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70 now and our five wonderful years aboard our narrowboat Skyy seem along time ago. Jacquie, allowed me to build my replica three wheeler kit car, which was a great success. Now it's time to start on a bigger project and that is to make a good Triumph Stag even better, here goes.

Monday, 30 May 2011



Wet and windy, that’s a description of the weather, not our attitude to tackling the eighteen locks of the Aston Canal. There was no sign of anybody, naughty or not, as we set off at eight o’clock, but the foul weather saw to that as well as the gentrified accommodation which has incorporated the original cranes and basins that have replaced all the old foundries and factories at Ancoats. Our progress was slowed at lock two where the water in the pound was reduced to protect a dam that separated the canal from a new marina that was in its final stages of construction next to the high rise apartments at Islington Wharf.

The Beswick section of locks is beside the impressive Sport City Stadium, which was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and is now home to Manchester City Football Club as well as a host of other sporting centres. The weather was truly appalling, but Jacquie preferred to work the locks rather than trying to control the boat is the high winds. The sighting of an Aldi store near lock 13 was all it needed for Jacquie to insist that we pause for some essential supplies and a spot of lunch and I took the opportunity to light the stove to help us warm up and dry out for when we finally reached our destination.

The wind dropped and for the last few locks and a couple of swing bridges Jacquie took the helm and I applied the muscle, by the time we reached Portland Basin at the Dukinfield Junction with the Hudderfield Narrow and the Peak Forest Canals, the rain had stopped and we also felt the need to stop.

We entered The Portland Basin Marina only to find that it didn’t open out as we expected, but got tighter and tighter, but we were given a warm welcome and invited to tie up for the night alongside the service area.



It was time to tackle the infamous Rochdale Nine. Well we know from last years experience that it is not so daunting, just hard work. There is often a lot of water running over the top of the gates and some have a drum and chain arrangement to winch the gates open and closed and that can be tricky working out which way to turn the handle, Unfortunately right at the top we encountered a boat coming down, the owner of which appeared not to have a clue as to what he was doing, leaving paddles open and shutting gates when it was obvious we wanted to enter, despite our helping him. It’s a wonder as he must have come either come the Rochdale or the Aston flights and should have learnt something by then.

We were safely tucked up beside an office block on the other side to the towpath in the Ducie Street Basin ready for an early night and an equally early start in the morning This is suggested to avoid naughty boys that used to frequent these locks especially at weekends.



During my early morning walk with Duggie I came upon this interesting plaque, I assume it was an ancient urinal of some description, but I can’t find a definitive explanation. Any answers?

Jacquie had wanted to visit the Lowry Gallery at Salford Quays the last time we were in Manchester, but it didn’t happen, this time however we caught the Metro and alighted at the Quays, We had no idea that the docks here, were so large and now totally unused except by small sail boats and canoes. It was all very smart though and comprised a outlet shopping centre, The Imperial War Museum North as well as the Lowry Foundation, which is a theatre as well as the gallery. We both enjoyed this comprehensive collection of Lowry’s work and our understanding of this simple but complex man was aided by an excellent twenty minute film.

In the afternoon I enjoyed an amble around the Museum of Science and Industry, but before I could complete my tour of the sewers it was closing time. There are so many halls to explore, Power, Electric, Gas, Flight, to mention a few it’s not possible to do it all in one go.



True to his word Wayne had four, 25lt containers lined up ready as we moored alongside his wide beam boat. A hand pump neatly discharged their contents into our tank with hardly a drop spilt. Wayne’s business should do well as there are no boatyards for miles in either direction and the marina has no electric hook up all boat owners there have to run their engines or use generators to keep batteries topped up. His Granddad, Elias Grimshaw had worked the canals all his life and the nearby bridge had been named after him so it seemed appropriate that Wayne’s new business should be called after his celebrated Granddad and we wish him success.

We continued through the three locks back into Wigan, on the way I photographed the bronze statue of a very tired looking coalman leaning against the information board at Wigan Pier. We then turned onto the Leigh Branch and up two locks. It was now a straight run into Manchester and whilst I walked along the towpath I saw this lovely cuddle of goslings. The canal is now set high above the surrounding land, as the old coal mine works collapsed the ground sunk and large lakes formed and the canal had to be continually built up resulting in the two locks at Dover Inn disappearing. The only obstruction was the Plank Lane swing bridge, which is now a BW operated lift bridge, immediately beyond the bridge contractors were putting the finishing touches to a large, newly dredged area of water, the use of which eludes me, it could possible be moorings for the nearby pub, but I doubt it, anybody know the answer?

We bypassed the town of Leigh and were now on the Bridgewater Canal clearly indicated by the ubiquitous crane and stop boards at every bridge hole. Soon the old pit head winding gear of a coal mine appeared over the roof tops which indicates that this is where the Astley Green Colliery Museum is situated, sadly we didn’t have time to stop.

We slowed as we approached the sharp turn at Worsley, this is where the canal network started. The Duke of Bridgewater wanting an easy way to get the coal out of his mines and had a bright idea that floating it out in boats might work, it did and maybe floating it all the way into Manchester would also be a good idea, it was and that in a nutshell is what spawned Britain’s canal mania and the Industrial Revolution. The entrance to these old mine workings are still there in un-navigable waters beyond the bridge passed Worsley Old Hall, the black and white timbered court house. The water here is also bright orange, coloured by dissolved iron ore still leaching from the old mines.

Around the next corner at Parrin Lane Bridge, somebody has thoughtfully erected a lighthouse, apart from saying ‘No To The Incinerator’ as far as I can see, it’s only purpose is to say, that the age of folly building is not totally dead, hoo ray. However the purpose of the Barton Swing Aqueduct that carries the canal over the Manchester Ship Canal is very clear. I don’t know whether there is now any traffic coming up the Ship Canal that would necessitate the aqueduct to be swung, but the fact that it could is amazing.

Passed the Trafford Shopping Centre, the management of which has thoughtfully provided moorings to ensnare passing boaters and a left turn at Waters Meeting and we were back onto familiar waters at we travelled the last couple of miles into the centre of Manchester City with the Ship Canal paralleling us at a lower level. This had been one of our longest days cruising and we were pleased to turn into the moorings at Castlefield only to find it full, we did finally squeeze into a space beside the Merchants Warehouse, albeit shrouded at each end by a willow tree. Pretty!

Sunday, 29 May 2011



Whilst we had been in Liverpool Jacquie had been doing a lot of research about marine batteries and we had very conflicting advice about fitting AGM batteries, but David Milner of
WWW.pbbatteries.com had been very helpful and recommended that if we had the space we should fit six, six volt deep cycle batteries, this type are fitted to industrial floor cleaners and pallet trucks and are used to deep discharge and repeated recharging. I measured up, it would be tight, but they should fit OK. The cost would be nearly two and a half times that of replacement 135AH batteries, but we were assured they would pay for themselves in the long run, we bit the bullet and asked when thay could be fitted and Thursday 19th was agreed.

During the Wednesday we were gradually able to move SKYY back as close to the car park as possible in readiness for the batteries to be delivered and fitted and spent the rest of the day doing the usual chores and shopping.

At 7am on Thursday morning I heard a text come through on my mobile and it was Will of Powercell, saying that he would be with us at 8am, was this OK? Well it would be, if we got out of bed straight away and bang on time Will drove into the car park. Will was obviously much stronger than me, as he had no problem in just lifting the old batteries out, unlike me when previously I had to devise a method of levering them over the lip of the battery box. The new batteries did fit in the box with just a millimetre to spare and by 11.30 all was reconnected and the volt metre was showing a healthy 12.5 volts. We thanked Will and we will be keeping our fingers crossed for some time, hopeful that these new batteries will last at least three to four years.

We got moving straight away stopping just before Crooke, there is a marina there with a B for boatyard shown in the guide, but with no details and I hoped that we might be able to get some diesel tomorrow as it was now too late in the day. As we walked Duggie passed the Marina, which was on the non towpath side, we shouted across the canal to a chap on the stern of his boat, asking if the marina sold diesel, he asked how much we needed and I replied about 100lt and to my surprise he said no problem, just more up alongside him in the morning and he would fill us up. It transpired that Wayne was in the process of setting up a coal, gas and diesel, mobile floating service, but as yet the boat wasn’t ready, but the diesel was. I would sleep well tonight knowing we would soon have a full tank of fuel.

Sunday, 22 May 2011



Monday morning and the wind was blowing as strong as ever as the same three boats we arrived with all prepared to leave the dock. Lots of throttle was the answer as we powered our way across the open expanse of water and arrived at the first of the locks to be greeted by the same BW chaps who escorted us in just a few days previously. About five hours later we bade them farewell as we passed through Swing Bridge 9.

We stopped for a late lunch, before carrying on another couple of hours to Haskayne. The Ship Inn sounded quite appealing in the Nicholson’s Guide, but we weren’t so sure when we arrived, but it was too late to go any further and in fact the food was simple fayre, but good. The only problem was, that last orders for food was 8.15, not a problem for us, as we were there in plenty of time, until it came to order desert at 8.30 and was told that the kitchen was closed, however the land lady did manage to rustle up cold apple pie and ice cream for the boys and just ice cream for the girls.

We got Ann and Brian back to their car in Burscough by Tuesday lunch time and sent them on their way with big hugs for being such good crew and great company.



There are three ‘Yellow Duckmarines’ giving visitors a tour of the city centre and the docks, these are converted WW11 DUKW amphibious craft and they enter and leave the docks via a slipway at the other corner to our moorings in Salthouse dock. I never managed to get a picture of them entering the dock, as all you hear is a blast on its hooter, a shriek, then a flash of yellow as the craft roars down the slipway sending a bow wave right over the top of the duck and setting all the pontoons and narrow boats bobbin up and down.

Our day began in Nauticalia bewitched by all of the goodies therein and the rest of the day was spent in the Maritime Museum. It’s a lot of museum and we started in the Slavery section before moving onto the Titanic and other galleries. Brian and I hadn’t seen everything, but it was time to collect Duggie and go for a walk along the Mersey, our plan was thwarted by the wind, out of the shelter of the dock buildings we could hardly stand up straight. We compromised by walking around the Albert Dock soaking up the atmosphere and helped by the few old sailing boats moored up we tried to visualise what it must have looked like in it’s working life.

In the evening we walked to the nearby, very futuristically designed shopping centre and dined on an upper level in the Yee Rah restaurant, predominantly Thai, but fortunately for me they served an international cuisine and I enjoyed a pasta. From out elevated position one of the new buildings in its final stage of construction, looked for all the world like the black prow of a transatlantic liner coming into dock, could the architects have been so imaginative?

Brian and I finished our exploration of the museum on Sunday morning whilst the girls immersed themselves in modern art in the Tate Gallery, we met for lunch and then wandered into the city centre, admiring the grand buildings. We dined on board that evening and prepared for an early departure the next day.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011



The 60% chance of rain looked remote as we woke to a lovely sunny morning albeit still very windy. We moved onto Bridge Nine in plenty of time and whilst we waited for the BW guys to arrive, another Mini Schnauzer and owner walked passed. This little fella was called Milo and was only nine months old, both dogs instantly recognised each other as being distantly related and a man hug ensued, but in the photo it looks like Brian is the puppet master.

There were four boats in total waiting to be escorted into Liverpool and the skippers were given a briefing by the two friendly BW chaps, but we had re-read the skippers notes and studied the map of the docks last night and felt confident about what lay ahead. BW would operate the two swing bridges and we should try to keep together to minimise the delay to traffic, the second one should be reached in about forty minutes. We would then be on our own until we reached Stanley Locks which would take at least another two hours. A stop at Litherland Services, just before Bootle was expected, for pumpout, rubbish etc. and a quick nip into the large Tesco’s if required.

Again there was nothing spectacular about this part of the trip except the amount of rubbish in the canal, but fortunately it didn’t find our propeller attractive. However the 1861 Leigh Bridge just before the locks was very smart in its black and white livery. The weather forecast proved itself correct and gradually the cloud increased and by the time we turned towards the Stanley Locks the rain descended.

BW did all of the work dropping us down forty four feet and we emerged from the locks into Stanley Docks, surrounded by a derelict tobacco warehouse on the left and an unspecified but equally derelict warehouse on the right. Straight ahead was a bascule bridge the other side of which was the Victoria Clock Tower, sadly all its four faces told a different time.

Our route was clearly marked by strings of orange buoys and they lead us into a cutting through several filled in docks and then into a newly constructed lock, again BW were on hand to operate the lock and immediately we entered the first of three tunnels, emerging briefly for views of the Three Graces, The Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building. Another lock and we were in Canning Dock passing several dry docks before entering the famous Albert Dock and passing into our home for the next few days, Salthouse Dock.

Our allocated berth was Pontoon S8 tucked into the corner and sheltered from the wind. We were soon plugged into the shore power and the pumpout boat was quickly alongside, following our phone call to Liverpool Marina and the charge was still only £10. If we had asked for diesel, the operator would have ensured that he had some on board and at 78p a litre, it would have made sense to have filled our tank. Sadly my camera battery also ran flat, so some of the pictures shown were taken on our return journey.

A quick wash and brush up and we were out for a preliminary reconnoitre of what Albert Dock had to offer. The weather was decidedly stormy, but we managed to escape the worst of the rain. It was a difficult deciding which restaurant that we would grace with our presence later, but Miller & Carter was eventually selected and didn’t disappoint.



Duggie was in need of a haircut and some while back Jacquie contacted a dog groomer in Burscough and made arrangements for her to collect Duggie on Wednesday morning. Marge arrived exactly on time and Duggie happily jumped into her car and we waved goodbye, hoping for the best. In the meantime we brought SKYY up and moored her right alongside the car park and then went and did a big shop in Tesco’s and by the time we had done, a call from Marge said he was ready to return and what a lovely cut she had given him and the other good news was that he wasn’t nearly as much trouble as we had lead her to believe.

First thing in the morning before all of the above I walked Dug back down to the Rufford Branch and what a picturesque junction this is. An old dry dock surrounded by cottages is tucked in between the tow path bridge and the top lock and little swing bridge, one of the cottages is for sale, tempting, but not yet!
Brian and Ann arrived late in the afternoon after a tiring three hour journey, but a glass or two and then supper and they were relaxed. An early night was called for as we had fourteen miles and numerous swing bridges to negotiate before we would arrive at Bridge Ten tomorrow, this was where the guys from BW said that we should overnight before meeting up with them on Friday morning at Bridge Nine at nine o’clock.

Thursdays forecast was heavy rain showers, but although the weather was cloudy and windy the rain didn’t arrive. The journey to Bridge Ten was not particularly exciting, apart from some ivy covered road bridges, but the swing bridges keep you on your toes. They range from fully manual, to fully automatic and every conceivable variation in between. Some are purely for pedestrians, others for farm traffic, but some actually allow us the power to hold up real traffic, smashing!

Bridge Ten was one of those only occasionally used by farm traffic and is almost equidistant between the M57 and M58 motorways, but far enough away to ensure a peaceful night’s mooring. The only thing spoiling the tranquillity of this spot was the smell of bad eggs, our remaining three batteries obviously complaining and within a couple of hours the ‘Low Battery’ warning light was flashing on the inverter, it looks like we will definitely have to replace them as soon as possible.



The weather was stormy so we stayed put at Gathurst on Monday, but a walk up to Shevington between the showers brought to our notice the ‘Roburite Centre’ I assumed in my usual silly manner that this must be a government training centre for burglars, ensuring that they would emerge fully competent in all aspects of robbery.

The weather improved by Tuesday and we needed to move on. We took on water just below Dean Lock and continued through one more lock and three swing bridges before Parbold and it’s attractive old mill came into view. A couple of miles later the junction with the Rufford Branch turned off under a stone tow path bridge, this eventually leads onto the River Douglas and for the intrepid sailor, the tidal River Ribble and the Lancaster Canal, but not for us, Liverpool was still our destination. As we approached Burscough Bridge a interesting boat called Elizabeth caught the eye, how the owner managed to get his motorbike perched on the gunnel is a bit of a mystery.

We moored for the night just before the town, but an evening walk with Duggie revealed a decent sized Tesco’s, but most importantly, a car park, with no restrictions that backed right up to the tow path, ideal for when Ann and Brian join us again on Wednesday. The old wharf has just emerged from a major refurbishment, interesting shops, including one selling delicious ice cream, a tea shop and a smart restaurant surround the courtyard and there is also the beginnings of a chandlery. Boaters services have also been reopened with all the usual facilities, but no pumpout.