The previous article I added on here was written on the 29th January, at the end of my first day of boating this year. I’m typing this on 26th December, at the end of (probably) the last day of boating this year.

For all this year has had plenty of adventures, not many of them have been by boat. The January post mentioned my upcoming Interrail trip. That had turned into 6 Interrail trips by mid September, truly the adventure of a lifetime. My travels diary tells the story so I won’t repeat it here, but one significant consequence was that very little boating was done.

With assorted stoppage changes messing around my plans in January and February, I ended up leaving the boat in Aston Marina for a couple of months, beginning in the first week or March. It’s a lovely place, the neighbours and staff are all super. Between the trips, which were roughly a fortnight each, I worked from the boat in the marina – and realised how much cheaper plug-in mains is that generating it yourself. I spent about half as much on electric cards as I would normally do in the same period of time on fuel for the generator.

Leaving Aston Marina on the morning of my first Interrail trip
Leaving Aston Marina on the morning of my first Interrail trip

The stay in Aston was uneventful – right up to the point that I almost sank the boat! I mentioned in the January post that I’d had problems with the water system, specifically the pressure relieve valve was firing the moment that any pressure was applied to the system. I’d not had the time to fix it (it’s in a really nasty location under the bed and behind the hot water tank) so I was leaving the water pump turned off whenever I didn’t need to use it. On this particular day, I was working from the boat and at the same time was filling up the water tanks from a stand pipe nearby. I set it running and didn’t give it a second thought until I heard a strange noise that I’d never heard before, at the front of the boat.

I stepped outside to find that water was running into the boat through the scuppers, which normally sit an inch or two above the waterline, and there were several inches of water on the deck! I VERY quickly realised the gravity of the situation. I initially tried bunging up the scuppers with a couple of sponges that were in a bucket on the deck, but that didn’t work. I ran inside, started the water pump and opened all the taps. Returning outside, carrying a couple of tea towels, I had another go at bunging up the scuppers. That was more successful, not perfect but I could now get water out faster than it was coming in.

Catching my breath, I now realised what had happened. While I’d been distracted on a work call, the water tanks under the front deck had overfilled – the water had been running for maybe 45 minutes. When the tanks fill they overflow into the locker around them (long story but they can’t overflow via a hose over the side in the normal way.) What would then normally happen is that an automatic bilge pump would kick in and pump the water over the side, I would see/hear this and turn the fill tap off. However the bilge pump is on the same electrical circuit as the water pump so because I’d switched that circuit off, the bilge pump didn’t fire, I didn’t get my reminder and the whole locker and then the locker next to it, which has all my spares and tools in it, both completely filled, adding lots of weight to the bow, to the point where the scuppers dipped into the water and water had flooded in rapidly.

I bailed the tools/spares locker with a bucket while the other tank was draining with the bilge and water pumps. I must mention a few neighbours who realised something was wrong and ran to see if they could assist, from the opposite side of the marina. By the time they arrived I’d stabilised things, but it was good to have the extra pairs of eyes and a few calm heads around to confirm that things were getting better rather than worse.

It took about 2 hours to get rid of all the excess water. Thankfully none got into the cabin, but most of my tools and spares were a write off. Canal water had also got into the domestic water tanks so that all had to be sanitised. Not the best of days.

I left Aston in the third week of May, just after my first Interrail pass had expired. I decided to head north to the Weaver, always a favourite place to be, especially in June. Passing through home territory, I got a good look at the “new”Goods Yard” development next to Stoke Station. I’m still not convinced this is going to work well from the water, but it’s certainly going to be a lot better than the metal shed was here before.

The "Goods Yard" development in Stoke-on-Trent
The “Goods Yard” development in Stoke-on-Trent

I spent a couple of weeks on the Weaver. Frustratingly, Vale Royal Lock has been closed for a good part of the year but I enjoyed pottering around on the rest of the river, and had friends on board on a lovely early summer day; my only visitors of the whole year!

On a whim I decided to join friends who I’d seen on their way to the Lymm Transport Festival, on the Bridgewater Canal. I’ve not been to this event before, by boat or car. I was a really lovely event and I quickly decided that I’d come back and do it properly another time, not just stopping by for a single afternoon/evening as I had this time.

Bream moored in the middle of the action at Lymm Historic Transport Festival, 24th June, 2023
Bream moored in the middle of the action at Lymm Historic Transport Festival, 24th June, 2023

From Lymm, I made my way over a couple of weekends to Swanley Bridge Marina, just onto the Llangollen Canal. I’d been looking for a place to leave the boat in the Nantwich area whilst I took another Interrail trip, and this relatively short diversion was by some distance the cheapest. Again it was a lovely and well-run place, but it really is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest bus stop is a good half hour walk from the marina, but on the other hand that did make it a very safe place to leave the boat, and in Wrenbury Station gave an interesting new start point for the trip.

Other than the pressure relief valve, which I fixed by myself, the job I really needed to get sorted this year was to replace the alternator. After leaving Swanley, I headed back to the Shroppie, and south to Dave & Louise’s place near to Cheswardine. Dave designed and installed pretty much all the electrical systems on Bream, and knows that side of her better than I do! The previous alternator had died after giving about 14 years service. It was a huge beast, designed to fit into a US Army tank, apparently. The replacement was quite a bit smaller but still big enough to load the engine seriously when running flat out. A feature that Dave came up with 14 years ago had been a multi-position switch that allowed me to have the alternator off, charging at a low rate, or running flat out. This had served me well, especially on rivers when you might need more (or all) of the engine power, so I was keen for this to be retained. Dave didn’t let me down and despite the new alternator being a different make and differently wired, he was able to keep this unusual (unique?) feature for me.

It was also lovely to have some time to catch up with them both, as we’d not seen each other in ages. I left the boat with them while I did one more trip out to Italy, around my birthday, and I finally headed away on 22nd September.

Sterling and Bream, 22nd September, 2023
Sterling and Bream, 22nd September, 2023

Most of the boating this year has been quite relaxed. Not travelling outside Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire all year has meant that most trips have been quite short. However, on this occasion I really needed to go for it, leaving before 8am, doing 27 locks single-handed and finally stopping near to Hurleston Junction some 14 hours later. I quite enjoy an epic boating day, and that one was very enjoyable, if tiring as an out-of-practice single-hander.

Back on the river, Acton Bridge Steam Party is a lovely weekend, which I try to get to when I can. Boats and traction engines gather near to the Leigh Arms pub. The weather was like midsummer, absolutely stunning, and a super time was had.

The week after this event the heavens opened and there was a quite dramatic flood on the river, followed by an even bigger one a week later. Thankfully I’d seen the forecast and went back up the Boat Lift before the first one arrived.

Flooding below Hunt's Lock, Northwich, 21st October, 2023
Flooding below Hunt’s Lock, Northwich, 21st October, 2023

I hung around in the Northwich area for a while, the went south to Wheelock in early December. Tonight I am back up on the Trent & Mersey at Acton Bridge, waiting for my Boat Lift passage back onto the river on 3rd January.

It’s been a funny year from a boating perspective. Last year’s London trip and particularly the injury I suffered at Warwick really took it out of me. I still have pain with my shoulder and other issues with my fingers and some other joints (which may be connected but are more likely just age-related) have meant that at times boating was the last thing I wanted to be doing. Interrailing had, at least in part, been planned before any of that happened, so was a helpful excuse to not do more than I needed to, this year. That said there were a few lovely days, as can be seen above.

Next year promises to be an interesting one, more of which in the next post, in a couple of week time…