Last Sunday we set off. With full tanks of diesel, water and gas, we motored off into the Lancashire drizzle, heading for Wigan. In fact, we all got pretty soaked up the eight locks to the junction with the Leeds & Liverpool canal at Lathom, but then the weather improved in the afternoon and we made our way into Wigan in glorious sunshine. There were, inevitably, a few minor mishaps. I directed Dave into a disused lock at one point, who then had to back out into the main canal (tricky!), but the major incident of the day was in Wigan, where a group of lads had warned us of an obstruction in the canal. Sure enough, a large plastic tarpaulain was floating in the lock. I warned Richard to look out for it, but he didn’t see it in time and it went in the propellor, stalling the engine. Fortunately, we could drag the boat out of the lock by hand and clear it easily through the weedhatch. We didn’t like the look of the overnight moorings in Wigan, so we motored on to the Dover Lock Inn at Abram, just outside the town. Unfortunately, in locking up for the night we managed to break the cabin door key, which seemed rather alarming. We left the door open overnight, reckoning to get a new door lock in the morning.
Monday was a mostly dry day with the odd shower or two, and we had a gentle run into central Manchester, stopping to pick up Susz for a few hours and also to do various bits of shopping, not least look for a new door lock. A visit to Leigh gained us a new mop, a dustpan and brush and some chocolate muffins, but sadly no doorlocks the right shape. So, three engineers dissected the doorlock on the kitchen worktop and realised that if we removed half the door lock mechanism it would still lock from the outside with the broken key, and then Richard manfully filed and tweaked various bits of the mechanism to make it work more smoothly. After stopping at B&Q in the Trafford area of Manchester for some washers needed to mend the lock, the throttle handle came off in Dave’s hand – not actually off completely, but such that it no longer worked the way it was intended! We sorted that one out in Manchester – turns out that a single screw holds the handle on and it had come loose.
Tuesday was a hard, wet day. The legendary Mancunian drizzle, punctuated by sharp showers, accompanied us all the way to Ashton-under-Lyne, through 27 locks. We were knackered, wet, and very glad of Swedish meatballs in the Ikea cafe!
On Wednesday morning we went and bought a dining table and chairs in Ikea, as well as some more food and various boaty bits from a handy chandlery. The furniture process was pretty straightforward – buy the stuff, get a cab back to the canalside, load it onto the boat and then head off up the canal. Sadly, when I unwrapped one of the chairs it was broken, so it’ll have to go back… gah!
We picked up my semi-cousin Chris in Marple, who helped us up the flight of sixteen locks, and then came with us all the way back to Macclesfield (a very late finish, that one, racing the darkness down the canal looking for somewhere deep enough to moor!) where we had a late night family reunion with Alison (Chris’s mum) and the family.
On Thursday we had a gentler day, taking my “Auntie” Jackie down from Macclesfield to Oakgrove, where she treated us to lunch in the Fools Nook, which was lovely and full of lunching Cheshire ladies. I think we halved the average age of the place when we came in! Then Dave and I pressed on to Congleton, passing through Bosley Locks, which is where years ago my Grandpa took me to watch the boats and where I first became interested in canals and boats…
That evening we put the dining table together and managed a civilised meal in the cabin!
Today we’re going to Kidsgrove, where the Macclesfield canal meets the Trent and Mersey. We might go on down towards Stoke and Stone tomorrow, depending on how we get on. However, Dave’s leaving me tomorrow and so I’ll be crewless until Friday, unless anyone wants to come and lend a hand?