Pole-painting and a pootle

Friday 16th to Sunday 18th March

It’s when the evenings grow lighter that the symptoms start, an itching to be out and about, tramping the towpath, working some locks, steering the boat, peeking round the next corner… To cope with the longing to be afloat Boatwif is inclined to make impulse purchases: recently a new mop was bought (easier to operate with its shorter handle), then a second hand vase (to replace last year’s Hawksbury Junction casualty), and even a couple of dried flower sprigs to refresh the existing display. The Captain’s traditional reaction to longer days is to throw himself into route-planning: A to B via C, so many days at so many hours, miles, numbers of locks, sunrise and sunset all taken into account. This year, though, the Captain has found another means of treating his boat yearning symptoms: pole-painting.

It started with the bringing home of an enormous pole, attached to which is a hefty brass boat hook (possibly “removed” from HM Dockyard back in 1926). It’s often served its purpose (notably when Cleddau struggled up the weed-clogged locks of the Northampton Arm in August 2010). Here the hook was detached from the pole and then days and days were spent sanding, priming, varnishing and painting. Most of the action was outside until rare rain drove pole and painter indoors. Finally it was finished and driven last Friday 150 miles back to the boat. There it now lies on the pole rack, the red painted end shiny and bright.

 A “floating cottage” weekend had been planned to prepare the boat for April’s Cheshire Ring / Weaver Navigation trip – and to paint number 2 pole, the very long barge pole. On Friday afternoon at the moorings the winter routine swung into play: unload car, start up engine, reverse out of mooring, turn boat around, motor to water point to fill the tank. A long fill it was and then after 4pm Cleddau sallied through the bridge, heading the mile or so on to Adlington. Moored securely nearby was the 70′ of Sanity Again, its owners currently moving another Braidbar boat from Crick on the Leicester line back to Poynton. The temperature dropped, a sharp wind blew. The routine continued, the stove being lit. It was Friday night and the Miners’ Arms was busy. While the Captain and Boatwif supped on  Specials Board Fish Pie the locals jovially planned their rugby Six Nations viewing…

Rain almost stopped play for the Captain on Saturday: an ingenious X frame device had been made last week to support a pole during painting and he was eager to use it. The long barge pole (replacement cost £38 at Bailey’s Trading Post) was trimmed, sanded and base-coated twice – and twice during Saturday night heavy showers thundered on the roof. Sunday dawned dry and sunny, perfect pole-painting conditions, except the pole was still soaked from the rain! By mid-morning a visitation had arrived, Cheshire Mum and the Cheshire One, hopeful of a boat ride. And so, for no other cause than just enjoyment, Cleddau pootled off. Just a short pootle it was, north to High Lane, a turn at the North Cheshire Cruising Club arm, a run back past the Poynton playing fields (adult footballers very much in action) to turn again and cruise back to the mooring. For a while Cheshire Mum steered (“That gap is small,” a spectator remarked as Cleddau was brought painlessly through a bridge-hole.) At High Lane the deep thud-thud of a low geared engine signalled the approach of working boat Hadar, (see picture on their blog). Back at Poynton ears captured another distinctive sound. Think of strolling and kicking your way through the shallows at the sea’s edge. All members of a wellington-booted family slooshed and paddled their way along the towpath. “It is really deep!” yelled the Dad.

Later, after a Mothers’ Day dinner cooked by Techno Son-in-law, the phone rang.  From five thousand miles away Welsh-educated Cal Son taunted his English brother-in-law.

“You plastic Welshman!” was the reply.” You only wear a red shirt when it suits you! And did you REALLY watch the match?” Given the current seven hour time difference perhaps he didn’t…

Time ticked on: with Venus and Jupiter bright in the night sky the car was pointed south, Boatwif sharing the passenger seat leg space with one end of pole number three. As you might expect pole painting has resumed.

FOOTNOTE for readers of the previous blog: the iron cooking plank was found, quite unexpectedly, in a very different cupboard from its usual place…

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