Growing older gracefully…

Cleddau has emerged from her winter hibernation.  After months of sitting out in the cold on the hard standing, followed by a period inside while her bottom was blacked, then another cold shivery spell outdoors, she was at last moved indoors, sand blasted and painted.

From an early life as an ungainly, green-cabined, out of balance red-roofed vessel (here a four year old at Sawley, 1994)    she then became red with a blue roof, courtesy of an amateur paint job by her owners during the summer of 1996.


Next came a a proper paint job at Devizes in 2002     before a glamorous makeover by Andy Russell in October 2009. 

But, nine years on, just as a lady’s beauty can gently fade so had Cleddau’s red on her cabin sides. Her paint was thin, the effects of polishing was increasingly short-lived and so, last October, Cleddau was delivered to Aqueduct Marina, near Nantwich, for an upgrade in her looks. This was a far more serious spa treatment than previously – and perhaps like many a middle-aged lady of yesteryear  (aunts of a certain generation used to adopt this style) she has emerged proudly displaying her new ‘blue rinse’.

She’s old enough now (29) to adopt a Roses and Castles style, though hers is very specific.


Full credit to sign writer Rob for interpreting the brief so accurately.

On the last visit to see her in the paint shed there’d been much discussion with painter Johnny about the appropriate shade of hemp to be used on the stern doors     – and the Captain is pretty pleased with these links to his personal history.

The Cleddau crew were on the M6 (Friday 6th April), heading north, when a call came through from Nick, Aqueduct’s Engineering Workshop Manager. Cleddau was on a trailer, ready for relaunch after midday. There she was, perched behind the tractor, stern doors open.     There was a delay while jump leads coaxed the engine into life    (yes, the starter battery had gone into terminal hibernation and a replacement was needed). Round the boat trailer the boat crew went, full of admiration for her pristine appearance.


Back in the water her bodywork gleamed and her black hull looked remarkably smart and spotless…


“Go aboard and have a look,” Nick urged. The dust covers and plastic sheeting that had swathed the inside of the cabin for all those months had  been removed and the interior deep cleaned.     Well done and thanks to the Aqueduct staff for making the takeover that bit easier…

Not that moving back aboard after a six months’ absence is actually easy – it’s more a form of hard labour to unpack all that had been squirrelled away out of harm’s way and to sort the two car loads of boat items that had spent the winter 138 miles further south…


Systems checked, tools and boat equipment stowed, grocery cupboard and fridge restocked, curtains and blinds rehung, books returned to open shelves, pictures refastened to cabin sides, chimney positioned, starter battery replaced – finally, at 1515 on Monday, Cleddau could return to the canal.

From Aqueduct Marina   it had to be a left hand turn along Middlewich Arm,    heading for the Shropshire Union Canal. The breach four miles east at Middlewich has severed the route back to the Trent and Mersey Canal so it’s a longer route south (to Bedford) than was originally anticipated.

There were two locks to do on Day 1. The lock gloves, sparklingly clean,    would soon be changing colour!     At Barbridge Junction boaters need to turn sharp right for Chester and Ellesmere Port or left for Nantwich, Llangollen and Wolverhampton.     By 7pm Cleddau was moored at Nantwich, joined soon after by nb Valerie and owner Jaq.     What a good night – the first night back afloat with fine company to boot!

Even when you know it’s going to rain hard the next day     it’s depressing when that is the reality. Jaq, magnificently, was determined to help Cleddau on her way. By 0830 project Conquer Audlem was under way.    Such a route involved 7 miles, 17 locks (2 at Hack Green plus the Audlem 15), a great deal of torrential rain, fast and furious by-washes,


and a vast amount of towpath mud… and another muddy walk back to Audlem for Jaq to return to Nantwich.


It’s all proportionate, isn’t it: when torrential rain eases “things are getting better”; when the rain eventually stops “the weather is good”… In somewhat challenging conditions then Cleddau and crew have embarked on their 2018 Summer Cruise: it’s now only 311 more miles and 80 locks to Bedford for the Bedford River Festival in mid July…

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5 Responses

  1. Jennie says:

    Looking very smart indeed. We will feel positively shabby! I hope the weather does improve and the River Trent is back to normal by early May! Safe travels – we set off on Saturday and will see you at Trent Lock in due course. Well done Jaq for her sterling efforts.

  2. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    I am still in awe of the beauty of Cleddau’s new make over and I love the theme of this post! Very creative take Sue. Again, thank you both for a lovely evening and for the opportunity to help crack the Audlem flight despite the weather. As I I mentioned last night on the phone, although I was totally shattered, soaking wet and covered in mud when I made it back to Nantwich and NBV, I felt fantastic! It is good to challenge one’s self especially physically as one ages, and I was chuffed to bits to know I could still do it. Actually it is the recovery phase which is taking a bit longer than it used to do!! Onward with zest, spirit, and grace for you both and the lovely NB Cleddau.

    Love Jaq xxx

  3. Thank you Jaq and Jennie for your comments. You can certainly congratulate yourself Jaq after your own long cruising day on Monday, helping us through 17 locks on Tuesday, followed by very long walks to and from the Audlem and Nantwich bus stops!
    We continue to sort out the boat’s interior when not on the move .
    This will go down as by far the muddiest boat trip ever!
    Sue /Boatwif

  4. Carol says:

    Looks like a brand new Cleddau, very smart! Happy cruising this summer, let’s hope for sunshine. x

  5. Adam says:

    We’re not going to recognise you! Very nice new colour scheme.

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