Lift-Bridges and the rotten non-pair-bonded hominid #England #offgrid #narrowboat

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STOP! In the name of love, before you break my heart…

What a dashed inconvenience we are to society, we solo animals.

Lift-bridges, eh?

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Scale and solidity.

Simples. Hove up, a member of the crew runs off the boat and across the bridge, winds it up out of the way and then one of whomsoever is left aboard takes the boat through, the aforementioned running crew-member then winds the bridge back down, scoots across, back aboard and everyone’s on their way again.

Well yes and no, the “no” being not if you are captain, cook, chief sail-maker, carpenter and ship’s cat dog on your own boat.

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Canal fools to the left of frame, jokers to the right…

It’s generally – on the basis of the whole five of these that I have so far gone through solo – not that serious a problem though. Not now that hugely expensive changes have been made to the canal infrastructure in a lot of places (the mega-millions addition of a grudging single extra mooring bollard)… and provided that there is little wind… and that the other traffic behaves itself…


The opportunity with these beasties is that the civilised, ordinary moorings are on the towpath side of the canal while the workings of the bridge are on the offside. So if I, as a non-pair-bonded hominid were to moor as everyone else moors, leap off and raise the bridge I would then find myself then somewhat unable to get back to my boat to move it through.

The technique is to ignore the usual moorings and put the bow (and later, the stern) against the offside, tying up to the single bollard provided there for the porpoise. Um, I mean the purpose. Yes, this means that the length of the boat is then potentially waggling about in the breeze, and it does mean that you have to scoot along the boat and get on and off the bow/stern while it is not attached to anything, is not parallel to anything and is potentially waggling about like a MacDonald banner in a chilling Campbell breeze.

If some other boat catches you mid-process and doesn’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing they can get awfully confused. If they do know why you’re doing what you’re doing they can still get a., confused and/or b., actually irate.

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Spot the wee lonesome bollard on the offside, likes of me for the use of…

I apply smiles and waves, and if they don’t work then, as with everything else in life, I liberally apply the phrase ‘Jog on, Doris.’

At the first of my first five such a lovely helpful family indicated that they would do the work and I could just go through (a free ride in effect) – at which point they all jumped on their boat and motored over the horizon leaving me holding the Cardinal on the “wrong side of the canal” and the bridge up and open wide… Just to give me an extra laugh, and I did laugh about it, once I’d got the Cardinal through and his stern edged back and tied off and was about to lower the bridge a hire-boat came out of nowhere at (canal-)high speed and sped right through. Not a by-your-leave, a thank you or even any eye-contact! As they hoofed off up the canal I heard someone aboard say ‘Oh, he’ll close it…’

At the second I edged the bow up to the hominid-bollard and leapt off Tarzan-style with a rope between my teeth – to be met by a very nice workman chap who had been eating his lunch in his van nearby and offered to wind the bridge up and down for me. He then met me on the other side (other side of the bridge, not the afterlife) to return my windlass. Ta very muchly, sir!

At the third I was quite alone in the landscape and with the exception of forgetting to take my windlass up to the bow with me the first time I scootled up there, I did everything else right and we – the Cardinal and I – went on our merry way.

At the fourth there were five boats, two with me, three against, and the first of these had deposited a crew-member on the lift workings, opened the bridge and steamed through – and then didn’t pick up the crew member on the way past, leaving them abandoned behind the open bridge. They, in their turn, though, hadn’t even noticed that they’d been abandoned. They were too busy remonstrating, arguing and generally performing micturition into a disadvantageous meteorological airflow with some CaRT workmen who had been repairing brickwork around the bridge but who had retired to a safe distance on seeing the queue of boats. Doubtless this is what their CaRT procedures tell them to do, and what their CaRT insurance policy would require them to do. From the raised voices I could tell that the abandoned crewmember was insistent that they ought to have worked all of the boats through… no, Kittencat, t’ain’t their job! They were there to lay bricks.

While the fisticuffs were beginning the rest of us slipped quietly through the bridge and away, three miles per hour in any other direction being the better part of valour, etcetera, etcetera to live another day.

At the fifth bridge I arrived, performed the necessary juggling, opened it, took the Cardinal through and moored his stern to the hominid-bollard and then the fun began.

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Friendly or unfriendly? I don’t know, he didn’t say a word. He just watched. I do so dislike the term “passive-aggressive” (since it offends the niceties of decent grammar) but it did apply here.

The occupant of the blurred boat – and I should point out that it was not blurred in “real life” but I name no names and boat no boats here – was indeed moored on officially-sanctioned moorings, but these were unarguably a bit close to the bridge. When I came through the Cardinal’s rather elegant bow was dangling around no more than about ten feet from the gentleman’s stern (and also his boat’s stern). He stood and, well – “watched” my every move.

No wave, no “air hair lair, hi’d’you do” and no indication at all of friendliness.

A hire boat began kerfuffling about approaching from the downstream direction when I had yet to wind the bridge down, so I waved them through. They had dropped off crew members all over the show, on both sides of the canal, and not one between them had a windlass in their hands. I thought it unlikely that they all intended to crank the hydraulics with nought but their teeth. They were chatty and friendly and explained that this was the first day of their holiday, so I wished them well and saw them on their way – after the chap at the helm had managed to clonk into everything and almost get himself jammed against the Cardinal. Oh happy daze. I was in a happy daze, since this was the last such bridge of my planned day, and moorings beckoned with fresh coffee and hot toast.

After I’d cleaned up behind us, loosed the Cardinal, leapt aboard at the stern and begun pootling off, the blurred gentleman then watched me from the side of his boat – and still without an indication of anything other than disapprobation. I waved and smiled and whispered ‘Jog on, Doris’ as we left him behind in the gentle wake behind our behind.

If you don’t like boats manoeuvring close by then may one respectfully suggest that one not moor up within spitting distance of an obstruction?

Some miles farther on, a task for future days, lies this wee beastie.

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A device to allow boaters to play with road traffic

This one, when I get to it, will be even more fun – it is key-operated, electrically raised and linked to a set of traffic signals that, hopefully, stop the road traffic while I have the bridge raised and ease the Cardinal through and moor up on the single-hominid bollard on the other side. I wonder how long a traffic-queue I shall cause there? We’ll see, and I will let you know.

So, a variety of these wee bridges done, the Cardinal and I mooched on and found another dingly dell in which to moor for a few days. This one is less overgrown that the last, and the solar panels ought to be slightly happier. It looks as though I am moored on a bend, and I am, but in reality it is a very shallow bend, the canal there is three or more narrowboats wide, and there is at least one hundred and fifty yards clear and visible fore and aft. The photograph is deceiving in that respect. It is a very respectable mooring.

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My current dingly dell moorings. It’s a lousy, rotten job, but someone’s got to do it.

This is my awful, terrible, wholly unscenic view from the bow (and again, it is deceptive, with much more room than might appear). I am moored in accordance with Hutson sensibilities.

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Through this bridge lies one more mile of canal and then… Grisly Grindley Brook locks

So there we go. Lift-bridges. The Llangollen has many more in store for me, but first, once I have plucked up enough caffeine-related joie de what the hell, I have staircase locks and many ordinary locks to come next.

Not, I think, today though.


Ian H.


  1. I love how you take such enjoyment in every aspect of your living. It matters not how sweet the job you seem very happy in your current life. May you long be able to have it. Hugs

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    1. Hi Scottie – and cheers! We are working up now towards the season where I am going to have to put the chimney back on and begin lighting the stove again… misty and very cool indeed some mornings!

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    1. Oh they’ve finished putting the second coat of paint on the Forff Bridge now and moved on to laying the foundations.


    1. It’s odd that you should mention capers – I had some capers in my pasta for dinner tonight. Am I on hidden cctv? I love capers, they’re like peppery bogies… 😉

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  2. Ye gods, what is wrong with people that they cannot smile at one and exchange friendly greetings?! I despair. Those are the worst type of bridge – yes?

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    1. There does seem to be a very high proportion of miserable people on this canal, and I have no idea why. Each to their own, I suppose, being cheerful is not (yet) compulsory! There is the bridge yet to come, one that stops traffic on a reasonably busy road – that one may be more fun, especially if I goof and take longer than usual getting through it! Fingers crossed… 😉

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  3. All this leaping on and off must be keeping you fit. It looks like the same plonkers that are out and about on our roads take a break aboard a #narrowboat! I do think life would be so much sweeter without a whole lot of people in it. Well done there you deserve your lovely dingly dell!

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    1. Fit? Fit to flop! The more I do this though the more I _can do it and the more I enjoy it… 😉 The canals are a wonderful exemplar of cognitive dissonance – I look around myself and note how weird everyone else is, all the while trying to believe that I am not part of the same peculiar crowd!

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