Saturday, 29 August 2015


As a consequence of bringing Nº 3 son and wife back to where we left their car so they can resume their journey, we are tied up for the weekend, once again, in the middle of Skipton. I haven't yet worked out how CRT mooring rules apply to the sort of travelling we've been doing in this neck of the woods for the last few weeks, but I don't feel I've been stopping anyone else from parking up and enjoying the sights.

Be that as it may, we had a lazy day after they'd left, and then I made tea at about 7 p.m. – essentially a cauliflower cheese with tuna in it, with cheese on top toasted under the grill, and served with our very occasional treat – baked beans! It was yummy! As it was all getting near to being ready, a young man crouched down on the towpath and peered through the window, having seen me and the saucepan of baked beans. He waved to attract my attention – not difficult since he was about two feet in front of my eyes, and called "Excuse me, sir."

Now it was his misfortune that he had approached me in more or less this same location two weeks ago, asking for money. In my more innocent youth I might have provided some, but since I now have a fair amount of experience of this, in Edinburgh and Brazil and a number of other places, and since Nº 1 son works with homeless people in Cornwall and says "Dad, on no account give them money", he was out of luck. My immediate instinct, on seeing him in front of me today, was to assume he was after more of the same. In addition, in spite of all the above experiences, I feel very inept at dealing with such situations, and wish they wouldn't occur. So I simply shook my finger in a negative sort of gesture and turned away to finish getting things ready for our meal. He moved on.

But I was very unhappy. Too late it occurred to me that I had, right in my hands, the wherewithal to give him some warm nourishment. Whenever I make this dish, I always make too much, and it would have been the simplest thing to have asked if he wanted some. We would hardly have noticed the difference. Besides, to do such a thing was normal behaviour in Brazil, where someone might come by the house and ask for a "prato" – a plateful of whatever we were having for lunch. They were never refused. By the time I'd thought all this, it was too late. He'd gone, and I was left wondering.

All the ifs and buts, all the discussions about homeless people and begging, all the debates about the causes of and solutions to social issues of this sort, are irrelevant. Nor am I looking for anyone to soothe a troubled conscience or pour vitriol on the vulnerable. Erin Me brings us all sorts of adventures. I don't know what might have been the response, or the benefit, if I had offered him some of our food. I'm just a bit sad that, at this point in the adventure, I didn't do something a bit different.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Happy days

Nº 3 son and wife have come for a couple of days. They've been married just over a year.

We put them to work, of course.

My best beloved is a great believer in facilitating the learning of others,

by giving them plenty of opportunity to practice.

There was a certain amount of time for relaxation (and food) along the way, as we came from Skipton to Gargrave.

Today we went for a walk out of Gargrave, starting southwards,

with wonderful views, even on this somewhat cloudy day, across to the Dales National Park.

We circled round to the Bank Newton flight, as we have on two other occasions this summer,

 and found a nice spot for lunch.

The sky didn't know whether to give us drops of rain or rays of sun,

but this pair didn't seem to notice.


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Next to godliness

Every so often my best beloved gets into clean-the-boat-from-back-to-front mode. It's a personality trait sadly lacking in yours truly – don't they say it was early exposure to dust and bugs that set me up for a healthy life? However, harmony needs to reign on Erin Mae, so I fit in as best I can. Often that entails a certain amount of absence, and today I had ample excuse to go hunting – for batteries for the cooking scales, for a machine screw that holds two important things together, and for information about where Son Nº 3 and wife can leave their car for a couple of nights as they join us tomorrow for a bit of boating.

Meanwhile I'd put on a sheet to wash – I don't think son and wife would appreciate sleeping on the same one used by their two nephews last week – and my best beloved needed to get the Dyson out. That all needed lots of juice from the sources of electricity, and that necessitated running the engine for lengthy periods. In fact, when I work it out, I think today will qualify as having the highest number of engine hours ever for a day in which we moved about 50 yards (to avoid overstaying our welcome on the 24 hour mooring).

So that was my major contribution to the clean up. But I did also get down on my hands and knees to apply some nice wax cleaner / polish to the newly washed oak flooring. Tonight there is the smell of clean-ness lingering in the cabin.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


Continuing to wonder about the health of Erin Mae's batteries, two days ago I'd shone a torch down the magic eye of each, and three of them showed green. I didn't think the eye on the fourth one had the same healthy colour, so I decided to remove that one, and see whether three behaved better than four – apparently one duff battery can affect the performance of the whole bank. I flexed my muscles and got it out. But when I shone the torch again, the magic eye on this one was also green. I thought perhaps the amount of sloshing around as I removed the battery must have mixed up the electrolyte and done it some good. So I replaced it and did a bit more charging before the 8 p.m. deadline. When we got up yesterday the SmartGauge was showing 59% – a bit better than I'd been experiencing recently. Amazing what a bit of sloshing around could do.

Anyway, we ran the engine for just under 2 hours in the morning before setting out on our trip to Hebden Bridge. The sun came out and fed the solar panel, and when we got back the SmartGauge was indicating the batteries were fully charged. Even at bedtime, the gauge was showing about 98%, and the voltmeter reading also suggested they were in a good state. I was very happy.

But this morning the SmartGauge was again showing just 50%. I simply cannot understand how a bank of four batteries can have half their electrons sucked out by an hour of LED lighting, a little bit of iPad charging and a fridge running overnight – even if the fridge / inverter combination is not very efficient. After breakfast we pulled across to Pennine Cruisers to fill up with diesel. While Wayne was doing that I mentioned how baffled I was, and later he came over with a battery tester. It implied that all of them were showing some signs of not being new, and one was a bit worse than the others, but that all of them were basically OK.

So I feel I'm back at square one. I'd been thinking of writing off these batteries, but it looks as though that would be premature. I would be willing to write off the fridge, if that were definitely the problem, but there doesn't appear to be one on the market that (a) would fit in the 50 cm wide space, and (b) would continue to run when the ambient temperature is below 16˚C – as can happen on the boat overnight.

However, we did have another wonderful evening at Skipton Folk Club!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Hebden Bridge

The Yorkshire bus network is amazing – I reckon its local authority subsidy must be worth every penny. And route 500, from Keighley to Hebden Bridge, via Haworth and Oxenhope, could be a tourist attraction on its own, as it climbs up onto the moors, and then drops down sharply into Caldervale. This is Brontë country, and you can almost smell it.

Hebden Bridge itself is on the Rochdale Canal, but Erin Mae is a tad too long to cope with the locks, so we decided to visit by bus, which drops you off at the very nicely restored Victorian railway station.

The town has done a great deal to make itself highly visitable. 

The setting is stunning, the nucleus is pedestrianised, and there are a lot of independent shops. 

It has a reputation for being an artistic centre, though whether this character qualifies is debatable.

The town is named for the attractive packhorse bridge, restored a few years ago, over the River Hebden.

It's enjoyable just to look at, whichever way you do.

It's far from being the only structure of note – the millennium clock was fun without being flashy.

And then there is the canal and its associated bits and bobs. The visitor moorings have a wonderful backdrop.

Just up beyond lock 9 is the aqueduct over the Calder and some converted buildings.

Downhill there is promise of more picturesque-ness.

But among it all, there were signs that not all is as it might be. The permanent moorings were not very attractive, and one of the boats on them was keeled over at 45˚ – partially sunk. Lock 8 needed a timber construction, fairly seriously rotting in places, to support the bottom gates as the water flooded over the top.

All of which was a bit extraordinary as a notice in a converted mill in the town apologised that its water-wheel was not turning as the Environment Agency says there's not enough water in the river.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Hebden Bridge, though we know there was much more to explore. The sun came out during the day, made the journey home even more enjoyable, and topped up our batteries into the bargain. And tonight, there will be yet another visit to the Skipton Folk Club. A good day!

Sunday, 23 August 2015


We had a great nine days with our Norwegian grandchildren. It was meant to be eight, of course, until we discovered, on the way to the airport, that the passports were back on Erin Mae. The last day was a bonus, both in terms of time together and in terms of what we were able to do. Finally, with the passports, my best beloved flew back with them to Norway.

Theo, the youngest at 7, was the one who showed most interest in the actual boating activities. He was first out to push the swing bridges, or the lock gates, and had a good go at steering Erin Mae.

Sam, at 10, did one good bit of steering through a swing bridge, but his preferred activities are imagination-rich (3D modelling, comic book creation, video-making, etc) or energy-rich (especially swinging and climbing). Since we didn't allow him to swing or climb on Erin Mae, a lot of travelling time was spent, inside, on the imagination stuff. We made sure there were parks around for the energy-burning.

Elissa is seriously into reading, and currently into the "Warriors" series, in English. Each day we folded the children's duvets on the double bed (ours!) the boys had used, and held them in place with the air mattress she used each night. She found an ideal reading den, out of sight, tucked among the duvets, and spent an enormous amount of time getting through the library she'd brought with her, enjoying the movement of the boat as we cruised.

One of the delights was to find that they could cope with the walking we did. From the station to Bolton Abbey was longer than we'd thought, but they were fine. The walk up the hill out of Gargrave was about 5 miles, and they took it all, as it were, in their stride. That was different, I think, to how it would have been two years ago, and it made for some very enjoyable days.

Times like these are not given to everyone, and we're grateful for the opportunity Erin Mae has given for the children to share this part of the adventure with us.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Customer service

Credit where credit's due.

The Merrell trainers I bought last Christmas had developed a split in both the leather and the wall beneath.

This clearly was not a Good Thing, especially because I wear them just about every day. My previous pair of Merrell's lasted about 5 years. So, discovering a Cotswold shop in Skipton a couple of weeks ago, I went to see if anything could be done. "Not without the receipt, I'm afraid, sir", says the assistant. Well, understandable, but hardly creative. Who takes receipts from last Christmas when they go boating in May?

So yesterday I decided to email Costwold's customer services, and got the usual automated response indicating that they hoped to reply within a couple of days. But it was only a couple of hours later that Lucy C from Cotswold replied to say (a) I should take them in to the shop again; (b) she couldn't find the receipt itself, but had made a PDF from the sale record on their computer, and attached it.

Eschewing delay, we opted to cruise back to Skipton today. Along I went to the shop, and it couldn't have been simpler. Nicola (the local manager) copied down the details, and the deal was done.

While we were at it, I decided to go for the GoreTex upgrade. They turned out to go rather nicely with my Craghopper trousers, even if grey isn't exactly adventurous.

This wasn't the first bit of good customer service I've had this week. With the grandchildren over from Oslo, Enterprise car hire's Keighley branch have had my custom for four trips to and from Manchester Airport. They are a very nice bunch of people but that, of course, does not necessarily make for good or efficient service. However, they went out of their way to set me up with exactly what I needed, and I ended up one very happy bunny. I know they're under pressure from above to get excellent reports from customers, but in this case I felt their hearts were in it as well. They'd bought into the model.

So, while in this happy mood I'll sign off with a satisfying picture I took at Kildwick a couple of nights ago.

My best beloved was in Norway at the time, but the same ol' moon was shining on us both.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Lost lead

When I first started this blog, I thought of it mostly as a chance to do some creative writing in the context of reflecting on what happened in our new adventure with Erin Mae. Then one of my sons suggested that it would benefit from having photos, and since then I've tried to include them whenever possible.

For yesterday's post about finally getting the grandchildren back off to Oslo, I set up a photo with the three of them all pointing at my best beloved holding the passports – the missing ingredient on the first, abortive attempt. But when I got back to Erin Mae from the airport, I couldn't find the lead to connect camera to computer. In the end, to my disappointment, I had to write the post without the picture. The lead has still not turned up, and I'm wondering if it dropped into one of the children's bags and is now the other side of the North Sea.

It's funny what it takes to upset your equilibrium. I did a lot of clearing up and cleaning in the boat today, but nothing much else has happened. I went down the weed hatch for the first time for over a week, but there wasn't even anything to clear down there. So I thought about not posting anything this evening. Then it occurred to me that the effect on my mood of losing a lead is (a) quite ridiculous, (b) worth noting, if only for myself for future reference, and (c) jolly well not going to stop me doing my blog!

So here it is, for what it's worth. I'm now going to make some nice food of the sort we haven't been eating while the children were here. That will make me feel better. Sorry there's no picture!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Not quite groundhog day

Today was the second day the grandchildren were flying home to Oslo. Yesterday's attempt (as you may or may not know) was aborted because we left the passports on Erin Mae. So today, having booked new flights yesterday, we tried again.

Mind you, yesterday's flight was at the thoroughly civilised hour of noon, and involved an SAS person looking after them. Today's was at the distinctly uncivilised time of 9 p.m., and my best beloved detailed herself to accompany them. Of course, the children wanted to know what we were going to do today until it was time to leave. I'd planned the week's programme pretty throughly, but it had not entailed an allowance for passport mishaps. So I begin another internet search for things-to-do-in-the-middle-of-Yorkshire. And then the poo-tank light came on. Decision made – we cruise down to Silsden and back to get a pump-out, and fill the water-tank at the same time. That will keep me fresh and balanced while my best beloved is in Norway.

Unlike yesterday, this morning was nice and sunny for the cruise. My best beloved was chiefly concerned that the boys should not mess up their clothes – they were already in the ones thy would use for the flight. But they mostly spent the time creating their own comic strip books at the dining room table, occasionally emerging to steer Erin Mae or push a swing bridge.

We decided to leave early after lunch, to visit the Craven museum again, since Sam was miffed only Elissa had been invited to see the museum's Shakespeare First Folio on the special visit yesterday. That was successful, so was the ice cream that followed and finally, as the rain started again in earnest, we set out for Manchester. Passports safely in my best beloved's keeping. Everything proceeded without further alarums and I assume that, as I write this, they are somewhere over the North Sea.

It was somehow fitting that, as I drove back across country, Classic FM had a live concert from the Edinburgh Festival, with the Oslo Philharmonic playing the Peer Gynt suite.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Not quite as planned

Up bright and early. All packed up and breakfasted. Car collected the previous evening. Started out only about ten minutes later than planned. Just over half-way to the airport we realised we'd left the children's passports back in Erin Mae.

What a sick feeling! There was no time to go back and get them. We pushed on to the airport anyway,  to see whether SAS could hold out any hope of them travelling without their documents (they couldn't), and to talk through other options face-to-face if not.

Three new SAS tickets were going to cost the earth and, anyway, their reservations department wasn't picking up the phone. So we went for plan B and bought three tickets with Norwegian, our normal airline for visits to Oslo. They were much cheaper. However, since Norwegian doesn't offer a service for unaccompanied children, one of us would have to travel with them and return later in the week. That bumped the price up a bit! So my best beloved will have a couple of days in Oslo. And I shall have some solitary time on Erin Mae.

We thought we'd turn this disaster to some purpose, and came back to the boat via Skipton. I'd been telling Elissa about the Shakespeare First Folio in the keeping of the Craven Museum. In our time in Skipton we hadn't found the time to pay a visit to see it, and now seemed an ideal opportunity to do so. We parked in Morrisons' car park, the better to facilitate shopping for the extra meals we would now have to provide, and walked in the rain up to the museum. Double disaster! Tuesday is the one day it's closed. I mulled over whether we might fit in a visit tomorrow on our way to Manchester, and was chatting about it with one of the museum's employees in the gift-shop. Lo and behold, she went off and arranged there and then with the museum's curator for a private viewing of the First Folio for my best beloved and Elissa. What a star!

So now we're all back on Erin Mae for an extra night. It's wet outside, but the boys are doing stuff with card and crayons and clay. Elissa's finished the books she brought with her, but fortunately there's a couple extra we'd bought for her.

Hope tomorrow is a bit less interesting!

Monday, 17 August 2015

Kildwick scarecrow

This has been scarecrow weekend in Kildwick.

They greet you along the towpath in unexpected places,

and appear outside front doors.

At the school gate one is apparently waiting to be picked up.

The temperament of the village is demonstrated by other front-garden objets d'art, even if not of the scarecrow variety.

Meanwhile, Erin Mae's own resident scarecrow has been putting his talents to three-dimensional work. Minions take shape in mind and on the table.

So, after 8 days or so, we've come back to our starting point. It's time to pack up, collect the hire-car and, first thing in the morning, head off to Manchester airport for the children to catch their flight to Oslo. Erin Mae will feel very different!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Boat boy

Three locks and four swing bridges today, as we came back from Gargrave to Skipton. Theo was involved in it all.

My best beloved instructed him in how not to drown in a lock.

He helped to open the lock gates.

He pushed the swing bridges, along with Elissa and Sam.

Then he took up the steerer's job, first with a little help from a friend,

and then holding the tiller by himself. Concentration on the way ahead is not straightforward when you're seven!

Along the way we crossed with Peter and Stephanie on NB Maggie May.

They bought her three or four years ago from our friends Roger and Mirjana – the ones who introduced us to narrowboating, on their first boat, the Sea Otter NB Jireh.

Nice to meet you, guys!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Over the top

As hoped, today's sun and the wind had got to work early on the sodden grass, and the conditions ("sunny intervals") were ideal for our circular walk out from Gargrave.

Southwards along the Pennine Way, looking out over the Yorkshire Dales, to where a different path would cut across country.

Then around to the bottom two locks of the Bank Newton flight, which proved a good spot for out picnic. Back along the towpath to Erin Mae – about 5 miles in all. The kids managed it all really well.

After a short break, a visit to the ice-cream van by Highland lock was in order, and then down through the village again to the recreation area alongside the River Aire. It's spectacular.

The children made friends with Honey, played ball with her, and chatted with her owner Carol. That was a really nice encounter.

Sam and Theo explored the stepping stones 50 yards downstream.

Walking on water hasn't been so much fun for 2000 years.

Then Sam, who'd said he certainly wasn't going in the river, rolled up his shorts and did just that.

Grandparents were happy to act as health and safety wardens, while Elissa read her book (she's into the "Warriors" series, and there are a great many of them to get through).

A bout of tree climbing finished off the afternoon, and five bodies feel well exercised. We've had a good day!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Singin' in the rain

As promised, it poured. The Eller Beck was transformed from a stream to a torrent through Skipton. But we had things to do anyway. First thing was to reverse back to Pennine Boats for a pump-out. Three grandchildren seem to have shortened considerably the time since the last one. Then there was some shopping in Morrisons. A late lunch and finally, with the rain easing a little, we were able to get away, heading for Gargrave.

Some way into the trip Sam and Theo discovered my Swanee and penny whistles. Elissa complained at the noise being created in the boat, and a happy compromise was reached by bringing them out onto the cruiser deck as we travelled.

The sound was appalling or exhilarating depending on your point of view, and they played a loud accompaniment to the singing of the Erin Mae song. We were the only boat moving for miles around, so I'm satisfied nobody else's music sensibilities were offended.

I was shocked at how late we arrived at our mooring by the winding hole in Gargrave, but there had been no complaints at all of "Grandpa, I'm hungry". Music is obviously the food of more than love.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Transport of delight

This morning Don stopped by.

He lives just above the canal in Skipton and has a boat share himself. He said he'd followed this blog for a while, so it was really nice of him to call. Great to meet you, Don!

I'd carefully checked out on the internet the number and location of the bus we were to catch this morning, to take us out to the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. Unfortunately the bus now leaves from a different stand, so we missed it and had to take a taxi. Oops!

It was a mile and a half to walk from the station to Bolton Abbey, but it was well worth it.

We had a great picnic spot, on a tree stump by the River Wharfe.

Just the other side of the bridge are stepping stones across the river,

which were good fun as long as no one got scared in the middle and caused a traffic jam.

Upstream again and through the woods is the "Welly Walk", with lots of activity spots for children.

The whole site is overlooked by the ruins – a very impressive setting.

Eventually it was time to walk back to the station, and wait for the train

to take us home.

Unfortunately, when we got back to Embsay we found that there was no connecting bus for the last train of the day. We had to call a taxi again. Oops!

So we think we're going to celebrate a great day / console ourselves for the taxis by patronising Bizzie Lizzie's Fish and Chip establishment – again!