Wednesday, 21 November 2018


The prevailing wind at Great Haywood marina is south-westerly. But overnight on Monday / Tuesday, what with the machinations of the jet stream, it had become a bitingly cold north-easterly. We got the diesel central-heating going immediately on arrival on Monday evening and that, together with the effect of the 500 watt convector heater I'd brought, meant we were able to take off our outer jackets and scarves just before bedtime, though we were rather tempted to keep them on all night.

I'd been a bit concerned about the wind the Met Office had been promising, because I wanted to take Erin Mae across to services in the morning, and thought it might be tricky getting out of the mooring. In the event, the 180˚ switch from normal meant that as soon as I had backed out, the wind caught the bows and swung them round the way I wanted to go. We got a pump-out, filled the diesel tank, and pushed off to go back to our mooring. Unfortunately, the north-easter was now pushing us straight onto the service jetty. I tried the cunning "reverse against a secured stern-line" trick, but made little progress against the strengthening wind, and was a bit worried about what I was doing to our nice, new blacking. In the end I had to push and then drive the stern out, and reverse back to a point where I could finally swing Erin Mae's nose round in the right direction. Boats in reverse frequently demonstrate that they have a mind of their own, and I think she was objecting to being put to bed for the winter.

Once securely tied up again, we went through the procedures for protecting the water system against the coming freeze. It's pretty straightforward, and it took only (!) half-an-hour for the water-tank to empty. Then I siphoned the water out of the calorifier (the hot-water-tank), and we were ready to go. Conditions on the road did not look promising, so we fortified ourselves before leaving with Staffordshire oatcakes from the Canalside Café before braving the motorways.

So that's Erin Mae in hibernation for a few months. Hope she's going to be OK. And that I haven't forgotten anything that I should have done to keep her snug.

Friday, 16 November 2018


Engineering have just finished the blacking of Erin Mae's hull, and it's looking good.

They've also freshened up the paint of the tunnel bands – not that anyone has yet ever caught me up in a tunnel!

We've followed their advice to renew the anodes – those blocks of aluminium attached near the bow. Erin Mae is nearly 12 years old, and this is the first time they've needed attention. I'd thought that Engineering would replace the old anodes, but they've simply added the new ones, which presumably makes sense.

Science lesson: For those who don't know, aluminium is a more reactive metal than steel, and corrodes in preference to the steel, providing extra anti-corrosion protection for the hull. They're called anodes because it's an electro-chemical process, with the aluminium adopting a positive electrical potential in comparison with the steel. It's exactly the opposite effect from what boat builders discovered when they tried to cover wooden boats with copper sheeting, using iron nails to hold it in place. Iron is more reactive than copper, so the nails would corrode in no time and fall out, rather defeating the purpose!

So now Erin Mae's back on her mooring, looking very nice. We plan to get up on Monday afternoon, with the hope of winterising on Tuesday morning.

Monday, 12 November 2018


Engineering were meant to start Erin Mae's blacking last Thursday. I checked the jetty's webcam from time to time to see whether they'd come over to fetch her – nothing doing by the weekend.

This morning, however, there she was – gone! 4th space up is empty.

Actually, the delay is probably no bad thing. The Met Office is indicating that the weather should be mostly a bit warmer and drier this week – better conditions for getting the hull cleaned and coated. I'd had two concerns about getting the blacking done this late in the year. Firstly, that the weather would prevent them doing a good job. Secondly, that icy weather would arrive and freeze up Erin Mae's interior before I'd had a chance to do the winterising. Looks as though everything should be OK.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Home again

We're a bit more accustomed than we used to be to packing up Erin Mae and driving south, though it's still a bit sad. Interestingly, what I'm really looking forward to, when next year's activities start, is tackling the work on the windows and the painting that was such a source of trepidation at the start of this year. My main concern is about getting out the window fixing screws without breaking them off.

Erin Mae is booked in next week for hull blacking. I've been watching the weather forecast, hoping it won't be too cold or wet for engineering to do an effective job. They'll check the anodes at the same time – I've really no idea how many years they're meant to last, but they were fine three years ago. They're also going to freshen up the paint on the tunnel bands. So when we pay a brief visit in a fortnight or so, to put her to bed for the winter, everything should be looking very good indeed.

Well, that's the plan…

Monday, 29 October 2018


Ice, as we emerged, on the inside of Erin Mae's bedroom window. Frost all over the hull and the pontoon.

But a gloriously sunny morning – all designed to put Dave Freeman in a good mood! Dave was here at 9 a.m. to do our Boat Safety Certificate inspection. First, he had a peek in all relevant spaces and glory-holes, with instruments to measure this and that.

Then he wrote up on the relevant forms what he had found.

All went well, so we handed over the dosh and look forward to receiving the relevant certificate by email. He showed us there was the faintest of leaks from some of the gas burners on the hob – not enough to fail the inspection, but sufficient to consider repair or replacement. Amazingly, it will probably cost more to replace three burner controls than to replace the whole hob. Over the winter we'll look at our options. It seems that, if I source an appropriate hob, it wouldn't cost much for him to install it himself, and that would be convenient.

After he'd gone my best beloved said she'd love some toast and marmalade! Unfortunately we only brought with us a minimum of essentials this weekend, and marmalade wasn't among them. So I capitalised on the moment to earn some brownie points by suggesting going up to the Canalside Café for a bacon sandwich. Approved!

The Great Haywood Canalside Farm business has been doing very well. Last year they made it into the national headlines for the number of pumpkins they sold, and all indications are it's a repeat performance this time around. But we were more interested in other things and headed to the café, which overlooks the Trent and Mersey.

Looking at the menu we settled on Staffordshire oatcakes with bacon and cheese – if you've never had one you've missed out! When they arrived at our table it transpired that, instead of two single oatcakes, they'd prepared four doubles! I followed the waiter back to the counter where he was discussing with the cooks what had gone awry, to make sure they weren't simply going to throw away all that good food. So two of the doubles came back to our table.

Brunch with a vengeance! Very tasty, and very sustaining. So we needed to walk it all off, through the village and back via the towpath. Not much moving on the water, but a stunning day, both sunny and chilly. We had another appointment around lunch-time – Keith Wilson was coming to fit the new side panels to Erin Mae's pram hood.

He took care over the fitting, and we are very pleased with the result.

The material is a slightly different PVC from the original, since that's no longer available. It's a bit heavier, a bit less flexible, and has a different texture – grainy rather than flat. But the colour is a very good match, and it will do very well.

So, in various ways (and with some damage to the bank account), we're covered again. Shucks – that reminds me that the insurance is due next month.

Sunday, 28 October 2018


As with most blogging boaters who go back to bricks and mortar during the winter, my posts tail off around this time of year. We took home the first car-load a week and a half ago, combining the seasonal emptying of Erin Mae with a couple of things for which we needed to be in the south. But this weekend we suddenly find ourselves in boating mode again, albeit briefly.

First up was Saturday's annual meeting of the Boaters Christian Fellowship, held this year, as last, in Rugby – a good day of getting together with about 100 of the 600-strong membership. Some of them we have got to know quite well, but the day also provides the opportunity to chat with folk we've met only occasionally or not at all. Others (e.g., probably, Halfie, not least because he's married to the chair!) will post some pictures of the event. I thought I would put up one of Peter Braybrook, of NB Sonflower.

Peter is the BCF General Secretary and, along with the rest of the committee, does a lot of work behind the scenes to keep things developing. Not only is he also active with the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, but he and Fran have signed on as volunteer Waterways Chaplains. So this acknowledgement is partly to thank Peter for all he puts back into the waterways. He spent most of the meeting time on Saturday taking notes about proceedings and will be sending out the minutes, etc.

One of the highlights of the day was Richard Parry, CEO of the Canal and River Trust, joining us for lunch, and afterwards speaking for a while before answering questions. He didn't duck the hard ones, either (well, not much!) and his answers provided some insights into the complexities of the system.

After it was all over we drove over to Great Haywood to spend the weekend on Erin Mae – our Boat Safety Scheme inspection is scheduled for tomorrow. This morning we joined with Wildwood Church for worship, as normal when we're in the marina, and then went over to the Hollybush Inn at Salt for Sunday lunch. They're a friendly lot. I've posted some pictures of the outside before, so this time I thought I'd try with one of the interior, taken with the extremely ancient iPhone 4 I've just inherited from my best beloved.

Hopefully you'll be so captivated by the warmth of the scene that you'll think the finger smudge top left is part of the ceiling – I'm only just getting used to taking photos on a phone! Driving back to Erin Mae from Salt we crossed the Trent and Mersey. On this cold, crisp, sunny autumn day, we found one or two things were on the move.

But we're going nowhere! The fire's keeping us snug and I've got an "Essentials of England" collection playing on Erin Mae's audio. I'm racking my brains to see if there's anything I need to do before the BSS inspection tomorrow. If there is, and I don't, no doubt Dave will inform me in the morning.

Thursday, 11 October 2018


No piccies tonight – how many pictures of black paint on Erin Mae's stern counter can you take!

The day turned out as planned. A second coat of gunwale paint all the way round the horizontal surface of the stern from cabin end right to cabin end left, before coffee. Then, with the sky beginning to threaten something dire, I collapsed the hood and started the engine. By the time we were ready to get under way, the paint was all touch dry, and a few drops were starting to fall. From the Wide to Great Haywood Junction we followed NB Elysian Waters, which had come along as we were winding, so it was only polite to let them through.

At the junction they turned right while we turned left, the few hundred yards to the marina entrance. Fortunately, the wind had dropped a bit, so getting into the marina and round to our berth was relatively straightforward. There we discovered that we have new neighbours, with a very handsome, newly painted boat. I was therefore doubly happy, even though they were not aboard, to get Erin Mae into dock without touching either the jetty or the neighbours. Doubly – no marks on either their boat or Erin Mae's newly finished gunwales. Give them a bit more time to harden (the gunwales, not the neighbours!).

We're glad to be back in port. Firstly, after a week we finally ran out of water this morning – just enough for coffee. Secondly, that promised storm is now flexing its muscles and battering us with wet stuff. We're grateful to be safe and sound and warm inside, relatively protected from the elements, with water suitably contained.