Sunday 30 July 2023


 In the end, selling Erin Mae is about phases of life. And we have no reason to complain. In April my best beloved and I celebrated 50 years of marriage. So a couple of weekends ago we had a family weekend to mark the Golden Wedding Anniversary, for which we rented a house in Lyme Regis.

The grounds were big enough for fun and games.

There was lots of good food.

And different things to do when it was wet outside.

The Cornish crew were there, the Londoners had done most of the organising, and the Norwegians had all flown across. There was quite a bit of swimming and body-surfing, 

the consumption of several large portions of fish and chips, and lots of music. Being all together doesn't happen a lot, and we all loved it.

We were presented by the youngest members with a rather special can of baked beans!

Martin & Margaret, it read. Established 1973. It's bean 50 years. Rich in love and community.

Amen to that! It's been a good 50 years. And a fantastic weekend!

Thursday 8 June 2023


Well, the time has come. Erin Mae has given us 12 years of boating experiences – intriguing moments, fascinating people, scary incidents. But the time has come – time to acknowledge that we cannot do all that we could, and cannot really keep up with the necessary maintenance. So the time has come to sell.

But we had a problem. At the end of our cruising last year we came to light a fire in our Squirrel solid fuel stove, and found it had half an inch of water inside, which had rusted some of the internal pieces. It was in the summer of 2021 that Streethay Wharf had fitted a new chimney, and clearly something had leaked. I didn't want to put the boat up for sale with a dodgy flue. When I contacted Streethay earlier this year, they suggested I bring the boat down for them to look at. Unfortunately, that was 13 locks away, and locks are currently a bit tricky.

Enter our friend Phil. When we were having coffee with him and his wife a couple of months ago, he volunteered to learn windlass skills, and it was all fixed up. He came up on Monday, took us down the Atherstone flight on Tuesday, and accompanied us to Streethay on Wednesday and Thursday morning.

He naturally enjoyed a cuppa on the towpath, and recorded his new experiences in time-honoured fashion.

We couldn't have done the trip without him – you're a star, Phil!

So, today, Streethay looked at the flue, drew some conclusions about how water had managed to ingress, and set about sealing it up. The biggest surprise was the person who came to do the work. It was our friend Ant who, with Emma his wife and Domino the not-so-much-a-puppy-now, have the berth next to ours at Mancetter marina. He was a help to us in various ways over the last two years, but it was extraordinary to see him arriving with tools in hand!

He sealed the chimney, and he sealed the flue around the stove, and then he set to work fixing the rear hatch which has been sticking. Great job, Ant – and great to see you again, albeit probably for the last time.

Because the end of the tale is that Erin Mae is up for sale, and we're sorting out the contract with the brokerage at Kings Orchard marina, just a quarter of a mile from Streethay. We've berthed her there for the night, and tomorrow will hopefully conclude all the paperwork.

It's been a wonderful adventure, for which we are grateful to God. And if anyone fancies a 16 year-old Aqualine Madison…

Friday 26 August 2022

Bridge 27

It's a typical Coventry Canal Bridge, looking very pleasant and idyllic in the evening light.

We'd been moored up for a day about 150 yards the far side of the bridge. I'd been wanting to paint under the left-hand bedroom window frame. The towpath being on that side made this an ideal spot to take the window out and get on with this job that is about 6 years overdue.

The problem was how the painting (numerous coats, a day between each) and its requirement for a left-side towpath would fit with other demands for travelling, such as the need to fill the water tank – knowing what we do about the availability of water on the next stretch of our journey. We decided that, before moving on, we should reverse back through the bridge and fill the tank at Springwood Haven Marina (in the right in the picture). No time like the present, especially as the wind was more gentle than was promised for the following morning.

Now narrowboats are not made for going backwards – they need a certain amount of cajoling. But I have to say that Erin Mae and I get on pretty well with this manoeuvre when necessary. I brought her back round the bend, avoiding the other moored boats, and lined up everything to come through the bridge hole.

Ah, the perils of reversing under a bridge! That's where all the rubbish tends to accumulate, and a reversing propellor just sucks it up. Suddenly there were horrendous noises, and the exhaust started to belch black smoke under the strain. I put the gear into neutral, experimented with what control I still had, and managed to moor up on the marina wharf. No one was around – it was about 7 p.m.

Ever since our first trip through Manchester I've become accustomed to clearing the prop of collected rubbish, so I lifted one of the boards at the stern to access the weed hatch.

It's straightforward – you release the restraining bar, lift off the lid, and prepare yourself mentally for whatever your fingers will encounter as you reach down into the murky depths towards the propellor. I've done it many times.

But this time the lid wouldn't budge. I pushed and pulled, hammered and banged – all to no avail. I think that Rose Narrowboats, doing an excellent engine service last year, had replaced the seal, and it was firmly stuck. In the end we tied up for the night and set the alarm to get us up before the marina staff arrived in the morning.

Springwood Haven people are some of the most helpful you could encounter. I explained our predicament and, much sooner than expected, George came down to see what he could do. He's more beefy than I, but not even he could get the lid off without some serious help from a cold chisel, a screwdriver (ouch!) and a club hammer. Then, at last, I could untangle the offending mixture of bungee, fishing line, weeds, plastic bags and unmentionables. 

Note to self: when reversing under a bridge, line it up and then go into neutral while actually traversing it.

Tuesday 7 June 2022

Hinckley museum

When we were up the Ashby Canal last year, we caught the bus into Hinckley town centre to see the museum.

Unfortunately, I hadn't read the website properly – we'd gone on a day when it wasn't open. So this time we double-checked and, last Saturday, finally got inside. Downstairs there are a couple of rooms celebrating Hinckley's past as a centre of the hosiery industry. Socks, stockings, etc – hose. One room was set up with a big knitting loom as it would have been for the cottage industry. Another had examples of the machines they later invented to automate the processes. 

Hard enough to see how they worked, and staggering to think that, in past centuries, they had conceived how to perform the complex mechanical processes to knit the yarn, and then designed and constructed all the parts for the machines, without CAD software to help.

Upstairs, the old timbers of this 17th century building are splendid, and the exhibits cover some of the social history of the area, especially the local tradition of "Non-conformism".

All in all, well worth a visit if you're cruising that way. But check the website for opening days!

Monday 6 June 2022

Cross pylons

What do you do when two marching lines of pylons cross each other?

You design a small one, and drop one set of cables underneath the other.

In fact, although it doesn't show properly here, there is a small pylon each side of the taller one, with a set of cables going to each, to create a diamond shape around the tall one. I imagine that's to balance out the sideways tension caused by the diversion.

Friday 3 June 2022

Hinckley Jubilee

What with the shallowness of the canals and stopping to fill Erin Mae's water tank, it took us a good long time to get to Hinckley yesterday, but we made it. We got the bus into town in the afternoon, and found our way to Hollycroft Park for a "Proms in the Park" event. The queue stretching down to the gate 45 minutes before they opened it illustrates something of the support there was.

An estimated 2000 people were there – families, picnics, free eco-friendly flags in abundance.

Music was provided by Leicester's Bardi Wind Orchestra. It was an excellent programme of light classics, orchestrated Beatles & Abba, some vocal classics, Vera Lynn and some last night of the proms standards, accompanied by much flag waving and the slightly self-mocking jingoism that characterises that occasion. No pictures of the orchestra, I'm afraid. The ones I took are appalling!

No evening buses on this bank holiday, but we managed to get a taxi back to the canal for not too many pennies. All in all, it was a very enjoyable way to celebrate the Jubilee. Whatever you think about monarchy as an institution, she is one remarkable lady. And my mum approved of her!

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Nuneaton's Nº 10

The Local Authority bus pass for (cough, cough) citizens of suitably advanced seniority is a wondrous thing. Needing to replenish the cupboards with various items, I was able to catch the Nº 10 from within 50 yards of Bridge 21 on the Coventry Canal, and have it deposit me outside the door of an Aldi on the fringes of town, without having to expend the savings from using this particular emporium before I even got there. I thought it should be commemorated with a photo.

Its journey is not through exactly the most exciting parts of Nuneaton, but what struck me was a certain sense of community among the passengers.

One or two would greet each other from time to time, or go and sit with someone they knew. Not a lot, but enough to notice.

Back at Bridge 21, from the map I couldn't see anything more inviting than our current mooring opposite Tomkinson Road Rec, so we've stayed put. Nuneaton visitor moorings look as though they sit right under a railway track and a main road. So we've continued with our custom of short journeys. Tomorrow, however, may well be different. We've noticed that Hinckley has a "Proms in the Park" event as part of the Jubilee celebrations, and we'll probably try to get there.

Which will, of course, entail the use of our bus passes again to get up into the centre of the town from where the canal passes on its outskirts.

I wonder whether Continuous Cruisers (of suitable eminence) are able to get a bus pass, or will no Local Authority take responsibility for such extraordinary people?