English Canal Adventure 2019

We started planning this adventure in December 2018 so that we could get choice dates for the boat. When school is out around the end of May, the canals are flooded with families meandering up and down the canals. On the canals with locks, boats can line up for hours in queues since most locks accomodate one boat at a time. the other concern is mooring at the pubs. Usually there is very limited space. Also, it can get stressful in very narrow channels. ....so we prefer to book before or after the summer crowds.

  Also we wanted to enjoy the Spring flowers, the ducklings and cygnets and the quiet on the canal...  

We scheduled our non-stop United flight for the evening of May 8...for the Dreamliner service to London Heathrow. 

When we got to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, we were greeted with mixed emotions. One of our long time acquaintences had retired after 38 years at the hotel, but another had been promoted to Supervisor of the reception area....which proved to be VERY beneficial to us!!! 

On the 10th we were scheduled to get our Avis car. Unfortunately we got on the wrong bus and ended up at the wrong Avis location. Fortunately, they had a spare SUV with automatic transmission. (MOST rental cars in the UK are MANUAL transmission!)...so we got a Hyndai instead of a Peugot. 

We got up early on the 11th to drive the 220 miles to Garstang to get the boat....the same one we had in 2017. After a few minutes of hugs and chatting with Elaine and Eamonn, we headed into town to get some food for the two weeks.
The Piccaso is 9' wide and 42' long. We like it because it has a cruiser stern, leather recliners and a full size bed that you can walk around. The owners built it for themselves as a 5 star luxury boat.  

In the morning Eamonn took us out of the marina and we were on our own for the next two weeks.


May 13

We headed south to explore the part of the canal we had not seen in 2017.


Captain Bob at the tiller....


We passed the ruin of Greenhaigh Castle which was built in 1490 by the Earl of Derby who placed Richard III's crown on Henry Tudor's head after the victory of Bosworth's Field. In the 17th Century it was demolished in the Civil War.


We cruised south to the pub, Owd Nells, which has a thatched roof. Sitting outside with our beer and wine, we watched Starling chicks in a nest at the corner of he roof squaking for food . Later we cruised south a mile and half to a 'winding hole' (wide area for turning around.) and cruised back up to Garstang.

Usually we cruise at 2-3 miles an hour. Boaters are requested to NOT travel 4 mph because the wake washed out the banks of the canal.

Miles of the canal were lined with yellow iris and bushes with white flowers, which, unfortunately, were not fragrant.



...and then there were the cows.....curious about the boats passing through their watering hole....

We passed under scenic stone one lane (above and below) bridges that were probably built 200 years ago.


High ones and low ones...

The length of the canal we traveled, there were 112...so we actually negotiated 224 passages that are 14' wide with our 9' boat.

It was like threading a needle with a 17 ton boat.

May 14 

For 5 hours we cruised up the canal to Lancaster. On the way up we met only 7 boats.

Talk about 'up close and personal'...Some residents like watching the boats go by....

Unfortunately you can't see the twin sofas because of the reflection of our boat.


We moored at the Water Witch pub, just as we had ... back in 2017. The buillding had been the horse and mule barn back when the canal was used for moving cargo from town to town....before railroads were invented. All the old beams are covered with beer coasters.



In the pub, the bartender said: "...you were here last year. I mailed a post card for you." Actually it was September 2017...but it was neat that he remembered me.

I tried to pay for the pint with one of the 10 pound notes I had saved from 2017, but was told that those notes were made obsolete last year....perhaps a bank would exchange them???? 

May 15

  A day of relaxing and people-watching. There is a university a few blocks away and the apartments across the canal are student housing, so the place was flooded with students.

There was a bit of an issue with the boat, so Eamonn came and fixed it.

  May 16

  We walked into Lancaster and tried to exchange the 10 pound notes. The first two banks would not do it .   Finally I went into an HSBC bank. A young woman bank officer asked me if I had an account. I told her...not with THIS bank, but back in Texas I had a house mortgage with HSBC (years ago), so she made the switch. We understand that next year the country will issue new smaller20 pound notes .

Gail sat outside the bank and enjoyed the activity in the town square while I was exchangine the money....

  We went into the Clarks shoe store and the clerk, Fiona, remembered us.

 "You were here last year.... I took your picture eating ice cream."
We ended up buying MORE shoes....


Are we so notorious that we are remembered? or do we really make a favorable impression on people? 



May 17 

Cruised up the canal heading to the Canal Turn pub in Carnforth.

We pass through the town of Hest Bank. On the North side of the town, there is bridge which serves one manor house. It is called a 'swing bridge' because it is perfectly balanced in the middle and takes very little effort to give it a push to swing it open for passage of boats.

swing bridge

This is the process when you approach the bridge:

1. Moor your boat

2. Shut off your engine and take the boat key.

3. Walk across the bridge

4. Unlock the chain that secures the bridge with the boat key

5. Cross the bridge

6. Give the bridge a little push. If you push too hard, it will bounce off the other side and then you have to pull the chain, which is attached to the bridge, so you can have another chance to push the bridge open just the right amount.

7.When the bridge is open enough for passage, start the boat, untie it and motor through.

8. Moor the boat

9. Shut off your engine and take the boat key.

10. Pull the bridge closed with the chain.

11. Cross the bridge and lock it in place with the other chain.

12. Walk across the bridge, get back on the boat and continue cruising the canal.

(WAsn't that FUN???? to get 15' on the other side of the bridge?)

It just so happens that when I was at step 4. I heard a horrifying CRACK like a gunshot. A second later, the top of the tree 50 feet away came crashing down. No wind....no storm...just shear chance that the rotted branch succombed to gravity.

We continued up the canal and stopped at the pub, Canal Turn.... a family run business and very friendly.


  Canal Turn Pub

May 18 

The next day we walked down the hill to the Tesco super grocery store to get some fresh fruit and newspapers.

I was shocked to see   a 1950 Morris Minor parked on the street.


May 19


The next day we cruised up to the end of the canal at Tewitt and turned around. This took about 4 hours. The original canal actually goes much farther North, but there is a series of locks which have not been restored.

We did not meet any boats on the canal today...like it was our own personal waterway.

Most sections of the canal are comfortably wide for two boats to pass...

but then there is the occasional narrow channel with a curve. You hold your breath and toot your horn and hope you don't meet another boat..or at least hope that you are bigger than the other boat. Narrow boats are notoriously hard to back up.

  Working hard at relaxing....

Monday May 20

  We cruised back down to Lancaster.

Now THat's a bunch of cygnets!!!!

When we got to the swinging bridge at Hest Bank, there was a tree crew just starting to survey the damage the tree top had done to the garage next to the tree.  


May 21

   Another day of just enjoying the activity at the pub and camaraderie with other boaters on the canal. 

May 22

  Walk into town to get shoes we ordered at Clarks.

Cruise to Garstang. Only 7 boats going up the canal today.

  May 23


  Cruise from Garstang South to the turn-a-round...the 'bottom of the canal' for this boat.

The canal continues down to the city of Preston, but we are told that it is narrow and shallow.

We moored at the Hand and Daggar pub.

We had to climb the stairs up to the street where we saw an interesting sign posted....

The owner stopped by to chat, so we asked him about the Westinghouse evacuation sign. He said that it was a nuclear facility but never had an accident

We met 2 power boats, 4 canoes and 1 narrow boat.

We asked the bartender for a souvenir and he gave us a Carling bar pad.

May 24


Last day on the canal.

It is always tough to do the last leg....knowing that the two week adventure is coming to an end, so to stretch it out, we did the last ten miles with the engine idling. It took SEVEN hours!!!!

That was seven hours of undivided attention.....WITHOUT A PIT STOP!!!! If your attention wanders for 3 seconds, you can be sure that the boat is headed into the weeds. Needless to say, I was wiped out by the time we moored across from the Owd Tithe Barn in Garstang.

We went into the pub through the back door.

You can be assured that THIS roof wont need replacing for a few years!

May 25

  At 9:30 sharp, Eamonn was at the Piccaso.
It was a sunny day and I piloted all the way into the marina.....something that Eamonn normally does not allow, but seeing my skill at handling the boat, he treated me to the privilege.

After unloading the boat and piling everything into the car, we headed South to London.

On the M6 near Stoke on Trent we came upon a very bad motorcycle accident in the northbound lanes.

There were about a dozen cyclists hanging around the median, numerous police and rescue vehicles and EIGHT miles of motorists standing outside their cars, trying to see what the problem was...and an additional 5 miles of slow creeping cars approaching the blockage.
Fortunately for us, we never encountered any traffic problems.

When we checked into the Crown Plaza, Attila gave us the jaccuzi suite instead of the standard room.
Sunday to Tuesday we just relaxed and did a bit of swimming.

We did spend Monday driving around to numerous stores to get a year supply of a pain relief ointment that is available only by prescription in the US.

Wednesday morning 'Hannes', Barbara, Birgit and Anja arrived from Mauerbach Austria. They came to spend a few days with us.
Since they had never been to London, they spent Thursday doing the tourist route....Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben, Hyde Park, etc.

On Thursday, the 30th, we celebrated our 10th anniversary by renting a van and driving South to Brighton Beach.

We were all shocked to see the beach has NO sand....is just totally covered with 1-2" rocks ... really hard to walk on.

'Hannes', Birgit, Anja, and Barbara


Some pubs have eye-catching signs you can't miss!

After having lunch at a pub, Hannes offered to drive and we set out for Stonehenge. Unfortunately, there was construction along the way, which made travelling at a snail pace. Finally, we decided to head back to the hotel in order to get back before dark.

After dinner in the hotel we tearfully said our goodbyes....Hannes and family had to get up at 4am to catch their 6am flight back to Austria.

June 4 finally came and we packed our stuff, bid goodbye to the numerous staff who we have gotten to know over the years and headed back to Heathrow. As usual, it was a nightmare, but finally we were on the Dreamliner.

Since we had arrived on May 9, there had been only one brief shower the evening of May 26. We never expected to have such a dry vacation.

Thanks for getting this far in our adventure....

We hope you enjoyed it vicariously.


Bob and Gail

P.S. Everyone talks about the US and UK being two countries separated by a common language....

We went into a store and look for 'Gas-X'.. but only found......