Biennial bum-blackery, by Mr Bill Shakespode.

Thank’ees most kindly go to Venetian Marina for the excellent job done. Cardinal Wolsey got a lollipop for behaving himself in a most admirable fashion during the treatment.

The Cardinal photographed here below (thank’ee Bigsby) in “hover mode” waiting for the dry dock to be de-dried. His cunning electronics keep him centred in the bay with just a low, background electrical hum from the technotronic magnetious quasi-peregrinable multi-dimensional recoil-free drive-flanges.

Photo by Bigsby of Venetian Marina, Cheshire: Cardinal Wolsey in Impulse Engine Hover-Mode.

We entered this vi-cin-it-ee of course with The Universe snapping at our heels, as is our medium-length felt wont. I was going to await the date at our previous moorings for another day or three but the madness came upon me and my hind-brain said ‘Move!’, so we moved. Scared the hell out of folks to see the Cardinal emerging from Cholmondeston Lock in daylight!

Storm Arwen saw me somewhat less than wisely moored out in the middle of Windy Alley (perhaps behind the hedgerow would have been better), and my goodness me, Matron, we haven’t had a blow like that for about five years. Sixty mph I reckon, mid-fifties sayeth the Met Office. Blowing off the towpath (an unusual north wind) and making the covers flap like sails in distress.

The Canal Company Ltd’s notice about “vegetation” came through with many others; a fallen tree somewhere around about the stretch where I had been moored when hind-brain said ‘computer says no – MOVE NOW!’

Chances are if we hadn’t moved I’d have either been stuck on the wrong side of the downed tree or perhaps worse. Thank you, Hind Brain. Moral of the story is, unless they involve gerbils and the tubes from catering rolls of tin foil, listen to your urges.

Close as we then were of course on the day that the Cardinal and I had been asked to present ourselves on the workshop pontoons the canal was frozen over. Not Arctic style, just a skim thick enough to form sheets in Windy Alley, and a slushy crunch all the way through the marina. On the way to blacking is the perfect time to encounter ice, but that still says nought for other folk’s boat hulls and blacking, so – while preferably not moving at all in ice – if there’s no choice then slowly and uber-gently is the modus, with a tiny tad of extra urge when even a thin ice sheet can make a turning narrowboat… slightly sluggish at the helm. I hope that we didn’t annoy too many folk on the moorings…

Blacking? I hear the “woke” brigade bristling and reaching for the blood-stained Censorious Pick-Axe Handle of Cancellation.


Tis the process of oiking a boat out of water, blasting off the hull, and slapping on some coats of black “paint” protection for the steel. Tis also a time to check the anodes, and the Cardinal’s twelve look to have plenty of life left in them yet. When next we’re out of the water I’ll have eight fresh ones bunged on and that’ll make twenty overall in various states of sacrificial sacrificity. Sic.

Cardinal Wolsey 508533 in dry dock at Venetian Marina, Cheshire December 2021

Tis also a time to show you the shape of a narrowboat’s hull below the waterline, and a glimpse of Mr Propeller and Mr Rudder.

Mr Rudder and Mr Prop

The question is oft asked by passers-by ‘don’t you get fed up of crouching down all of the time?’. The Cardinal, like most narrowboats, shows just a little bit of rudder when afloat, so the waterline – where most towpath-walkers imagine the baseplate to be – is at about the first (lowest) rubbing strip. There’s lots of boat below that. Headroom in the Cardinal is 6′ 6″.

Indeed, there are three significant steps down from the rear deck (and each step a cupboard filled with engineering necessities at the stern), and, not surprisingly, a further three steps up again at the bow doors, each step there also being storage of necessitations abounding.

The interior “floor” of the Cardinal is perhaps 4″ above the (flat) baseplate; room for ballast, air-gap, insulation and oak wood-floor (cool on the old Hutson paddy-paws but oh so practical when walking in bits of muddy towpath).

That hatch that’s open in the photomatograph above gives access to the “weed hatch”, which is wot r a watertight hatch giving access to the propeller, clearing rubbish away from for the use of when necessary. It’s a bit of a rib-cracker as I discovered to my cost last time twas needed, getting down prone on the rear deck and reaching down into the water.

The bestest sight of the whole process is, natch, the Cardinal being roped out of the workshop and returned to Hutson hands. 🙂

The Workers roping the Cardinal back into the daylight… 😉

Reversing – neither I nor the Cardinal together “do” reversing, most especially so with a marina audience, but needs must when the Devil derives (old mathematical aphorism, although some term it a mere proverb domestique) – back out from the workshop pontoons, turn and thence away. It’s a bit shallow at the edges because the marina, in its natural course of events, doesn’t get quite the constant traffic of the cut…

…via Messrs Chandlery (coal by arrangement, thank’ee), and the tap at the top (water by pipework, thank’ee – S.U.M.B.A., I think?)…

A most convenient water point… except during high season when the queue for the lock smothers all in confusion and fisticuffs

…and to our current moorings whereupon the Cardinal and I will whisper sweet nothings to one another (something about never being separated again until next time, or until Hell experiences a disconvenient environmental exothermic unbalance, or until Boris et al go full Nazi).

The well deck is looking mightily happy once again…

The only way to heat (and cook) on a boat on the cut.

…and I can feel a curry approaching.

Messrs boat domestic batteries were of necessity mildly unhappy after their sojourn under a roof where Messrs Solar-Panels cannot see the Sun, but a little work yesterday and some more today has seen them achieve and enjoy “float” status once more. We shall cosset them and coddle them until they’ve forgotten all about “the indoor experience”.

So there you have it.

The Blacking.

The Cardinal’s bottom laid bare for all to see.

Chin-chin for the mo, Muskies.

Ian H., and Cardinal W.


  1. That’s a fine picture that makes the Cardinal look like he is hovering in thin air (and him showing his bottom!) He’s very cameragenic. Pleased you didn’t have to sleep rough, must have been good to be back on water again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My son has his boat in the marina at Brighton, so he has shelly stuff to contend with, like barnacles and stuff. He says he needs to get it out soon and scrape. (Or get someone else to do the scraping!
    Still, the Cardinal’s bottom does look handsome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Anti-Fouling’ sounds like some sort of wild pressure group that’s going to block motorways (or harbour entrances) until the Government legislates to stop dog poop from condemning the human species to a certain doom…

      Best of luck with scraping the barnacles!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well I remember my years drifting across the Pacific on a raft made out of old household servants. The sky, the stars, the trail of champagne corks that I left bobbing in my wake in case I wished to retrace my steps… the sharks…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I never bothered blacking our hull. It seemed an awful lot of bother and expense just to have it all scraped off again two weeks later on any given, uncared for stretch of gravel bottomed cut.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First order of the day on collection was up through Cholmondeston Lock, so the first clatter-bangs are over and done with. I shall likely be mildly hysterical next time the cut freezes over… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I missed you’re manoeuvring to leave the marina, would you be so kind as to return and try again? Most kindly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wilco.

      It was but a simple reverse off the workshop pontoons, and you know how the Cardinal and I love reversing… a turn with an audience (not dissimilar to ‘Watch With Mother’) and thence onto Sue’s wharf, then over for the lock. All with brand spanking new blacking to worry about. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Keep well away from those trees as we are having another very windy week according to TV this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Currently with just hedgerow alongside and no large trees threatening. just the way I (and the solar panels) like it! This winter has begun early and begun in earnest.

      Hope you’re all swelligant and fine and dandy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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