Monday 5th to Sunday 11th July 2010

Leaving Rufford Hall we cruised widebeam alley to a dead end at Tarleton. So glad these giants weren’t on the move as we completed the journey down the old river section of the Ruffy. How they manage to pass each other without stripping paint is a mystery to me.

Near navigation’s end there’s a yellow sign warning boaters that the winding point is 100m ahead, trouble is you can’t see it behind the bushes.
winding sign

Sure, there’s another sign in 100m saying ‘this is it’ but it’s not obvious especially when you have anglers in it and boats moored up to its edge and it looks tight for a 60 footer.

And then there’s the helpful angler saying “Don’t turn ere mate, go down to the boat yard, it’s easier.”
So you go down to the boat yard and the geezer tells you “You can’t wind here sir, you’ll have to reverse to the winding hole.”
Dooohhh, and the wind has got up and there’s boats (splitters) on both sides.

Despite the breeze we managed to stir the water nicely and tie up at the visitor moorings. Out for a walk with Mike and Jo we took the route through the village to the lock on the River Douglas hoping to see boats coming and going. But ‘tis all terribly dry down there, the jolly tide was very much out.
Tarleton Lock

But we didn’t give up, after studying the Liverpool tide times and adding 55 minutes for high water at Tarleton, Mike and I walked across the field to catch the tide coming in.
But there was still no water outside the lock.
While I stood looking out to sea for the 3 foot ‘bore’ and Mike checked out the mud at the river’s edge we got a visit from the fella who lives in the new house by the lock.
River Douglas

Do you find it interesting, he asked, being too polite to say ‘gerrof’.
We were hoping to see the tide come in, says us, we’ve allowed for the delay on Liverpool’s high tide.
What about the extra hour for GMT, says he.
Dooohhh, didn’t remember that.

But what a lovely character he was, told us everything we wanted to know about the tides, the lock workings and a hundred other things too. We could have listened to him for hours, he’s a very useful guy to have around, doubt if there’s much he doesn’t know.

We saw the tide turn and went home happy that everything was still in working order regarding the sun, the moon and the oceans.

Tarleton-on-water struck me as being a little on the sleepy side. Cars and vans come and go at the boatyard but there’s not much in the way of foot traffic. Perhaps they’re careful who they let in as was borne out by the white guards that scrutinised us every time we went near the swing bridge.

Isn’t nature lovely with its free displays of flowers. It’s the turn of these, don’t ask me what they are, and they’re everywhere so even I snapped a reasonable shot of them.

Being on a canal close to the sea you get plenty of variety in the size and shape of boats on the moorings. Our head was turned by this little beauty, V wasn’t sure why she liked it but I was certain the Black Swan could take me to far away places.
black swan

Tuesday we said goodbye to Tarleton and headed back to the main line. The sun was easy on our heads, locks were mostly set for us and apart from us two boats there wasn’t a soul on the move.

The Rufford has held many surprises for us, not least are the ground paddle variations.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Jo was breaking bits off the lock gate but she’s actually opening a ground paddle to fill the lock from the upper pound.

Back at the top, just round the corner on the Leeds & Liverpool, we found a boat with carpets on the roof.
Bit of a luxury isn’t it, said I, we haven’t even got them on the floor.
Nearly sunk the boat in one of the Rufford locks, he said, bow got caught in the steel gates.

There are steel gates without a rubbing plate, I was warned off one myself before I came a cropper. Being single-handed has its down-side, you can’t watch everything all the time. I’m still doing daft things and I have the benefit of a schoolmistress wife!!

Reaching Parbold we found Grumpy Git with a for-sale notice in his window. Paul is a single hander and he’s after something smaller. See his advert on Apolloduck, he’s asking £68,500 which sounds a bargain for a three year old 54 footer in perfect condition.

The weather looked like it might hold so I accepted an invitation to treat V to an icecream. Parbold so impressed me that I had to test the cream-teas and the take-away Indian food.

We wanted to make an early start and beat the rush to the locks so along with Sarah-Kate we sneaked out of Parbold before curtains were drawn.
SK at parbold

But as everyone knows there’s always someone just round the corner with the same idea.
We were pipped at the post all the way to Wigan.

Mike spotted this little gem on the cruise towards Wigan. It’s an iron plaque crediting someone with beautiful piles.
piling prize

Can anyone shed any light on who got the prize or what the state of the competition was like?

Along the way we stopped to buy from Ambush, Derek’s coal boat. Expecting a narrowboat I was taken aback when it turned out to be a flipping great converted barge with space enough to carry both Balmaha and Sarah-Kate.

Up at Wigan, while V walked towards the lock, I stopped at the BW HQ offices to report a dead water tap.
Try as I might I couldn’t get the door open.

“PULL” it said so I tried and tried.
Then I knocked on the door a couple of times.
Nil, zilch, nothing doing. I could see staff sitting at their desks but no one wanted to know.

I was told by another boater that they only open the front door, the one that the postman uses to deliver boater’s licence money.

Oh well, their loss not mine. I got back to enjoying the canal and marvelled at this beautiful design for closing a lock gate.


And so to our resting place for the night – Poolstock, or Scotsman’s Flash as it’s known locally. Don’t forget that’s a term for a lake in these parts.

This is the last night of our spring cruise with Mike and Jo because tomorrow they leave on their summer cruise and we rest up before heading into the countryside to put our feet up.
We dined on Jo’s famous lasagne, Buck’s Fizz and red wine.
While we nattered I considered how well we’d done this year with no broken bones or boats hooked on cills.

We said our farewells to Mike and Jo and it felt quite sad watching them disappear into the distance.

It’s been a brilliant couple of months in lovely company, we wish you pleasant cruising, quiet moorings and wonderful adventures wherever your floating home takes you.

Friday – Sunday
We rested, did odd jobs like paintwork and reloading Windows (what a pain) and the weather has been kind enough to allow a barbeque which is the best form of relaxation I know.

The locals find it amazing that we’ve stopped here overnight because they’re used to seeing undesirables hanging around Scotman’s Flash. We had a boat for company one night but most evenings it’s just us and the Canada geese.

Daytime is taken up with avoiding walkers, or should I say, avoiding their bread. They bring huge bag-fulls of bread to feed the birds on the Flash but don’t understand the principle of chucking things into the wind. Half of it comes back and my job is to sweep it off the boat before the gulls spot it.

Good news for spider haters. Our ‘pet’ spider has stopped making webs in the galley since I hung half a conker outside its home in the woodwork.