It has taken a fair bit of work but there’s noth­ing like set­ting out for your first ad­ven­tures and learn­ing the lingo on the cut

If you’ve bought your first boat, there are bound to be a few ad­ven­tures along the way as you set off...

Canal Boat - - News - BY GRA­HAM YOUNG

We started our search for a boat in March 2015 and, after sev­eral week­ends go­ing around mari­nas and bro­kers, I found one ad­ver­tised five miles down the road on the Peak For­est Canal.

Blue Hori­zon had been built in 2010 and fit­ted out as a liveaboard but, amaz­ingly, it had only cruised from Wha­ley Bridge to the moor­ing in New Mills and no fur­ther, so ba­si­cally I had found a nar­row­boat that was five years old, still in primer and with an en­gine show­ing just 3.5 hours.

As it was still in primer we knew we’d have to give her a paint job – the bot­tom of hull was look­ing pretty shoddy, too, so she was booked in for blacking. In­side, though, it was pretty mod­ern and she just needed a clean and tidy and a few al­ter­ations.

As there was no front deck as such, we started paint­ing by giv­ing the roof a few coats of non-slip grey. Next we needed to tidy the back end. For a first at­tempt we used Ham­merite garage door paint from B&Q. It worked fine, but then we de­cided to go for a darker navy blue and bought some ma­rine paint off the in­ter­net at £16 a tin.

With the paint­ing done so far, it was time for the first run out… I hadn’t ‘driven’ a nar­row­boat since the late 70s when I had built them at Coles More­ton Ma­rine and ‘driven’ a few away from the ma­rina after weld­ing re­pairs. Still, how hard could it be...

We de­cided to pop up to the turn­around bit to­wards Wha­ley Bridge, head back to the ma­rina for fuel, carry on past to the next turn­around bit, come back and park up back­wards. Easy. As our moor­ing is at an an­gle you have to head out in the di­rec­tion of Wha­ley Bridge, so when park­ing you had to re­verse in with the boat point­ing to­wards Wha­ley Bridge. Get­ting out was a strug­gle; we drifted into the bar­rier, pushed the back out, re­versed a bit and off we went to get fuel. (Memo to self: tie up se­curely.)

Then it was off to the next turn­around bit. Although we got a lit­tle out of shape, a lit­tle push with the wooden stick on the roof got her go­ing.

We were feel­ing pretty pleased about how the 20-minute trip was go­ing un­til

just be­fore the bridge, some­one came the other way… Panic, what to do? Easy, press the horn. They waved… what now? “Stop,” shouted Michelle… “There’s no brakes,” I shouted back. (I don’t know why we were shout­ing, we were stood next to each other!)

I slammed her in re­verse and the back end went into the far bank and the front end went into the tow­path bank – we ended up side­ways across the canal with the other boat still com­ing to­wards us. I’m not sure what I did, but it straight­ened up and the other boat passed by.

Pulling along­side our moor­ing I turned to­wards the bank, went into re­verse with the ‘han­dle’ point­ing to the left and she started head­ing straight into the slot. Apart from get­ting stuck on the bot­tom mo­men­tar­ily we had done it, we were home.

With Blue Hori­zon’s in­side look­ing okay, we started think­ing about its ex­te­rior colours – blue, red and grey sounded good. So with a bit more paint­ing done, we were ready for our sec­ond trip – Bugsworth Basin for lunch with Rhi­an­non and grand-daugh­ter Lyla as crew.

After the usual tricky ma­noeu­vre get­ting out of the moor­ing we were off. The first ob­sta­cle was a swing­bridge at Fur­ness Vale. We had bought a key from eBay but didn’t need it as the bridge was un­locked. Con­tin­u­ing on our way we no­ticed a boat head­ing to­wards us, I’d read ‘drive straight at them and then swerve at the last minute’. It kind of worked…

We ma­noeu­vred into Bugsworth basin, turned nicely and backed into a space. Tied up and turned off. A spot of fish­ing and a few sand­wiches and we were ready to head back. As we cruised along we started smelling bad eggs... was it the sand­wiches?

As we re­versed into the moor­ing the smell got worse and seemed to be com­ing from the batteries. After we moored up we found one was bulging, hot and hiss­ing; sul­phated and, ba­si­cally, knack­ered.

With more blacking to be done, the first prob­lem was that a boat was stuck in the dry dock. Not only that, it was a 65ft liveaboard full of fur­ni­ture etc. It took eight peo­ple to pull her out.

With our job even­tu­ally done it was time for a week­end cruise – Mac­cles­field looked good. So we packed our food and drink, got Simba and the cats and the spare keys and ‘full steam ahead’. Then came the first bridge, an elec­tric lift­bridge. Michelle jumped off and made her way to the bridge panel. Oh ’eck, the keys we bought on eBay don’t work… Luck­ily, our spare key was from CRT and it did – even­tu­ally.

After a man­ual lift­bridge and a swing­bridge we ar­rived at Marple. It’s a tight turn into the Mac­cles­field canal and, as we were turn­ing, another boat came through the nar­rows and said, “wait there, a day boat is com­ing and you know what they’re like!”.

We didn’t know what they’re like ac­tu­ally, but soon dis­cov­ered when an open boat full of pi­rates drink­ing lager came along. They didn’t have guns and knives so we passed them and car­ried on through High Lane, Poyn­ton and on to Bolling­ton where we moored for the evening.

When we got to Mac­cles­field we stopped about half a mile south of the foot­ball ground and knocked some of them big nails into the foot­path and made a brew. Ten min­utes later a boat came past pretty fast and the nails shot out of the ground. Luck­ily I was able to grab our rope and pull her back.

Head­ing home Michelle drove for around three hours at a nice steady pace; just one is­sue when we met some­body who thought he owned the cut and pushed us into the shal­lows be­tween High Lane and Marple. I should make a note of boats like that and shame then on the in­ter­net...

Back at New Mills, just be­fore dark another bat­tery bit the dust! Two down,

two to go… A few months on and all four have been re­placed.

With the paint­work al­most com­plete in 2015, we de­cided to wait un­til 2016 to fin­ish it. We had to wait un­til April for the weather to warm up be­fore we could start think­ing about paint­ing. The gun­wales had only been given a quick coat of blue the pre­vi­ous year and had faded pretty badly. After look­ing around other boats I de­cided to paint them satin black.

They looked ter­rific which spurred me on to get the rest of the boat done. It took three months of evenings and week­ends, then, sud­denly, she was look­ing pre­sentable.

In Au­gust we took a trip to the far end of the Mac­cles­field where we ex­pe­ri­enced the Bosley Lock Flight. Twelve locks within a mile or so – Lock one novice, Lock 12 ex­pert. Well, not quite, but it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.

Un­for­tu­nately by this time the red paint on the back of the boat had al­most fully faded away. Why…? Ul­tra-vi­o­let from the sun, re­ac­tion to the primer? It meant only one thing, a repaint.

Mind you, I’d only put one roller coat on last year so maybe that just wasn’t enough...

And if that wasn’t enough, to­wards the end of last year we felt the grey on the roof just looked like primer so we de­cided to change it to cream.

We’ve owned the boat for nearly two years now. How’s it go­ing? Great, and you seem to dis­cover some­thing new nearly ev­ery week, and you meet lots of nice peo­ple.

We’ve also learned a few of the cor­rect words, so for wooden stick, it’s now barge pole; turn­around bit, wind­ing hole; steer­ing stick, tiller; squashy thing at side, fender and for park­ing, read moor­ing.

We have also learned that quite a lot of fish­er­men don’t like you; eBay keys don’t nec­es­sar­ily work; batteries don’t last for­ever; don’t moor overnight too near pubs; air­craft-type toi­lets leak and keep you awake all night; cas­sette toi­lets fill up in two days when you’re cruis­ing; the wa­ter is not al­ways brown, some­times it’s green...

Gra­ham and Michelle

Per­fectly pained, but not for long

A happy pas­sen­ger

All that hard work paid off

Our grand-daugh­ter Lyla (7) wrote us a poem: There’s a bridge num­ber 31 and the wa­ter

is green A fish­er­man tries to look happy But his face is old and mis­er­able The wa­ter is now brown but has green bits

float­ing Gran­dad Gray nearly crashed but is okay now Gran­dad Gray thinks he is king of the road But I don’t think he is king of the canal!

This may be a more ap­pro­pri­ate colour

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