Someone’s doormat around my propeller #narrowboat #boating

Had a splendid mooch yesterday, about eight miles (as the crow swims) and a couple of locks. Also included one involuntary stop…

Drifted into the side to sort out the prop (and then wash myself, extensively, in anti-bacterial Dettol-Domestos solution).

Rather suddenly as we pootled along the canal seemed to be becoming very uphill, and we – the Cardinal and I – were making truly glacial progress, in fact becoming more stationary by degrees. The usual trickette in these matters of foreign matter is a matter of a spot of enthusiastic reverse followed by a few yards of drifting and thence back into “full steam ahead”. Well, that just stopped us absolutely dead. Totally zero drive. Not quite what I had been hoping for.

Fortunately, as with most of England’s canals, the coast was quite close by.

Yonder narrowboat design has several modes of propulsion when the big spinning thing is suffering from constipation, these being (barge-)pole, rope (preferably with horse, although a human will do at a pinch, but both do need access to dry land), and the wind.

I used flatulence to get us in to the side. Pat.pending.

Narrowboats are equipped for these contingencies by having fitted to them a cunning – and scary – device known as a “weed hatch”. In essence, a miniature moon-pool in the engine bay, right over the propeller and fitted with a water-tight lid.

Yes, it is all in need of a clean and some painting TLC, but then so would you be after a winter in the r-send of a boat, and there’s no clean way to remove (or replace) a weed hatch…

Weed Hatch tightly screwed down. Insecure weed hatches sink boats, for obvious reasons.

For one thing, access to it is gained by oiking up the rear hatch and then lying prone on deck with your head and shoulders down in the boat’s innards. It’s all very undignified.

Weed hatch open, there’s a propeller (and doormat) somewhere under that rat-pee soup.

On some canals the water is as clear as spritely spring water wot has just sprung from the spring. On others the water is akin to thick soups of various flavours and colours. On the Middlewich Branch it is just sort of middling-brown muddy and Mulligatawny-esque, but you still can’t see far through it. The top of the prop is a few inches under the surface. Off with Mr Engine, and out and away with the keys, before poking one’s piano-ticklers down near the prop, into shark territory. I dread the day when some bright spark at Wildlife England PLC re-introduces piranha to the canals.

Tisn’t highly technical, tis but a case of plunging in and groping around, much similar to turning around a calf that is facing the wrong way (but with less mooing from a bronze prop than you get with your arms up the business end of a pregnant English Longhorn).

I was lucky, t’was but a doormat and not a discarded mattress or a shopping trolley or an as-yet unexploded WWII berm. The offending article came off reasonably easily, without my having to dunk my head under and use my teeth to bite through wires or anything.

Ten minutes of work followed by fifteen minutes of washing off the rat-urine, cow-pee, fertiliser run-off and gawd knows what else boaters may have put into the water and we were on our way again. Of course, once you’ve won the booby-prize it’s yours until the next public dustbin – can’t just sling it onto the towpath, can’t bung it back into the canal, it has to ride along, squelching malevolently at you from the roof…

The rest of the mooch? Well, it was looking like a mildly questionable day when we set orf at 0700hrs, but in fact it all turned out quite nicely.

An undecided sky over the Middlewich Branch, Cholmondeston ish way.

We copped an(other) unexpected bonus at Minshull Lock (11′ 0″), the last boat through the previous day or overnight had left the top gate wide open… I could just cruise straight in. This was pure luxury since Minshull lock has bog all in the way of water above it and bog all in the way of a functioning lock landing top or bottom.

Exiting Minshull Lock, on fifty yards or so to the first available bollards, moor up, back to the lock to close the bottom gates, back to the boat and offski again…
Exiting Minshill Lock, looking back at the cill and the gate holding back the canal above.

Pootling on to Stanthorne Lock (11′ 1″) the Cardinal and I met a most cheery and happy boat mooching in the opposite direction, and they called out a greeting and declared themselves to be readers of the blog – nb Brandy Girl, methinks, from my brief and confused “immediately post weed-hatch dive) glance. Apologies, I’d not long since got us moving again, and I had the rear hatch open and was monitoring for leaks (or even leeks) in “paranoid” mode – had I seated it properly, and screwed it back down tightly enough?

Now a fine hello, welcome and a ta very much, but I must ask – have you confused me with someone else and someone else’s blog? I can’t imagine that the Cardinal and I are of interest to sufficient numbers such that we’d bump into anyone… 😉

Most people in my life have turned out to be “thinking of someone else”. It’s in the eyes, you know, when they glaze over, or occasionally when they “pop out for a loaf of bread” and then don’t come back and two years later you find out that they’re shacked up with an arc-welder from Scunthorpe.

Anyway, enough of my love life.

There was much wildlife along the way. I have done some research, and these are called “sheeps”.

These are native stumpies, other sheep have legs and stand above the grass rather than just rolling themselves around in it.

There is a version of “sheeps” that has legs, and they may often be seen poking up above the grass, but these weren’t they. I have no idea how this breed moves about. Perhaps they roll themselves around? Perhaps the farmer comes out a couple of times a day and applies a Wellington Boot to them? Maybe the farmer has a trained Legless-Sheeps Dog, and the dog comes out a couple of times a day and rolls them around to fresh grass? Whatever.

There were some wild cow bushes too, in full bloom.

A cow-bush, full of ripe cows.

A cow in the bush is worth two in the band-stand, and a cow-bush is always much better than an am-bush. I’m vegetarian anyway, so an am-bush would be useless to me.

Our voyage included the Middlewich Branch’s least-friendly (ex)bridge-hole, on a nice curve and with several changes of angle about the foundations and something under the water (methinks perhaps a fallen coping stone). The Cardinal showed it what for and a clean pair of heels (clean, that is, until we picked up the doormat some miles later).

Odd-Angle Bridge Hole, as I have termed it, with something in the water (to bottom left of this image).

Yes, it is that narrow.

Once the sun poked his head through the clouds it was all most “messing about in boats” pleasant, with picture-skew bridges and wotnots.

Mastering the “patting your head while rubbing your belly” skill of steering a boat through a bridge while also taking a photograph…

We’re moored up in a wee town at the moment, waiting for the “later in the day” whereupon I shall be raiding the charity shops for books, DVDs and, should they look respectableode, some cheap jeans or trousers (for ruining in place of better pairs, while “doing the locks”).

These are time-restricted “48 hour” moorings (invented by those devilishly clever coves at CaRT to keep the moorings clean and tidy and free from pesky boats) so I’ll raid the nearest souper-market while close, and then move on again, before they send the Canal Rozzers out to clamp the Cardinal.

I must find a bin too, and dump that damned doormat.

Then I need some LSD.

*LSD – “Lengthy Sitting Down”.

I’m good at sitting down. If only sitting down were an Olympic event, or perhaps a saleable skill, I’d be quids in.

Oh well. Chin-chin for the mo, chaps.

Ian H.


  1. One would hope not too many beginners think the weed hatch is a hatch to be weed into!
    At least a doormat is not something normally worn as a garment . . .


  2. Hi Ian
    It was great seeing you in passing the other day. Sorry we were going in opposite directions and didn’t get a chance to say more than hello and goodbye. By the way thanks for finding our door mat just hold on to it and we’ll get it from you later. Not sure if you heard my wife say that we are friends of Lou Kief.
    Barry and Pam Nix
    nb Brandy Girl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! It is surprising how quickly even narrowboats pass with a closing speed of just five or six mph! It made my day meeting you, even so briefly, and I hope that you’re having a great cruise. With luck the front door mat that I picked up was it and there is no back-door mat lurking for your travels… 😉

      My memory is failing and I’m not sure how respectable I looked when we passed. Was I wearing the rabbit-suit onesie or my Scottish Piper outfit? Whichever it was, I thank you for not screaming in shock!


  3. I would have lived permanently wherever the Cardinal drifted rather than stick my hand in that hatch. Surely you should get a knighthood for that sort of bravery. My brain would have been convinced that a passing malevolent or incompetent kind stranger would have come on board and turned over the engine. shiver.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re not wrong there, having seen some of the fish and wildlife that live in and around the canals I was not too chuffed about dangling the old mitts in the water. Still, what must be done must be done, and whatever doesn’t kill you outright is grounds for cake. 😉

      I was actually very lucky indeed, the breeze just gently wafted the Cardinal along and over to the one boat-length stretch of armco banking that there is on that bit of canal, so it was easy to moor up while I did the yuckies. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I read this with bated breath thinking what your hand could have pulled up out of the murky depth – a severed hand or even a head! Not a nice thing to happen to you and have to do, I remember dead down one of my drains being bad enough. A carbolic shower needed just the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The ‘orrible thing is that there are always several bodies oiked out of the canals every year, and there are some very plausible urban (non-)myths about finding unfortunate dogs and …things… down there. I know from my own experience of badgers, alive and deceased, that the canal always plays with its victims. Was I relieved to find “only” a manky old doormat? You bet I was!

      Silly thing is that I keep a pair of long, waterproof gauntlets for just this sort of eventuality – and totally forgot to wear them.

      Liked by 1 person

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