Friday 31 December 2021

Chuffed - the stats

Well, I have been putting this ‘final’ post off for many months but it must be done, so that’s been occupying me since Christmas.  We had hoped by now to have had a couple of cruises on a new (to us) boat, but instead it’s been a frustrating year with anything suitable sold within hours of becoming available, including Chuffed of course, so we shouldn't have been surprised.  But semitrads are few and far between compared to cruiser sterns, and ones with bow-thrusters and reverse layout scarcer still.  At times we wished we hadn’t parted with Chuffed, and certainly regretted not buying Tentatrice when we had the chance, but regret gets you nowhere so we keep looking forward! 

A favourite mooring at Flecknoe

It’s a long post, and mostly for my benefit, so please enjoy the photos if you can’t be bothered with the words ….

We were not alone in having our Christmas plans scuppered by Covid or other illness, though thankfully no-one has been too poorly. The children had devised a fabulous present for us - a gorgeously illustrated hard-cover book which they had concocted from the Chuffed blogs and got printed.  Our son wrote a script to scrape (technical term) selected highlights and photographs from the 620 blogs (there were over 400,000 words and 5,000 images to choose from).  At 150 pages long it’s a wonderful reminder of our time aboard, full of happy memories and lovely photos.  The photos they chose were all instantly recognisable and the text takes us straight back to the time and place where it was written.

'Canal regeneration' - taken 5 years ago, has anything happened yet?

Our first canine companion was our dear old Tess, who was with us from 1995, and on every cruise until the summer of 2013.  

                                    Faithful Tess enjoying the sun at Hillmorton.

 She was succeeded in 2014 by lovely Meg, who took to boating like a duck to water.

                                            Meg taking charge on her first cruise

And now for the stats, which run from 2012 to 2021.  The mileage figures are only a rough approximation – it turns out that I was less than consistent in my record keeping, for instance in the early days I didn’t record narrow and broad canals and locks separately.   I do like things to be reasonably accurate, so over the last few days I’ve spent quite some time rectifying this with Canalplanner, though there are limits to the desire for accuracy - the furlongs are mostly rounded up or down to the nearest quarter mile and the results shown as decimals.

Narrow canals


Broad canals


Gloucester &Sharpness




Total miles


Engine hours


Most years we spent approximately 3 months cruising, from a few days to 3 weeks at a time.  My records show a total of 711 nights aboard, but Dave recorded 762 days, which included those when we cruised and left for home on the same day, and his maintenance visits during the winter.  We travelled nearly 4,500 miles, visiting places like Braunston many times but others only once, such as Huddersfield and Bath.

The Great Wall of Tod – Todmorden, Rochdale canal; visited only once (so far)

              How many have I contributed to the thousands of boaters' photos of Braunston Church?

It took us ages to lose the ‘hirer’ mindset, where you aim for full-day cruising to achieve your goal and get back to base by the deadline – as hirers and sharers we cruised the Four Counties ring in a week more than once, and thought nothing of it. Although we knew perfectly well it was up to us when we finished our trips, it was years before we felt truly comfortable with short days.

    Relaxing on a hot day, Wedding Bridge, S Oxford – footbridge a mile or so north of Fenny Compton

I love doing locks, though as we all know some are more taxing than others!  The variety of paddle gear and gate types is fascinating and some took me a while to get used to, such as the Calder & Hebble Spike, or the chains to open the bottom gates on the Rochdale Nine (2015).

narrow locks


broad locks


large locks


total locks


                                    Using the handspike at Salterhebble top lock

                                        Guillotine gate at Todmorden, Library lock

And some lift bridges are a pleasure to use, though I know many of us have struggled with some on the way into Oxford.  I recorded 285 moveable (swing or lift) bridges, but only tended to note the ones which require action from crew – I don’t see the point in recording those which are usually kept open, or even completely out of use.  Mill Lift Bridge in Lower Heyford, now operated with the BWB/Watermate key, the Key of Power, used to be a nightmare for smaller folk like me. 


The (then) truly horrible Drinkwater’s bridge, near Oxford, 2019

Some required planning and a deal of skill to negotiate – going downstream at Woolhampton, on the K&A, the steerer must hold the boat in the lock while the crew holds up the traffic at the bridge, as if you try to hold steady in the stream before the bridge is fully open you will be pushed to the side by the current.  You have to really open up the revs, and to add to the excitement, the bridge is on the skew.  I seem to remember it was very difficult to get back on again after I had closed the bridge, because of the strong water flow.

Racing through Woolhampton Bridge

Tunnels varied from wide and spacious (Blisworth) to narrow and cramped (Harecastle), some very short and scarcely worth the name (Broad Street in Birmingham) to the epic (Standedge, the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain).  To look at the eastern portal of Standedge, you would hardly believe the statistics; 5675 yards, or over 3 miles long, so much more impressive in old money don’t you think? the deepest (with up to 636 feet of rock above you, that’s roughly 3 football pitches stood on end), and highest above sea level (645’).  

Emerging from Standedge, June 2015

Canalplanner tells me we traversed 204 tunnels, though many of those would have been duplicated on there-and-back cruises, such as Dunhampstead on the many times we popped down to Worcester.

As for aqueducts, we love them, though I have to say I would feel a lot less relaxed on a cruiser stern!  Among the 24 recorded (counting both directions of course), we have crossed the magnificent Pontcysyllte several times, and you don't need my snaps of that, but we also have a soft spot for the tiny Yarningale on the South Stratford.  

                                                    Pretty little Yarningale aqueduct

We had our fair share of rubbish round the prop, from the almost ubiquitous poly bags to a martial arts type padded jerkin on the Rochdale and a reinforced knobbly bike tyre on the BCN main line.  Everyone has their own horror stories about rubbish, so you don’t need to see my pictures of it too.  I won’t dwell on our various mishaps either, I prefer not to remember them! thankfully there were no serious injuries involved, though on occasion a fair amount of cash was required.  We had to call out CRT once to haul us off a shopping trolley on the Walsall, but trolley trouble along there is no novelty to anyone who ventures that way!

We haven’t yet visited all seven Wonders of the Waterways though we’re over half way - we’ve covered the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, Anderton Boat Lift, Standedge Tunnel and the Caen Hill flight.

                On the Caen Hill flight 2013 - roped up to nb Kyakatina, with a snapped gear cable!

On our very first canal trip, way back in the mid-1970s on the Leeds and Liverpool, we crossed the Burnley Embankment, but we don’t remember that at all.  At the end of that trip, our knowledgeable friend Ron insisted we all drove to see the Bingley Five Rise staircase.  Of course at the time I had no notion of its significance, and we still need to visit in a boat!  And the Barton Swing Aqueduct remains to be crossed as well.

I do hope we get the opportunity, and soon, in our own boat.  We’ll keep looking ….. wish us luck!

Waiting for the off - below Claydon locks, summer 2019


 A happy new Boating Year to you all!