Monday 28th June to Sunday 4th July 2010.

Rained in the afternoon just as predicted, almost to the hour. Those £1 umbrellas come in handy don’t they.
But the rain didn’t spoil the shopping and I’m ashamed to say I was almost enjoying it, shops not the rain. Standing on escalators and riding department store lifts took the edge off the pain of parting with money and it’s nice to see the fashions coming round again, I’m wearing the right stuff after all.

Neither did the rain stop my hayfever or the tennis. A pity.

Another beautiful sunny day. We toured the last unexplored rooms of the Maritime Museum on the docks and strolled the banks of the Mersey. We mixed with people of every language, American, Chinese and Scouse. V says she feels like she’s on holiday and so we are, the first one we’ve had for ages (if you don’t count cruising).

Happy Birthday to me.
Breakfast was on Sarah Kate, a wonderful spread by Jo, an enormous English breakfast with all the trimmings, including Bucks Fizz.
birthday brekkies

The menu was so long that even I couldn’t get through it and the décor was perfect with pictures of ships on the wall.
ships pics

But that wasn’t all, Mike and Jo had wrapped pressies for me, things to eat and things to read, bags and bags of Dolly Mixtures and a book called Lern yerself Scouse, very useful in these parts.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. A brilliant start to the day.

Time passed as in a dream, I played with my new toy, a camera, with wide angle and lots of zoom. We walked down to the sea (the Mersey) and I poked the lens at everything on the Birkenhead coast hoping to read the adverts in the shop windows but it wasn’t to be, the sun was in the wrong place. I discovered that one can take lousy pictures just as easily with an all singing all dancing camera.

Met someone who served time as a third engineer in the same shipping company as ours back in the 70s. Dave is into big boats, the kind of boat in which you don’t think twice about crossing the Mersey. Toggenberg is his latest creation but won’t be the last if I read him right.

Took V out in the evening for an Italian. Thought we’d go early to be sure of getting a table but at 6.30 the place was heaving, loads of youngsters stopping by on their way home from the office. We took the last table and got our money’s worth by eating slowly and staying late.

It was nice to see them enjoying themselves but how come young people can afford to eat at these places? Don’t they know there’s a recession?

It’s sad because it’s leaving day. We’re up early and first away just after nine with Sarah-Kate showing the way. The blue shirts were there preparing the locks for us but it was turning into a damp breezy day with no sign of the sun, the sort of day it’s better to travel than sit on the beach.
If you have ever wondered who is responsible for graffiti on bridge walls then take a look at these guys. I decided against reporting them because they were doing such a good job.

I paid a visit to the propeller twice on the way out of town, at this rate it will only take another couple of years to empty the waterways of polythene bags.
Bridge 9 was deserted because everybody stops at bridge 10. We must be the only ones not to have been told about the risk of troublemakers.

We stopped just past bridge 10, at the end of tomorrow’s boats into L’pool and as often happens the rained stopped the moment we whacked in the pins.

Last in the line was Lazydays, a boat we’d seen somewhere on the Weaver so we had a quick chat with Alan and Frances about their journey to L’pool tomorrow.

But It wasn’t until the next day, as the convoy was preparing to leave, that I discovered Alan was a fellow HAM, an ex MN Radio Officer and a Blogger. There wasn’t enough time to talk about the million and one things we had in common. Hope we bump into them again.

Friday was a day for meeting bloggers, the next greeting from a boat was from the lady on Tickety Boo. I’ve seen the blog mentioned on other sites but not read it well enough to remember names. Thanks (Debbie?) for asking how it went in the city, we thought it was Fab, well worth booking in advance and the cruising effort, an experience not to be missed.

We’re away again and it’s approaching 10am. Anglers are setting up their kit for a match so now is the time to get a smile or a good morning, another hour and their eyes will be glued to the water, a grimace firmly fixed and nothing verbal unless it’s a complaint. I can see why too, boats heading down to L’pool hammered past, anglers just hate that don’t they.

Hanging a left we slid down the locks on the Rufford Branch.

There are some lovely mason’s marks on the lock walls down here, some were ready for the camera while a few needed some prep work with the boat brush.

If you want to see unusual lock paddle gear then this is the canal for you. But not content with experiments on paddles someone in his wisdom tried plastic bollards at one of the lock landings. There are three bollards and the middle one is perfectly placed for your centre rope.

Guess which one has snapped off just above the ground?

I don’t want to hear another complaint about those useless square wooden bollards.
I’ve a feeling we’ve seen broken plastic bollards somewhere else on the canals. Can any one remember where?

Came to a rest near Rufford Hall just past the 24s on steel piling buried in squidgy mud at water level. Boat traffic is light in these parts, judging by the water lilies both sides of the centre channel. Walkers on the other hand, both the two and four legged variety, are frequent and so are little brown parcels.
Jo made the mistake of inviting us to post-cruise drinks onboard Sarah-Kate and after almost emptying the drinks cupboard we set about depleting their food reserves. A brilliant end to the day, thanks guys.

Sunday 4th is to be a grey-day. Rain will pass slowly overhead, with sunshine returning on Monday.

With the Rufford Branch half done we’re nearing the end of our adventures in the north west of England.
We’ve had a smashing time on some great waterways and in the company of lovely people Mike and Jo on Sarah-Kate.

What’s next? Cruise south away from water shortages and decide what to do for the summer. I favour water deep and wide.