Mother may well have loaded the guns at Lucknow, but I’m surrendering at Llangollen

Royally rammed again yesterday. A long stretch of straight canal, no wind, no other boat traffic, I’m moored quite tidily in the middle of the widest section – and an ABC holiday hire boat fresh from Wrenbury Mill still manages not just to smack into the Cardinal but to do so at not some little speed. Upon my expressing the general boating preference for going around moored vessels where and when possible they then proceeded to give lip…

[Nota bene: I’ve mentioned before about minor clonks unavoidable due to wind and tide and traffic or whatever, and we all expect those and all of us find ourselves administering them on occasion, much to our shame – but full-speed rammings are a different beast altogether. The former are oftentimes humanly unavoidable, the latter are – when administered with such glee and quantity – purely down to Timothy West.]

There was no pretence of high revs in reverse (which would have been useless anyway, on the shallow Llangollen), not even an attempt at last minute steering away. One broken glass, one broken cup, and the stove-top fan fell off the stove to the floor. Whether that will work now come winter remains to be seen, I’m not lighting the stove to test it.

Neither was there any attempt at stopping to inspect or detail the damage, just a cruising away, as ever it was and is with the customery of the large hire companies – the “corporate” ones, not the “family” ones that behave much better. Fortunately, since the Cardinal is built along the lines of a particularly muscular Victorian washer-woman’s backside, the boat damage is limited to a foot-long scrape along one of his rubbing-strips. As far as I can tell, without x-ray and/or MRI scan. We were pushed hard against the towpath edge, and I regretted putting out just pipe fenders instead of squidgy inflatables.

I do not like these new rounded cows without heads or legs. They may be efficient but I want a return of the old type, the sort with names such as Mabel and Doris and COW 7743/a/Xii.

There hasn’t even been a Canal Rozzer in sight at any time on my expedition up the Limpopo to record my mini-adventure.

As is customary we dived at dawn. I have the most energy then and there are fewer boats around and – especially important here; less road traffic.

Wrenbury Mill lift-bridge – right alongside the hire company that sends out its customers like Rampaging Hippos from Hell – cuts the main road through Wrenbury. It is though I am happy to say, electric, and push-button.

In with the special secret “WaterMate” key that gives we gitsthese people… we liveaboards (and those holidaymakerists in their ramming-machines) access to secret control devices (and to the Elsan sluice room, where such has yet to be run-down and removed by The Watery Wellness Trust Ltd), push the GREEN button and hold…

05:50hrs in the a of the m. Two pubs and a holiday apartment nearby, and even at that time in horridly-overcrowded England there is road traffic.

That synthesised nee-naw nee-naw siren begins, hydraulic pumps begin to stir and prime the rams. After ten seconds of nee-naw the red and white barriers clank down – at quite a “Madam Guillotine-esque” speed it must be noted – and the road-bridge begins to rumble upwards, slowly, slowly, slowly.

Cars begin to roll up quickly quickly quickly, and to stop. The green button has to be pressed and held until the bridge is fully raised and locked… what the waiting car drivers probably didn’t expect was for me, unspeakable single-hander that I am, to then have to troll across the road in front of the queue, along to the Cardinal – moored on that armco back there mid-frame – untie his ropes, push the bow off and then motor him through.

Nor did they expect, I expect, to have to then also wait while I engaged “all propellers astern” to stop once the blunt end was clear, tie him back up again and then troll back to the little control box.

To their credit, almost all of the drivers did smile and wave. 🙂

It’s a lark, innit?

The next bridge in my way only cuts off a footpath, but it’s also manual – a chap winds up the bridge hydraulically using a windlass.

This one required some relatively-early-morning gymnastics because a single-hander can’t just oik up to the landing provided (towpath side), walk across and wind the bridge up (controls all on the offside of the canal). Answers as to the reason why in your rough-work notebooks please, and hand them in at the end of class.


Bow on wrong side, pick up windlass and wing-walk (on the gunwale), leap like a gazelle from the bow onto the offside before the Cardinal drifts away to make the leap a leap too far… wind the bridge up – back on the bow with a leap-in-reverse – along to stern – motor through and manoeuvre the blunt end to a position where a chap might leap off once again, rope in hand – wind bridge down, retrieve Cardinal from his moochings – hop back on – and finally onwards.

All told just shy of six miles this morning, two lift bridges and five ordinary locks. We, the Cardinal and I, are poised now but a mile away from the Hurleston Flight, the better to descend tomorrow, and away from this Joke Canal (until winter, at least).

It’s been… emotional.

As it did just ten days ago on the vastly adventurous outward leg (ooh, er, Missus) (neither of my legs are really adventurous, damn it) a lot of the canal resembles the set of The African Queen.

‘You have a leech on your left buttock, Mr Allnutt.’ ‘Please remove it then, Rose, please do then remove it.’ ‘How, Mr Allnutt, how?’ ‘With the hot end of your cheroot, Rose, with the hot end of your cheroot…’

The day then began – in terms of a “me” – to warm up far beyond that which may be considered comfortable. I don’t “glow” in hot weather; I sweat at the slightest provocation rather like the basic live ingredient in a popular pork product. Ugh.

Baddiley Locks were leaking just as Goodiley on the descent as on the ascent.

These locks only have a change in canal level of at most 6′ 10″, so they are relatively civilised in terms of oiking up ladders and/or stepping into the roof of the boat. We met but the one lonesome angler drowning his worms on a lock landing, but we agreed to share the space (he moved as I motored enthusiastically in, with my eyes swivelling in all directions and my fists clenching and unclenching as though not under my control – Igor not connect Mathter’s nerve-ends correctly, Igor bad).

That’s the cill which a chap must be careful to not allow his boat to stray upon upon pain of [insert the “s” word that no-one living on a boat will utter aloud]. The leaking water adds spice by attempting to fill an unwary boat’s engine bay or – if going up the lock – fill the well deck and thus the boat itself.

We got the job-ette done and were mooring up in our current spot – one of the restricted moorings near the “start” of the Llangollen that we visited earlier – by about half of the nine o’clock hundred hours (military time).

It was then High Time for coffee and brekkers.

I have chosen a mooring here that, should a Canal Rozzer sashay past, ought to send them into a full “does not compute – warning, Will Robinson, warning – my robot arms are flailing about!” blue funk – for we are moored half on their time-restricted moorings, and half on the towpath (where – as it ought to be everywhere but for the WWT Ltd.’s extra-legal shenanagins – the term is “fourteen days”). That black post with the “Das Orders for Boating Persons” nailed to it marks the border.

Tee, et le hee. What a rebel, eh?

This being the Joke Canal and a highly-populated haunt of The Watery Wellness Trust Ltd.’s second or third favourite customers – large and corporate hire companies – the WWT Ltd.’s sub-contractors’ sub-contractors (the emphasis being on the word ‘con’, not ‘tractors’) appear to have been mowing the towpaths hereabouts on the “official” moorings. Don’t get excited though, the other vegetation and elsewhere is sprouting like primordial rainforest, with bushes and treesosaurs growing out the armco and wotnot.


The it of It has just started raining as I type. The forecast said it wouldn’t. My nose said that it wouldn’t. It is though. I’ve just been out and bunged the back cover on. If I put the cover on it’ll just be the lightest of summer showers. Were I to not put the cover on, well…

Warm it may be but the wee 12v electric kettle is almost on the near-but-not-boil, ready for more coffee. Coffeefe. Southern Indian; delicious stuff, my current favourite, and sure to become unavailable soon whether by true apocalypse or by the whim of some supermarket “Buyer”. I am slowly stocking up while I can.

The rain has now stopped of course and Mr Sunshine has returned to the sky, just as I knew he would if I lumbered out and bunged on the covers. The Universe and I have been together too long for these sorts of games to last long.

Winds and proper rains, the I bless the rains down in A-a-a-a-frica sort, are forecast though in the next few days. The intent is thus to a., get the heck off this three-foot-deep asylum, b., dump rubbish, find water, do the wotnots, and c., find somewhere pleasant to watch those rains down in Africaaaaaaa. Somewhere away from ABC/Anglo-Welsh/&etc-suchlike boats, if such a place exists in summer…

Wish me luck, please.

Chin-chin for the mo, Muskies,

Ian H., and Cardinal W., one perhaps not the brightest little fairy-light on the Christmas tree, but the other one one hell of a boat.


    1. TBH, so was I. I shall try to find the source of the mysterious Llangollen again some time, perhaps though in winter, or when most of the population is dead. 🙂

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    1. Now that’s an idea that has wheels – I love it. I shall begin by experimenting with Father’s Gatling cannon. Happy, happy days of my youth, winding the handle as he and Mother loaded hot shot while Bro and Sis swept the decks with grape and powder monkeys.

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      1. Given the recoil on those punt guns you could be shunted to a mooring miles away with no effort whatsoever, as a bonus, leaving you far from the scene of the crime when the police arrive to hand out a note for the boat owners’ insurance.


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