This year I was determined to extend the pleasure and anticipation of our trip to the maximum (and blogging about it afterwards lets me savour all the delights again, at no extra charge). I began by ordering a couple of detailed canal guides to areas that we might wish to cruise.
Our starting point was settled fairly quickly: we needed it to be close to Manchester airport so that we could return our hire car (rental car) there before we headed off on the canal. These wonderful guides show the distances and approximate times between points on a route. Better yet, they also show pubs (yes, a necessity), watering points, locks, winding holes, tunnels–everything you need to know.
We would be starting just slightly north of Anderton (at the top of the map above). After a short debate, we settled on doing the Four Counties Ring. Having amicably settled on heading south from our starting point, of course we discovered that our dear 60 foot boat was determinedly pointing north.
Yes, there turned out to be a solution to this: The first thing we had to find was a winding hole (the consensus is that this is pronounced like wind as in gale, rather than winding a ball of yarn).
These are marked on the map as a circle with a number in it. Thus a winding hole marked 60 is not wide enough to turn a 70 foot boat! Watching boats make turns is a matter of considerable amusement for the onlooker, and is just slightly stressful in the doing for the novice helmsman!
Short course in winding: You have to try and turn the bow into the dip in the bank, and then shuffle backwards and forwards performing a 17 point turn, whilst fervently hoping hoping that there are no boats coming, that the wind will let your bow around, and that you don’t run aground (the epitome of embarrassment).
We successfully achieved this, greeted with modest applause from a nearby moored boat! We were on now properly on our way.
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