Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Those were the days too

As I said in my previous post, you had to be hardy to survive on some of those mid-winter hireboat trips in the 1970s.  

Cooking for twelve

Apart from the relative lack of sanitation, catering facilities were primitive to say the least. Imagine cooking-up a meal for twelve hungry boaters in this kitchen. But we ate well. I recall curries, hearty stews, the oh-so-sophisticated "sausages in cider"  and a cheese-and-potato concoction that went by the name of "Cheese Bleugh"

The guilty steerer with the rudder back at base.
We had to be hardy in other ways too. Before the days of mobile phones contacting the boatyard,
BW or anyone else to report problems wasn't very easy, especially when they occurred in the middle-of-nowhere.  Friday, 3rd January 1975 was one such day for the crew of Elm. An "alarm clock failure" led to a late start and then they damaged the boat's rudder by hitting a cill on Hurlestone Locks. They carried on to Barbridge Junction and rang the boatyard from there, but really there was no option but to carry on back to Middlewich, which they did fighting the steering all the way.

Then they broke a window and lost a mallet in the canal, although I don't know if these two things were related. Perhaps mindful of what was left of their deposit it was successfully retreived from a very cold cut.

The boats weren't fitted with weed-hatches and obstructions on the prop had to be cleared in the

traditional manner (albeit without the traditional skills) using a boathook, or when that failed by getting in the water!  (This wasn't a Willow Wren boat, but you get the idea).

Breaking the ice near Macclesfield
No way ahead at Congleton
The weather on most trips is remembered as wet and gloomy, one reason for the relative lack of photos. The short days meant setting off at - or before - dawn and continuing well after dark. 1975-6 was different however: Clear blue skies but very cold, especially on the Macclesfield Canal. After several days fighting our way through the ice to Marple only to find that our projected route around the rest of the Cheshire Ring was closed we fought our way back as far as Congleton where, for the only time we had to abandon the boats as we could make no further progress.  Mr Kearns at Middlewich wasn't
too bothered but he was very grateful when some of the crew offered to return the following weekend and bring the boats home. This no doubt saved him a great deal of trouble and the crew saw it as a free boat trip, so everyone was happy.

"Good" visibility
1972-3 was noted for another hazard: fog.  On the T&M north from Middlewich  visibility was almost non-existent. The original caption for this photo says "good visibility: bad visibility was half of this" and I remember as a steerer receiving instructions from a spotter on the bow, who I could not see, relayed to me by a second lookout amidships.  It's just as well, perhaps that no one else was on the move although the weather did make some rather eerie photos possible.  
Industry and fog over Northwich

I enjoyed my later boating on Starcross and I still enjoy an occasional trip on other people's boats but somehow nothing will ever recapture the sense of fun and adventure of those early years.


Alf said...

Interested in your photo of the damaged rudder as in the background I can see the space to the right of the houses where the Junction Inn once stood, & where 2 years later the house which we once owned was built !

Steve B said...

My chief memory of the 1972/3 trip was the fog, which never seemed to leave us. It didn't make for good photos, though I did manage an eerie shot across the canal at Runcorn and a few more of the Anderton boats tied-up at Preston Brook. I remember all the shouting between bow and stern. We'd use mobile phones now.