tank. Unless it had actually been moored up far further back than we remembered.

My interest in the boat is that it belongs to Chris Gibson, known as "Gibbo" on the Canal World on-line forum. He designed a battery monitor called the SmartGauge, well known to (and liked by) most of the forum members I've been interacting with over the last few days about battery charging. I came across the SmartGauge a couple of years ago, in the context of a somewhat acrimonious discussion on the forums about whether you could measure the state of charge of a battery without actively measuring the current going in and out. That led me to research the meter – their website has lots of interesting technical detail and discussion (if you like that sort of thing). It was only in the context of the last couple of days' discussions that I associated the designer with the forum member, and found the name of his boat. Hence my (frustrated) desire to get a photo.

So in the end we turned left at Barbridge junction for the second time and came down to Nantwich, passing the start of the Llangollen canal on the way.

A return visit to that particular delight will have to wait for another time.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Gentle days

I don't remember two days like this is the time we've been out on the network – days when we've done very little except read. It's partly because we've needed to kill some time before going on to Nantwich, but I've also taken the opportunity to test our moored-up battery charging regime.

On-line conversations with people responding to the post I put up on the CanalWorld forum have continued today, and have helped to focus the issues. I'm becoming resolved to running the engine, in neutral, rather faster than idle, for somewhere between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the external temperature the fridge is having to cope with, and probably on how much TV we've wanted to watch. I'm satisfied that the faster engine speed is better all round – better at charging, better for the engine, and no more wasteful of diesel than idling. But the discussions have left some questions around exactly how much current my alternators are producing, which I'll need an extra meter to measure. That will all feed into the thinking about whether we buy a solar panel.

So it's been a quiet, productive, but rather unusual day for us. It's been good preparation for some days we think we may have next June, if we can get up into the Pennines on the Leeds & Liverpool canal. Lots of food for thought. But also lots of time for thinking.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


We slept late. By the time we'd come to our senses and had something to eat, there didn't seem to be a   pressing need to travel anywhere. We want to be in Nantwich on Sunday morning, and that's only just down the road. The main issue is keeping the batteries charged when we're not moving. And this has one or two facets.

1. It's not good for an diesel engine to be run cold, or with no load.
2. You mustn't run your engine in gear while stationary, because of the damage the turning of the prop can do to your immediate canal environment.
3. Running your engine faster than idle speed is noisy – which can be annoying for both you and your near neighbours.
4. Running your engine slow may not get your alternators to the speed where they are generating proper amounts of electricity.

So, with time on my hands today, I decided to ask the on-line Canal World forum what speed my engine needed to run to get the alternators charging properly. I was pleasantly surprised with the responses, in that several knowledgeable contributors posted comments and interacted with both me and each other.

The answer, however, was not entirely clear. There were several issues, but there seemed to be one fundamental contradiction. The alternator spins faster than the engine, by an amount determined by the sizes of the pulleys connected by the drive belt. My alternator pulley is half the size of the engine pulley, meaning it should spin twice as fast. But the official chart for the alternator suggests that, even at that ratio, it will generate very little electricity at cruising speeds and none at all when the engine is just idling. My voltmeter indicates, however, that it certainly generates a charge voltage even at idling speed.

So I have a conundrum. But I also have a lot more information than I had yesterday. One of the comments suggested purchasing the sort of meter that you can put around a cable to indicate the current flowing through it. I'd forgotten about these – though I should have remembered the AA man using one a year ago with my car. So I feel a birthday present coming on – just have to work out where to get Amazon to send it to as we travel down the Shroppie over the next few days.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


"Happy Birthday, Grandpa", said 9-year Sam, on the phone from Oslo. "What are you doing on your birthday?"  "I'm shopping in the supermarket", I said. Sam thought that was completely hilarious – definitely not the sort of thing any sensible Norwegian would do. As it happens, we had also fitted in 2 hours cruising to the middle of Middlewich, a 250 hour service to Erin Mae's engine, and a conversation with an upholsterer about cushions for the dinette area. Well, why not?

One of the best things about the day was the card from my best beloved. The front…

The inside…

Cats, you see, are the ones that poo all over the back garden at home, no matter how intelligent and well-socialised their owners may be. I just wish there was a law for them, equivalent to the one affecting dog-owners.

But that was yesterday, and now in this new year of my life we have started off along the Middlewich branch of the Shroppie to go back to Great Haywood by not-the-shortest-route. Delaying the inevitable.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


I'd booked a service at Kings Lock Chandlers for today. We got there in reasonable time from our overnight mooring at Bramble Cuttings, and Nigel made a start shortly afterwards. The fuel filter he'd ordered still hadn't arrived, but he was hoping it might have by the time he finished the rest.

I took the opportunity to ask about the water pump, which seemed to have been introducing a lot of air into the system. What he found was a wet, discoloured support board, indicative of a lot of leaking.

Old copies of Towpath Talk were pressed into service to dry the surface moisture, and help locate the leak.

It turned out to be the seals in the pump itself which were at fault. When we looked at relative prices and various timings, it seemed better to replace the pump than to get hold of a replacement set of seals. So that's what Nigel did.

Then he said "How much of a hurry are you in?" We'd actually hurried to Middlewich for this service, but there's nothing else on the horizon apart from a folk session in Audlem next Monday evening. So we left the pump in place for a couple of hours to check there were no further leaks, and later in the afternoon the fuel filter arrived. We tied up by the chandlers for the night, and got an electric hook-up (thanks, guys) so we don't have to worry about the batteries.

Meanwhile, I'd been in touch with the maker of our Prestige pressure cooker. It had fallen off the back step a couple of evenings ago, and when we went to use it last night it didn't go to full pressure. Something wasn't sealing properly. I dismantled and reassembled the system, but wasn't happy about the result. However, when I rang for advice, Marion in customer services told me there had been a recall on the lid of our model a couple of years ago, and she would simply send me a new one. What a result! But where to send it? A few phone calls sorted out a delivery to Audlem Post Office, which will probably take three days, and give us a good reason to mess around a bit on the way and only arrive in Audlem next Monday – just in time for the folk session.

It's nice when a lot of different things coalesce into a happy pattern.

Monday, 13 October 2014


Sunny intervals and scattered showers, the forecaster might have said. That sort of day.

Always things of interest, of course. Like the boat we encountered tied to the off-side bank by its bow-line, but with its stern not secured by anything. As we passed, it swung out across the cut, completely blocking the channel. It would have been difficult to stop right there, but just through the bridge was a boatyard, so we slowed to tell them, only there was no one around. However, a boat was coming the other way, and they kindly volunteered to do something about it.

Two tunnels today – the first one (Saltersford) only open for a 20 minute period each hour, but we timed our arrival well. Both it and the Barnton tunnel that follows are rather squiggly (as was the longer Preston Brook tunnel yesterday). It's as though the navvies who dug them were getting their rum ration a bit early. It means you have to keep your mind on your steering, especially as I'd left the Chinese hat on the chimney and a false move could have seen it knocked off.

Anyway, we made it most of the way to Middlewich, where we have an appointment tomorrow at Kings Lock Chandlers for an engine service. We've tied up once again at Bramble Cuttings – getting to be one of our favourite moorings. Fire's lit, kettle's on, and I've just booked our flights to Norway for Christmas. So I'm chillin'.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sunshine in Lymm

The world and his wife were out in Lymm this sunny morning, and a good many were boating. We were out too – joined with Lymm Baptist Church for their morning service. It demonstrated just how much these good folks turn their faces outwards – Nepal, Brazil, the Christmas Shoebox appeal, Ukraine, the Middle East and Calcutta all got a mention. The speaker was involved in a Christian community project in Stoke, not far from Etruria. Perhaps we'll be able to pay a visit when we're next in that direction.

Meanwhile, another Tolkien-theme-named boat was spotted on the Bridgewater – "There and Back Again". That brings the list to:

Arwen Evenstar
Bilbo Baggins
Earls of Rohan
Many Meetings
There and Back Again

All other contributions to this list welcome!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Castlefield surprises

Just up the hill from where we moored last night in Castlefield basin is a building I had not noticed on our previous visits.

The engraved stone over the door informs us that this is St Matthew's Sunday School, with the date MDCCCXXVII (i.e. 1827). The stone over the upper window carries a quotation from Proverbs 22:6 – "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." I was sorry not to have gone round to the back of the building, for I later found this to be its rear aspect (borrowed, without permission, I'm afraid, from mancunianwave).

The most remarkable thing, of course, is not so much the building as the movement that gave rise to it. The Sunday School movement started in the 1780s, under the inspiration of Robert Raikes, a Gloucester clergyman. The purpose was to provide education on the one day of the week that labourers (and especially child labourers) had free from work. The movement caught on all over the UK, and Wikipedia reports that by 1785 there were 250,000 English children attending Sunday School – 5000 in Manchester. So St Matthew's church joined in with its own purpose-built construction.

About 200 yards down the road from there I found a garden.

What struck me first was the total absence of litter (in spite of the large number of benches and picnic tables, and no doubt due in part to the equally large number of rubbish bins).

At one end stands a memorial cross, on which an engraving informs us that this is the site of a 1769 church that was taken down (no reason given) in 1931.

The garden either is or contains the church's graveyard, and the memorial lists two people buried here. One is John Owens (1790 – 1846) who founded Owens College which became part of the University of Manchester. The other is a William Marsden, who is credited with originating the Saturday half holiday. I looked him up using the interweb user's standard resources, expecting him to be the one who founded what became the Royal Free Hospital, but he is said to be buried in London.

So who this worthy gentleman is I have no idea. I'd be delighted if any of my readers could enlighten me.

The garden also contained a transplanted, RHS award-winning garden by Daniela Coray. No space to enlarge on that here. We just note how many delights can await you on a walk to a Sainsbury's Local.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Manchester again

The only time I'd ever been to Manchester until last autumn was in the early part of the new millennium. We were attending a performance being given by my Norwegian daughter-in-law-to-be while she was a dance student in Warrington. Now we've made three visits in 12 months. It's what you seem to do boating – as well as the allure of exploring new territory there are regular returns to convenient places. In Manchester's case, its convenience lies in its being a specific safe haven in bandit country (Castlefield basin), and the fact that the YHA hostel in this development has a very good launderette facility. So tonight here we are again. We have a nice half-size Candy washing machine on board, but towels and bedding are best done in a sizeable washer with a tumble-drier available.

So that was today's target. We woke to a beautiful morning just out of Wigan, with this as our breakfast-time view.

The forecast promised sunny intervals this morning but showers after noon, so I decided to leave the canopy up for travelling, following yesterday's successful experiment. In the event it was a waste of October tanning time. The sun shone nicely all the way to Leigh, where we had to take the canopy down anyway to get under a bridge.

My best beloved found herself concentrating appropriately on the job in hand while I sorted out the canopy as we travelled, with the sun as our companion for a good part of the day.

The rain finally arrived as we reached the more dreary parts of our journey – well, this is Manchester, after all. And now we're tied up looking at a rainbow and getting the wash load ready. Going to Manchester to visit the launderette – it just doesn't seem right somehow.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Zippers, poppers and other fasteners

When Wilsons were discussing with us the canopy they were making for Erin Mae, they wanted to create a zipped slot for the tiller bar to come through, in case we wanted to cruise with the canopy up. I thought this a most unlikely occurrence. Truth to tell, I probably looked down my nose a little at people who did things like that, though it was possibly all right for GRP owners.

How wrong can you be! After the experiences of the last two days, looking at the forecast for the next two days, and wanting to make good progress, I decided to experiment with "showery rain trim".

What a difference it made! I could cruise along with torrential rain on the canopy, without feeling that I was turning into some sort of iced slushy. I could also, with a clear conscience, invite my best beloved to brave the elements tackling the swing bridges and the locks – being from the West of Ireland she has a natural affinity for rain.

So just look at how Wilson's cunning crafting of the canopy enabled me to remove the bits that would impede travel, but leave in position those that protected myself from instant dissolution. Removing the side panels also meant we were not troubled by side-winds.

I been mostly concerned with bridges, but there was only one alarum. We cleared the pedestrian bridge by lock 87 of the Leeds and Liverpool by about an inch. Probably it was all due to this being a wide canal – I doubt I could do this under the bridges on the Shroppie.

So we put in one of the longest days we've done for a while. We stopped at Parbold to visit the art gallery in the old mill…

 and then popped across the road for coffee and treats in the "Yours is the earth" café. Then we found ourselves hooking up with Richard and his sister Janet on NB Naomi May, who we'd been moored next to in Salthouse Dock. We came through several wide locks together, which made them easier, and arrived at Wigan.

So I thought that this time I couldn't pass Wigan Pier without a photographic memento.