10 September, 2014

Shangai'd in Middlewich

Steering Maria
Every year in Middlewich there is the Folk and Boat Festival and my wife Hilary usually helps out with stewarding. This year Sue Day from the Horse Boating Society was demonstrating how to harness a horse for towing a nearby wooden narrow boat "Maria" and Hilary duly assisted in holding the horse still. At the end of the display Sue asked for people to come forward to crew the boat the next day as she didn’t have anyone. I was watching and both Hilary and I declined at first but Sue can be quite persuasive so we were (slightly willingly actually) shangaid. It turned out Sue was short of crew for much of the journey ahead and to cut a long story short, both Hilary & Emma ended up crewing the boat too and through a large part of the Cheshire Ring from Middlewich to the centre of Manchester. This included the first time a horse drawn boat had been in the Anderton Lift for 60 years, legging through Preston Brook tunnel and polling (like punting) along the parts where the horse and towline couldn’t be used. Steering a horse drawn boat is a lot different from one with an engine, so is stopping one too!

Maria under tow from Bilbo
A little about Maria:
* Built at Marple in 1854 so in 2014 she was 160 years old!
* Oldest wooden canal narrowboat and does not have an engine.
* Until around 1950 she was un use for carrying goods and repair materials for canal repairs.
* During the 1970s she was raised after having been sunk & abandoned sometime in the 1960s
* Restored and owned by the Ashton packet Boat Co. and now operated by The Horseboating Society.

Sue Day and the narrowboat "Elland"
Hilary and I have also helped out at at a demonstration at National Boat Museuem, Ellesmere Port and crewed "Elland" on the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Burnley.

Maria at the Anderton Boat Lift