The day started with a hazy sunrise, and a lot of “getting organised”… there were dogs, cars, bags, and husbands; all of which required some level of organisation. Wives, it seems, are born organised.
In fact, the not-so famous five were so efficient that they (we) were all underway early.
Now that I was no longer the most junior member of the team (thanks to Jerry), I felt capable of carrying all four breakfast baps on my own. This was to be my first mistake of the holiday, somehow I managed to squirt hot egg yolk all down my t-shirt. Maybe I should’ve just let Jerry carry them for me?
After breakfast, and a few more miles on the road, we arrived at our destination. The Anderton Marina.
We were a little early (despite the breakfast stop), and so decided to take a walk. We found ourselves at the Anderton lift, a feat of engineering that takes boats from the canal down onto the much lower river, and vice versa. It was interesting to look at, but we didn’t really have the time or inclination to actually go on it just then. Instead we turned around and headed back to the marina, where we were allowed to get on the boat.
After decanting all of our belongings into various cubby holes, taking receipt of a Tesco’s food delivery, and a quick show and tell of the boats basic features (all the same as last year), we were off.
The Captain expertly navigated us through and out of the narrow marina exit, an inch perfect manoeuvre.
Trevor then took on the main driving duties, easily slipping back into the habit.
Elaine navigated, I documented everything (taking photos and a few video clips), and Jerry, as Ship’s Dog, was chief of security – making sure no one tried to hijack the boat. He’s so good at this job, in fact, that he can often do it with his eyes closed.
The excitement of being back on the canal again was soon heightened even further when we learned we had not one, not two, but three tunnels to negotiate straight away! The first was around 500 metres long, the second was just over 400 metres, and the third was more than 1,000 metres (it took around 20 minutes to travel from entrance to exit on that one tunnel alone).
Jerry wasn’t so keen on the tunnels, but he was a brave boy and didn’t cry too much. I think the rest of us made more noise than he did, when we each got dripped on by cold, dirty water.
For the middle tunnel, we were followed by what sounded like a boat full of lads on a stag party: horn beeping constantly, lots of manly bravado, and shouting. We pushed on through the tunnel, then pulled over to allow the youthful group to overtake, after all they were travelling far quicker than us.
To our surprise the “lads” turned out to be a group of men in their sixties, with wives and children in tow. Not what we expected at all.
They all seemed quite well lubricated, so much so that moments later they ran aground and had no idea how to get out of it.
They didn’t seem to need or want our help so we chugged on by and left them behind.
At around this point in the day someone thought they’d break one of the central rules of canal boat hiring… they shimmied along the very, very narrow edge of the moving boat (very naughty!) to check if the tiny but annoying tv aerial on the roof of the barge was fixed in place, or whether it could be moved out of the way completely as it was “ruining the view” from the tiller, apparently.
Can you guess who it was?
Anyway this adventurous person returned unscathed, and the tv aerial is most definitely bolted to the roof.
Last year Elaine and I conducted a very in-depth and serious investigation into the feeding habits of canal ducks. The results were somewhat inconclusive, and so we are back to add further depth to this vital study. We can confirm so far that homemade white chocolate cookies are a hit. The experiment continues.
There was only one lock to operate today, and as soon as it approached Elaine and I stepped up to perform our duty. Unfortunately, the lock in question probably had a total drop in height of around an inch. Just a single inch. I’m not sure why the lock was there at all. But this is what we came here for, so we put maximum effort into it.
At some point we all decided that we should hop onto the Bridgewater Canal, known as the first canal in Britain. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and whilst it wasn’t the worst way to travel into Runcorn, it was far from the best.
The canal became more clatty as we went on (clatty is an Irish word for dirty), with bottles, bags, tins, and even an old wooden chair strewn in the water. We couldn’t avoid the chair and ended up driving right over it, with a bit of a bang.
Whilst parts of this stretch of water were pleasant, most of it was quite urban and felt rather unfriendly. Which is a shame really. This sense of not being welcome culminated near the end of the canal when we were told in no uncertain terms by “local experts” (boat owners sat outside their club house), that we could not, under any circumstances, turn our boat around in their small marina area, despite the fact there was plenty of room, no warning sign, and Trevor had done a good job of pretty much turning the boat around before the shouted at us.
The Captain stepped in at this point, kept her cool, and (after a moments hesitation) chose not to anger the locals and instead took us to the very end of the canal, where she elegantly performed yet another tight 180° turn (with a little pole work from Trevor) and took us back past the locals.
We did get our revenge though, in the form of Jerry pooping on the ground exactly opposite their miserable marina (however we are not thugs, so I cleaned it up like any good and responsible dog owner would).
The weather has definitely been on our side, glorious sunshine all day long. We took advantage of this by pushing on until after 8PM, allowing us to leave the Bridgewater Canal behind completely, and to moor up in a quieter, more rural location.
Spaghetti Bolognese for tea, and a reasonably early night. Day One in the bag.