Here we go again - planning for a cruise! Ha!

Starting from Mercia Marina (see lower right on map) we are planning to cruise the Trent and Mersey canal through Stoke on Trent, where we pick up Phyllis and Gerard, friends from Australia. After negotiating the mighty HarecastleTunnel we turn north up the tranquil Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals to the hurly-burly of Manchester.

 Assuming we leave Manchester alive, it will be via the Bridgewater canal and then we cross over to the Shropshire Union canal at Middlewich and, if time permits, detour north to Chester and Ellesmere Port.

Then back down the Shropshire Union to Wolverhampton where we double back up the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal to rejoin the Trent and Mersey at Great Haywood. On home to Mercia.

We are planning to leave mid-July and spend up to six weeks pottering about these (mainly) narrow canals. All family and friends are welcome on a first-come first-served basis.

Click here to see the route on CanalPlanAC. If that doesn't work (it doesn't in some versions of IE) go to and enter 2705_K9xJNhXB5j in the search box. Then click on 'Calculate Route'.

If we do the whole route it will be 284 miles, 184 locks, 8 tunnels and 5 moveable bridges in about 150 hours of actual cruising.

1stLook7th July 2013
We have been here almost a week now and the big news is that the weather is GREAT! It is 90 degrees F in the boat as I write, though that's unusual, Basil usually is cool and airy. The boat is in better nick than usual. One toilet tank valve malfunction, the fresh water valve would not shut off and I stood dumbfounded as the bowl slowly filled with water. Fortunately, Justin at Aqua Narrowboats came up with a spare and I fixed it. I have just finished installing 200 watts of solar panels on the roof and they are currently running the whole boat with no problem. Of course, this is an atypical day, but they should help when we are cruising.

Tomorrow we are going to Italy for a week; a trip which we planned when we thought the UK weather was going to be typical (rain, cold, windy, etc.). I will write more when we get back.

First Look at the Trent & Mersey Canal

July 13th
Como Panorama
 We are here in Como, Italy after a comfortable two hour BA  flight over and a short train ride. I selected the Hotel Metropole Suisse by looking at several reviews on TripAdvisor and other sites. I booked through Expedia (something I do not usually do - I always think it's better to book direct) and was afraid that we would be given a bad room, but we got the best room in the place. We have a balcony with a view over the boat dock to the lake and mountains beyond. We have spent hours just gazing at the view and watching throngs of people walking the promenade and boarding the boats. There are all nationalities here, but predominately Italians. Most of them are 40 years younger than us and gorgeous. It's giving Barb waistline angst.
Hotel Metropole from the Funiculare

View from our Balcony
Como from the Lake
Politically, Italy is in a sad state. The odious Berlusconi is about to be locked up for having sex with a child, though the slippery eel may yet escape as he has in the past. The Eurozone crisis has left Italy destitute and prey to the Northern euro bloc, predominantly Germany, who seem to think the Mediterranean countries are a bunch of wastrels who should be punished when, in fact, it is the North that has greatly benefited from the Southern inclusion in the European Union. Germany was unable to conquer Europe by force and now it seems to many Italians that they are trying to do it by economic blitzkrieg. Personally I think the Eurozone will never be viable until it can issue Eurobonds, as the USA does. That's not likely to happen any time soon, though.

Taverna in Torno
Como Via
Como Street Scene
Duck Nest
Duck's Nest in a Flowerpot in Torno
(Five ducklings with more to come)
Barb by Lake Como
Como Piazza
In Como there is little sign of any of these woes or any recession. The streets are thronged, business appears to be booming, although waiters tell us things ain't what they used to be. There are no beggars or homeless on the streets. Italy is surprisingly expensive. England is currently a cheaper holiday destination; a reversal of recent history. There is plenty to do here. We rode the funiculare up the mountain to the west of town and were rewarded with stunning views over Como and the lake. Lake Como is, of course, the prime attraction and we took full advantage - cruising around on the ferries and stopping off at little villages clinging precariously to the edge of the lake. Numerous cafes and tarvernas are a feature of every town and village. Never crowded, always offering fantastic views of the lake and mountains, these little romantic gems are well worth hanging out in. I must say, the food is a little disappointing. We have had better Italian food in other countries. One exception is the pasta which is always home made and really good. The best restaurant so far has been in our own hotel.
Lake Lugano
Harley Week in Lugano
Romeo! Romeo! Wherefore Art Thou, Romeo?
One day we took a trip by train into Lugano in Switzerland. I had been there on my first trip out of England as a kid, but I remembered not a thing - except the big fountain on the edge of the lake which impressed my 13 year old self mightily at the time. Now, it's just another fountain, yawn. Harley Davidson Week was in full swing on the waterfront - we always seem to bump into Harley festivals - last year it was in Matlock Bath. We sank $100 in short order on a boat ride round the lake and a couple of mediocre paninis for lunch. By and large, Switzerland lived up to my prejudices - a squeaky clean, expensive and very boring country that happens to be gifted with some of the best scenery on the planet. Slartibartfast's mate must have had a joyous time on this one.
Lugano Panorama
Lugano Panorama

Barb and I are rubbing along fine. She's having many fits of hysterics, usually generated by my awkward attempts to engage the locals in some way or other, minus any language skills. We return to London on Monday (15th) and then back on the boat on Wednesday.

July 21st

Cafe TerraceA few parting notes about Como - On the last day there we took the Funiculare up to the top and then a bus to the top of the mountain. We had a very expensive (85 euros) lunch of pasta and polenta on the terrace of a little cafe with stunning views over Lake Como. On the bus we met Alberto and Vera who live on a little house on the hill for the summer, retreating to Como in the winter. They invited us in and we spent a half hour cracking jokes and hearing stories of their 8 grandchildren. Vera, whom Alberto calls "Snow White" (Snow White and the 8 dwarfs, geddit?) was a little more reticent and spoke no English at all. Alberto has several old Fiat sports cars which he is restoring and an amazing attic full of artifacts ranging from a sailing ship to some primitive artwork, all of which he did himself. He even painted a huge 'Snow White' mural on one side of the house, and restored the attic, made beds out of old timbers, etc. A very engaging and eccentric character but probably very difficult to live with. Vera looked a little careworn and resigned but the language barrier and decorum prevented us from inquiring further.

Barb shares a laugh with Alberto
Alberto's "Play Loft"
Final Sunset over Como

On the way back to the boat we spent two nights in London. We spent most of the day queuing for tickets to the David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington. The V&A has a somewhat fusty reputation, but it has curated a real blockbuster with the Bowie show. All the advance tickets were sold long ago and the only way to get in is to line up for an hour or so for tickets for later in the day. We did that, got tickets for 1:45 and were duly impressed by an amalgam of his costumes, music and prodigious creative output. He created, with many collaborators, the sets and costumes for his shows which were outrageous for the 1970s. He did his own album covers, acted in short films and retained control over everything he did. His influences ranged from Andy Warhol to Kurt Weill, and from Japanese kabuki to Elvis. He developed an androgynous stage personality that is mimicked or adapted by many pop stars of today from Boy George to Lady GaGa and Bjork.

Basil in
                    SunEngland continues to bask in the unexpected light of summer. Last week, temperatures soared into the 30's (high 80's F) and the TV was full of 'Heat Wave' stories. I installed 200 watts of solar panels on Basil (see right) and they ran all his electrics in the strong sun. Today we are back to cloud and drizzle in our part of the country but more sun is expected next week when we take off and cruise towards Stoke to pick up our Aussie friends.

Basil basks in the Sun >

July 28th
We left Mercia on Tuesday 23rd after the morning's torrential rain and thunderstorms had ceased. We cruised up the Trent and Mersey until early evening and moored at Branston Water Park. On to Alrewas, Rugeley and Stone where we are now moored close to the Star Inn and the High Street. This route has been well documented in other year's journals, so I did not take many photos. The weather has been generally unsettled though we have had the best of it with rain mostly overnight and never while cruising. We really like Stone, it is a true 'canal town' with several good restaurants, two large supermarkets and numerous small shops. We ate in the Star Inn which has retained its character and has good food served by friendly staff. The Star predates the construction of the canal by about 100 years. It was as popular with James Brindley's 'navvies' who built the canal to Stone in 1772, and with subsequent generations of boating families, as it is with the recreational boaters of today.

Quiet Country Mooring near Ingestre

Town Mooring in Stone
Star Inn
The Star Inn by Stone Bottom Lock
We are well ahead of schedule for picking up Phyllis and Gerard, our visitors from Australia, so we are going to hang out here until Wednesday before resuming our journey north.

August 12th
We picked up Phyllis and Gerard on Aug 2nd as scheduled in the middle of Stoke-on-Trent. The town has obviously been hit hard by the recession and the general decline of Northern England. Two-thirds of the shops were boarded up and the townsfolk looked haggard, depressed and poverty stricken. We were glad to get out of there and we put P & G to work right away on the Stoke flight of 5 locks. Much to their delight, I might add. They took to canal cruising like ducks to water and loved the whole experience. Gerard turned out to be a competent helmsman and relieved me of half the steering which freed me up to do locks for a change.

After Stoke, we continued north up the Trent & Mersey and ventured into the 2,926 yard Harecastle tunnel, one of the wonders of the cut. We went through alone, unprecedented in my experience, and only took 25 minutes. Our guests were suitably impressed. Shortly we arrived at Red Bull, the junction of the Macclesfield canal which turns off sharp left under a bridge and then swings right to cross over the top of the Trent & Mersey on an aqueduct. A rare example of a canal flyover. There are grassy moorings by the aqueduct and we gratefully moored up after a long day's cruising. We had an excellent meal in the Red Bull Inn by the canal.
The Macclesfield (foreground) crosses the
Trent & Mersey (below)
Ace Lockshifters Barb and Phyllis
Roger at
Roger at the Helm
The next few days were spent cruising the Macclesfield to Marple Junction. The Macc is new to both of us and is delightfully rural. The 12 Bosley locks lift the canal 118 feet and at times we seemed to be floating above the scenery as we clung to the side of steep valleys. What scenery it is, too, with sweeping views over river valleys to Mow Cop and the Pennine Hills along the spine of England. Macclesfield is the only town of any size along the route but there are several villages with cosy pubs. A highlight was Sutton Hall, a rambling old manor which once belonged to Lord Lucan and has now been converted into a splendid hostelry serving gourmet food, ales and wine in a rustic environment.
The approach to Hall Green Stop Lock
Sutton Hall
A Rare Sunny Day in the Heart of England

At Marple Junction we turned right onto the Peak Forest canal which continues the 'above it all' theme of the Macc with even greater aplomb. Gerard (photo left) climbed the hill beside the boat one night and was rewarded with stunning views over Manchester while the rest of us enjoyed the valley view on the other side of the boat. The 'heat wave' has disappeared but we have had mostly fine weather with showers occurring mainly at night. The Peak Forest stubs out at Whaley Bridge on one arm and Bugsworth Basin on another. There were no moorings at Whaley Bridge so we turned round and moored in the extensive restored basins at Bugsworth and ate in the Navigation Inn. In the canal age, these basins would have been busy loading limestone for transit to the boom town of Manchester. The denizens of the nearby town changed the name of the town to Buxworth, presumably because Bugsworth has unpleasant connotations, but the basins retain the original name.

Some photos by Gerard Rackley    CLICK on any IMAGE to ENLARGE

Peak Forest Mooring View
A Snake Crossover Bridge - the design allows
the horse to change sides without unhitching
the rope.
Typical Bridge of Local Limestone
Backtracking, we passed the entrance to the Macc at Marple Junction again and continued the remainder of the Peak Forest which now drops down through the Marple locks, leaving its lofty self behind. On now to the long three day slog into Manchester. We moored in a nascent rubbish-strewn (but safe) marina in Droylsden where we dropped Phyllis and Gerard off next morning for their trip back to London. We were very sorry to see them go, not least because we had to tackle the 18 lock Ashton flight on our own. This was one of the most depressing and difficult days of my canal cruising life. The locks were all difficult to operate and all set against us. The canal is shallow and full of trash. The environment was seedy and increasingly industrial as Manchester approached. Drunks and dodgy looking groups of disaffected youth lurk along the towpath. Late in the day, as I was struggling to get Basil off a rock ledge, a man looked at me pityingly and said "You know, mate, you are much too old for this". I had to admit that he had a point.

Slowly, the numbers on the lock gates decreased until finally we reached Lock 1 and Barb and I, both exhausted, gave each other a weak high five.
Barb was more sanguine than I was about the experience. She said, "I would not like to repeat it but it was a challenge and we came through it fine". We moored for the night in Piccadilly Village, a new development festooned with security cameras, and slept like babies. We had made it to Manchester.

Next day we had one final challenge - the infamous Rochdale Nine, a set of double width locks which are notoriously difficult and which run under the city in places. We had to wait while Canal & River Trust staff filled an empty pound which had drained overnight either from boater carelessness or vandalism. All the locks have anti-vandal locks on them which make the process even slower, some of the gates are cranked open with a pulley and chain system and the ratchets are of unusual design. I found the hardware fascinating but it spooked Barb a little to begin with. The delay was actually a godsend as the CR&T staff helped us with the first couple of locks and another boat caught up with us and we worked 8 locks together.
A 'Rochdale 9' Lock underneath a high-rise
Approaching Manchester on the Rochdale Canal
Old &
Old and New at Castlefield Basins
Now we are ensconced in Castlefield, an extensive and impressive series of basins right in the heart of Manchester. We are surrounded by grand Victorian architecture, railway and tramway viaducts and pubs and restaurants so numerous that Barb calls the area "Oinkyville". We are fully rested and even found a laundry service which picked up, washed, dried and returned our vast quantity of soiled underpants, duvet covers, etc., for a reasonable fee. We had excellent meals in the adjacent Wharf Inn and a nearby Indian restaurant
Today we intend to leave by the Bridgewater canal (to the left) for new horizons.
August 18th
We left Manchester as planned, a long day's drive to get out of the suburbs and into the country again. The Bridgewater canal was one of the first canals, yet it is built to a higher standard than most later canals. It is wide and deep with sturdy bridges and wharves that have stood the test of time. It is privately owned and excellently maintained by the Manchester Ship Canal Co., whose eponymous canal runs alongside the Bridgewater for most of its length and which carries heavy commercial shipping from Liverpool and the Atlantic. On our way, we glimpsed the ship canal with giant bollards the size of Basil, we  passed several artifacts of an earlier age and the stadium of the most famous football club in the world, Manchester United.
Remnant of an Earlier Technology
Giant Container Port on the Manchester Ship
The Back End of Manchester United

Back in the countryside at last we moored on stakes at Outrington. From here the Bridgewater sheds its industrial clothing and continues wide, deep and surprisingly scenic until it morphs into the Trent and Mersey at Preston Brook, almost 90 miles from our home mooring on the same canal at Mercia Marina.

We stopped one night at Dutton bank where there are sweeping views over the Weaver Valley. This was the scene of one of the worst embankment breaches in recent history. The canal collapsed into the valley below and cost months of work and millions of pounds to restore it. A plaque (right) commemorates the event, which was a baptism of sorts for the newly formed Canal & River Trust.
It finally reopened in May this year.
The View from Dutton Bank
"Pass the quackers, would you duckie?"
Old Stables Converted to Homes
At Barnton I saw that a boat was already in the tunnel and I scraped Basil up as I reversed out of the entrance. I don't have much luck in this area, as on Basil's first ever outing in 2007 I did the first real damage to his cratch cover in an adjacent tunnel. We continued on to Middlewich where we moored up and spent a day exploring the town. A High Street full of shops, a useful Tesco supermarket and a Chinese Restaurant where we ate a lonely but passable meal. We turned right off the Trent and Mersey up the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union where the usual circus prevailed - hordes of boats jockeying for position and queuing for the locks. One set of brand new hirers ahead of us even insisted on driving on the left until they were politely instructed otherwise by Barb and others. This was the first real congestion we have seen since leaving 'home'.

We were intending to press on to Barbridge Junction where the Middlewich branch joins the Shroppie's Main Line but we happened across the most beautiful mooring above Church Minshall and we spent a lovely afternoon and evening there admiring the view (below) under clear blue skies. It is days like this that epitomize the joys of canal cruising. We are far from the Rochdale Nine here.
Church Minshall/
The Infant River Weaver at Church Minshall
The View from Basil's Deck
Exemplary Trad Boat at Bridge 13
We made it to Barbridge next day and now we are moored near the aqueduct at Nantwich, a repeat visit to a town we really like. Tomorrow we are planning to go to Chester by bus. We did hope to go by boat but it's 55 minutes by bus or three days by boat so we are opting for a more leisurely return down the Shroppie towards 'home'.
Nantwich Aqueduct
The Nantwich Aqueduct
Black Lion
Cosy Pub in Nantwich - the Black Lion
On the Nantwich Embankment

One thing about canal cruising is that it reminds me of the all the simpler things in life. At Church Minshall I left the boat and plunged into a deep, dark wood - walking towards the village. I was stung by nettles, slipping around, muddy and scratched by brambles. Above the darkness, the tree canopy was bathed in dappled sunlight, leaves twitching in the wind. Then, a glimpse of the River Weaver, fringed with flowers and rippling in the sun. I was suddenly a ten year-old again, exploring the woods and streams of Woodchurch, where I grew up.

Then yesterday there was a short sharp shower while we were moored at Barbridge and, when the weather cleared, I looked out of the window and the refreshed green of the grass took my breath away. It was so verdant, so deep green it could never be reproduced in a photo or by an artist. I wallowed in it - nature's most relaxing colour. Then, in bed at night, a tiny flying insect buzzed between Barb's book and her reading light. I marveled that an insect the size of a pinhead could be so adept at flying - a skill which evaded us for millions of years and which, even now, can only be accomplished at enormous cost to our Earth.

August 25th
We are in Brewood (pronounced "Brood") now, having traversed most of the Shropshire Union's Main Line. A fine canal it is, with long straight stretches through deep, wooded cuttings or striding high across the country on imposing embankments. This was one of the last canals to be built. Thomas Telford, the engineer, made use of rock cutting and earth moving techniques that were unknown in Brindley's time. Even so, everything was built by the sweat and calloused hands of hundreds of 'navvies' as no powered equipment was available. It is a marvel to see some of the sheer rock cuts and realize that they were all cut by hand. After tremendous engineering difficulties, the canal was finally opened as a through route in 1835. The Shropshire Union Canal Company remained profitable for many years after the ascendance of the railways, unlike many other canal companies.

Before heading down the Shroppie we did go to Chester by bus for the day from Nantwich, and a very fine city it is. The medieval city wall is still intact and so we were able to walk right round the old part of Chester atop the wall. One side is flanked by the tidal River Dee, and another side is by the canal, which runs in a deep cutting under the wall. On the way we stopped at Telford's old warehouse in the canal basin which is now converted into a pub and restaurant.

< Lunch of hummus, sundried tomatoes, olives, etc. at Telford's Warehouse.

Victorian Clock Straddles the City Wall >
Inside Telford's Warehouse, overlooking the
canal basin

Chester Canal
The canal in a deep cutting below the city wall

Ancient Double-Decker Bus >
Old Bus
Chester seems to be thriving. The pedestrianized inner shopping area was teeming with people. An imposing cathedral, built with the local dark stone, dominates the town centre. There is an impressive town hall and several other fine buildings, some in stone and others half-timbered. On the way home by bus we stopped off in Tarporley and ate in Piste, a nice little bistro operated by two brothers.
Chester Cathedral
Pedestrian Shopping Street

< Gargoyle at the Cathedral
The weather held up for us as we left Nantwich and cruised down to Audlem, one of the most popular villages on the canal system which the Canal and River Trust calls a "honeypot site". Indeed there were numerous gongoozlers at the Audlem locks, some of whom kindly offered to help us. Sadly, I was not able to demonstrate my excellent lock insertion skills as all the locks have fierce bywashes which direct jets of water at the boat just as it enters the lock, throwing it off course. A lot of banging and crashing and sub-vocal cursing ensued. I had just about got the hang of it by the time we reached lock 3 (of 5) above which we moored for the night on a very pleasant pound above Audlem.

CropNext day we climbed the last two Audlem locks and on to Market Drayton. This is a drab and disappointing town, a mile from the canal and enlivened only by a huge and bustling market. We continued on to the country and found a mooring with a beautiful view above the town. I went for a walk through a farm next to the canal. Here was a crop that looks like sweetcorn but has no ears. The stalks are about 8 feet high topped with reedy leaves (see photo left). If anyone knows what this is please let me know as we have seen fields of it and I can't figure it out. It is a crop unknown to me as a kid.
Audlem Wharf
Next day we did the five Tyreley locks which raise the canal 33 feet out of a dramatic cutting and is the start of a 17 mile pound which ends at Wheaton Aston lock. We moored near High Offley with another stunning view over the farmlands of Shropshire. In the tiny Anchor pub we had a convivial evening with an eclectic group of boaters. One was Mal Edwards M.B.E who won his gong after 14 years at the helm of a Llangollen trip boat. I asked "Is that all you have to do to be a Master of the British Empire?" (Strictly, the medal is "Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire" and is given for outstanding community service.)  He got quite defensive and regaled us with horror stories about running a trip boat, mostly to do with the fears and eccentricities of the passengers. Now Mal roams the system in an excellent restored working narrowboat. Another couple live in the South of France in the winter and in a caravan by the Anchor in summer. They complain that the Socialist government of Francoise Hollande is ruining France. The French have become miserable so the couple are planning to move back to England. The Anchor is a little gem of a two-room pub. Run by the same family for over 100 years, it looks much as it must have when the canal was first built.
The Anchor Pub
High Bridge
Grooves in a cast-iron Bridge Guard cut by
generations of tow ropes
Tyrely Cutting
Rock Cut Below Tyrely Locks
Sunset at Mooring near Market Drayton

< Gnarly Old Tree near Tyrely
Christian Boat at Norbury
Norbury Junction
The weather has turned grey and gloomy now, so we are staying in Breward over the August Holiday weekend. We are now at the highest point on our travels, it's all downhill now except for the little 6" rise stop-lock at the end of the canal, built to stop water entering from the Staffs and Worcs; a very different early canal upon which we will venture on Monday.

Sept 2nd
We are now nearing the end of our summer sojourn aboard Basil. We are moored up in Alrewas for the day, reluctant to complete the trip to Mercia Marina. The weather has continued fine but it's quite autumnal and our stove has failed. Basil is quite beat up in general and will need a lot of TLC when we get back.
Boat Cat
Crew Member taking a break
Balustraded Avenue Bridge on the
Staffs and Worcs
Perky 16 year-old Waitress in a Penkridge Hotel
MilepostSince I last wrote, we completed the Shropshire Union and turned sharp left at Autherley Junction up the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. Thus we transitioned from one of the newest canals on the system to one of the oldest, and the difference was immediately apparent. The Shroppie takes the direct route from A to B, soaring along high embankments and plunging into deeply wooded cuttings to do so, while the Staffs and Worcs meanders all over the place while following the contours of the land. It made for some interesting steering. At times I wondered if the engineers took a perverse delight in siting all the bridges on blind bends, for so it seems. I had fun, though, and there were no serious incidents.

Soon we were at the end of the canal where we moored at Tixall Wide, one of my favourite spots. The Wide was once an ornamental lake, built to appease a landowner who was leery of a scummy canal crossing his property so he insisted upon the lake to improve the view from his Manor. Only the gatehouse of the manor remains and the Wide has returned to nature, but it is a pleasant change from the narrow channel of the canal and a very popular mooring spot.

Great Haywood Junction

We turned right at Great Haywood Junction, back on to our 'home' canal, the Trent and Mersey. This section is particularly beautiful with sweeping views over the Trent Valley to the hills of Cannock Chase. We took full advantage and I pampered my inner child again by rambling along the canal and river for an hour our two. There are three very cool cleared moorings east of Bridge 69 where the undergrowth has been cut away to allow views over the valley from the boat.
Black Pearl
Unusual paint job on NB Black Pearl
Senior Ramblers on the Trent Aqueduct at
Great Haywood
Cat on Leash
Another Cat Crew Member - under training

We rumbled on through the impossibly narrow Armitage tunnel and into the country again. The locks pop up every mile or so, all in sylvan settings. We passed through Fradley in record time. Barb slickly lockwheeled the five locks with a some help from gongoozlers and other boaters. We arrived in Alrewas on Sunday (yesterday). We bought Rhubarb and Ginger jam at a postcard-cute half timbered cottage (below, center). "This is why we love England", says Barb. Finally we ate an excellent roast dinner in the William IV, a rollicking pub full of locals and boaters having an exceedingly good time.
Traditional paint job on NB Ellen
Cottage in Alrewas (see text)
Attendees at a 'Ban the Hamburger' Convention
in Alrewas.
Sept 5th
We are back at Mercia Marina now, having made one final final stop yesterday in Willington where we tried out the new Thai restaurant (most excellent) before motoring the last half mile to Mercia in the gathering dusk. Today has been spent doing piles of laundry (Barb) and beginning to restore Basil from the ravages of cruising (me). Here are the statistics of our cruise this summer: 43 days, 250 miles, 147 narrow locks, 9 broad locks (156 total), 13 swing/lift bridges, 8 tunnels. Average fuel consumption 1.58 litres/hour. 187 engine hours (includes running the engine while moored to charge the batteries).

I've been collecting quirky boat names as usual. Unfortunately, instead of writing them down I have committed them to my equally quirky memory. Hence, I only remember three: "Passing Wind", "Comfortably Numb" which passed us blaring music from The Wall, and "Adenuff". If I recall any others I will post them here.

We have a few days here before we go to London & St. Mawes, Cornwall for 11 days. The weather has been great so far this summer, making it the best year's cruising we have ever had. The forecast for tomorrow is torrential rain, so we got back just in time.

Sept 17

WetIt's our 36th Anniversary and we are spending it looking out over a steely grey Atlantic, all white-capped waves and blurred horizon. Rain lashes the St. Mawes to Falmouth ferry as it strides the breakers, full of seasick passengers. The weather has imploded, or as my brother Michael (photo left) put it "We have gone from summer through autumn and into winter in one day". What do we care, however, as we have a splendid Turneresque view of the first big Atlantic storm of the year.

We had an interesting few days in London as usual, though I felt that my wallet had sprung a major leak while there. We went to a couple of movies: What Maisie Knew and About Time. No Academy Awards there, I'm afraid, though Maisie was passable. We did see an excellent play The Pride about gays in the 50s and in the present time. The actors jumped decades seamlessly, playing linked characters in very different homosexual environments. The acting, the script and the social messages were razor sharp and rightly rewarded with a rare standing ovation.

We met my nephew Jonathan and his new love, Katie, for dinner in Soho. We liked Katie immediately as she is very easygoing and outgoing and a good match for Jon. We await further developments :-) We had lunch with an old friend, Liza, in Cafe Des Amis in Covent Garden. Finally we boarded a train from Paddington for the all-day journey to Cornwall.
Jon Soho Group
Katie, Jon, Barb and Rog in Soho

< Jonathan
Rog, Barb and Liza in Cafe Des Amis
PumpSo now here we are in St. Mawes, across the Carrick Roads from Falmouth. We came over by ferry and Mick and Ange joined us by car the next day. We are doing as much hiking as the weather allows and trying out the local eateries. Our apartment, Upper Tresulian, exceeds the advertisement for once. Perched half way up a cliff, we have views to rival (but not exceed) those from sister Anita's house in Bellingham. St. Mawes is a picture perfect village with a tiny harbour. From here the ferries ply their trade, along with a single trawler which supplies a fresh fish shack on the quay and the local restaurants with all kinds of seafood from lobster to turbot. Dozens of sailboats rock at anchor in the bay.

Reminder of an Earlier Time >>

St. Mawes
The Harbour and St. Mawes
St. Mawes street and the Victory Inn
St. Just
The Tiny Church in St. Just
Sept 23
Here are some more photos of Cornwall:
On the Trail to Portscatho. Photo: M Carter

Low Tide
Low Tide in Falmouth Harbour

We drove Michael up the Pole
Taking Tea in Falmouth
The Ferry awaits to take us away from St. Mawes

Elliott Arms
Quaint lunch stop on the 300 mile journey
back to Mercia Marina - The Elliot Arms
in Tregadillett, Cornwall
The Cornish weather was mixed, but we had enough nice days to enjoy two long hikes and a day in Falmouth. Sadly we had to leave St. Mawes yesterday and we took the ferry to Falmouth on a foggy morning to pick up a rental car. From here it was a long drive across country to the East Midlands and sunny Mercia Marina. We now just have to finish winterizing the boat and pack up ready to go home on Sunday. We are loath to go as it has been a wonderful summer. Now the searing heat of Phoenix, a hole in our roof and a demented cat await us.

This will be my last journal entry for this year - thanks for reading and for all your comments.

Postscript, November 10th.
We did not return to Phoenix as planned on Sept 29th. Instead, Barb was hit with a perforated appendix and had emergency surgery in the Royal Derby Hospital on Sept 25th. This was a very serious situation - according to our doctor here in the US, 60-70% of people over 65 with this condition die from complications after surgery. She was in hospital for two weeks and had excellent care there. She returned to the boat on October 7th and had daily nursing care from visiting District nurses until we were able to fly on October 27th. She is now continuing her recovery at home. It will be a long, slow process but she is doing well so far.