Hilary has been offered a couple of days work a week in late April and May in Manchester and has suggested it might be a good idea to take Starcross there to use as a base. The direct route, via Preston Brook and the Bridgewater Canal is still closed following last Autumn's breach at Dutton, but that's fine; it'll give me an opportunity to do the Cheshire Locks and the Macclesfield instead.
So the plan is to set off the week after next and get quickly to Marple. Then to slow down a bit and explore the Peak Forest Canal, while Hil commutes into Manchester during the day, before moving on to Manchester itself.
We have to be at Silsden, on the Yorkshire side of the Leeds & Liverpool, for the end of May to join my brother who, despite never having shown any previous interest, is hiring a boat along with his two children and their partners to celebrate his 60th Birthday. We will join them for a few days before returning via the Aire & Calder, Calder & Hebble and Rochdale Canals back to this side of the Pennines.
I've sent the word out to potential crew and already had a couple of takers for May - the fact that nearly all of us are at least semi-retired these days makes it easier - and I am slowly educating people that an offer of a few days' boating is NOT an appeal for "help"! I'm quite happy to go along single-handed most of the time, but I feel I'm extremely fortunate in having Starcross and I like to share that good fortune with others. The "others" however appear sometimes to misunderstand my motives! On the odd occasion I do feel that I need help, such as on the Tidal Trent last year I will definitely ask for it and, in fact, I'll have to break off from my trip for a few days in May to return the favour to Bernard on Sunshine, when it will be my turn to give him a hand down from Newark to Keadby.
Assuming the breach at Dutton is fixed I'll come back that way to Middlewich, perhaps in time for the Boat and Folk Festival, followed by the Historic Working Boat Gathering at Braunston at the end of June. Then it will be back to Uplands Basin, where Starcross is booked in for blacking in July.