Seven narrowboats, one cruiser and two wide beams. From a cruising club further on the Bridgewater Canal, as I later found out.
Their motto must be: We’re very experienced, we cruise only once a year, but do this EVERY year.

And we meet some of them on the beginning of the Leigh branch, that has, as per usual hardly any water. So we have to go slow, and in the middle of the canal, and ignore the scraping if the bottom.

I encounter the first one, a wide beam at the junction. I need a wide turn, no cutting corners with this water level, so I toot my horn. Twice in fact.
No reaction, so I make a wide swing. Out comes this widebeam, kind of on full speed. Yes, of course I’m in his way. But he has a bit of an idea how to steer, so we manage.

Then Ann, who’s walking to the first Poolstock Lock, signals me: oncoming.
Two narrowboats, just under a bridge and a sharp corner. The usual set-up: men on the tiller, women on a seat in the well deck. They are at full speed as well, as far as one can do full speed with no water. And they don’t slow down. Well, both me and Mick are in the middle of the canal. I don’t have a lot of steering. For them to slow down, or maybe even stop for a moment, would have speeded up everything. But we manage.

Then second Poolstock Lock. Heaps of boats waiting.
It’s obvious that there is only one person doing the lock, Ann (with help of some off the waiting boats). And Ann spoke with Mick, who’s on the towpath side of the lock. So nobody knows that there might be TWO boats in the lock…

When my gate is opening, what’s right in front of me? The bow of a narrowboat. His stern is just off the lock landings. At the same time Mick picks up a very, VERY sturdy plastic bag around his prop, and can’t do anything anymore.

Not that I can do a lot… Some in the waiting line signal to me to go around the boat in front of me. Well, first I have to get 60 ft out of the lock before I can even turn to the left. And I have Mick next to me, I’m dragging him out, because he has this plastic bag around the prop. And I know WRT can do a lot of things, but bend is not one of them.

By the time I’m past that boat, and Mick manages to get to the lock landings it certainly is a bit later.

Off I go on my own. I know where we want to stop.
I encounter the last 4 of the flotilla. The second last gets a problem, somewhere in front of me. He, and the guy behind him, both single handers, both jump off the boat with… the back rope. So all the sudden, like a ballet, simultaneously two boats turn their nose into the middle of the canal. I don’t have to slam anchors, I already was on tick-over, I saw this coming.
Almost next to me is another one of the flotilla. He’s keeping an eye on what’s happening behind him, not watching where his boat is going. I notice that, and see him basically scraping the side of the canal. Mooring up, I think, to wait for the others.

Anyway, I leave 1½ wide beam of space between all these three boats and keep going.

Later Mick tells me he had to rescue a grounded guy, that had been forced into the side by the boat that was in front of Ann and Mick…

Bloody female steerers!

And I didn’t even mention that Ann could not close the off-side bottom gate of Dean Lock. Mick had to climb up to help her. Ann not managing a gate? That’s a first!

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