Fact and fantasy

19th to 21st May 2012

Boaty bits and fairy tales, or when the diesel got polished and how Tattercoats found her prince

A long weekend in Cheshire beckoned – chance to tackle some jobs on Cleddau – and an opportunity to join the Cheshire One on a visit to the Spellbound Forest.

First to the boaty bits. If only there had been a tick list then the Captain could have smugly marked off as DONE:  

(1) replacing a hinge on the freezer compartment door

(2) locating and repairing breaks in the bilge pump wiring

(3) clearing out of water from beneath the engine

(4) wiring a speaker extension from the bedroom radio through to the bathroom

(5) moving coal, kindling and ash bin off the front deck to allow for summer sitting out (!)

(6) the application of de-rust paint to a few points on the engine hatch and cabin sides and retouching with red paint

(7) the application of de-rust paint to a few smudges on the handrails and roof edge and retouching with blue paint

(8) changing the filter on the drinking water tap


(9) the big one: organising the cleaning out of the diesel tank and its fuel content, a procedure known as fuel polishing.

Boatwif’s contribution, meanwhile, to this notional tick list was the cleaning of all windows, mirrors and portholes, inside and out, port side from the pontoon, starboard side via a creep along the gunnel, left hand on the handrail.

Readers, not only were jobs done but also a little cruising was achieved… Easy access to the diesel tank would be required for the diesel flushing episode on Monday but Cleddau’s usual mooring position is bow into the bank and stern towards the canal. Far better to turn the boat around – and so it was on Sunday that there was a little journey of about five miles up past Goyt Mill to Marple Junction where the Macclesfield and the Peak Forest Canals meet, just to turn the boat round of course, not to marvel at the swathes of forget-me-nots or sniff the wild garlic or dodge the drifting dandelion seed, nor to view extensions on High Lane’s houses or people gardening and, in one place, even sitting outside on garden chairs. It had not been our expectation to come across a half-sunken boat adrift across the canal nor to espy a beautiful barrel decorated in canal art style… As ever the towpath was busy, joggers jogging in a bunch and two troops of horses and riders out on a Sunday hack. “Well, this is Cheshire,” explained the Captain, needlessly, while on the water narrow boats and canoes were trying hard to keep apart.

So to the fuel polishing: from Swanley Bridge Marina (near Nantwich) on Monday afternoon came Roger and out of his little orange car he took pipes, containers and a double cylinder arrangement on a lawnmower-like frame. The process involves sucking out the fuel, separating the water and any (many!) deposits and then passing the diesel through successive filters in the cylinders until it is clean. The cylinders require electric power to suck and filter, so, in case no electricity is available, a small portable generator is brought along too. The water removed from Cleddau’s tank was like a muddy puddle or badly mixed gravy; over time the diesel gradually resumed a clearer appearance. Operation Fuel Polish was a three hour long procedure, done in warm sunshine and assisted by several mugs of tea!

Fairy tales:   a far cry from the practicalities of boat maintenance were the fairy tales depicted in Delamere Forest over the weekend. On Saturday morning there was an early downhill drive across Cheshire, down from the highlands of the east, across the Plain, over the River Weaver at Northwich (hey, we cruised under that bridge in April) and on towards Chester.  On a Delamere Forestry Commission site the Spellbound Forest had been established. Clues, props, musicians and actors were located along the forest paths. Gradually a story would be unravelled. Hence the Cheshire One and her “twin” (same day, same hospital) created characters, followed a prince, added fabric to Tattercoats’s  dress, danced at a ball, found sticks for their bundles of provisions, hid in an enormous magpie’s nest – and walked a fair distance up and down muddy forest paths! You’d turn a corner to find a table setting or a four poster bed or an array of sewing machines or a collection of bird cages – such huge effort had gone into the event the organisers, Wild Rumpus, deserve every success with future family arts events.

After such escapism in the forest a yearning grows – with clean windows, good radio reception in the bathroom and a clean fuel tank surely it must be nearly time for more escapism – by boat!

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