Llangollen to New Marton – a challenging morning and a man where he shouldn’t be!

Todays Video Here:


So we screwed up as the camera didn’t record the first part of the journey and of course thats the part where lots of stuff happened! To put it in context, there are 2 sections in and out of Llangollen town that are only one boat width apart. The signs state, and the etiquette is, that you send a crew member ahead to the other end and to call or radio you when you’re good to proceed. This little video I did manage to catch was on the way in the other day to show how skinny it is:

On the way in there was a kind gent before me who would wave me on when his wife radio’ed through. Shortly after Richard would call me to verify and it all went very smoothly. In these narrows, its only just a little bit wider than a narrow lock so I couldn’t film much as I didn’t want to steer the boat into the rock face.

Leaving Llangollen was not so smooth but it gave me an excellent chance to feel comfortable doing things on my own. I had stopped at the entrance to the narrows, speedy walker Richard had been dispatched to go ahead and to give me the signal. After a short while I could see a boat coming down so tried to hover. With this canal being fed by a river, it has it’s own flow, one that your boat does not behave in so I decided to pull over and hold her with ropes instead.

Stepping off the back with the centre line and at the last minute grabbed the stern as well. Boats coming past causes the boat to move quite a bit so with a stern and a centre I can control her more. I did a little internal happy dance as I made it look super smooth and I had her held firmly against the bank. The gent on the boat coming through was very complimentary about my single handing skills. I nearly corrected him to say I wasn’t but in that moment I actually was solo, so I took the compliment. The phone rang, interesting trying to answer with a rope in each hand! Richard was on the line giving me the heads up that another boat was coming through so i waited, once they were past I hopped on and continued into the long narrow section.

Clear of that section it widens a little again, it’s still a squeeze getting 2 boats passed each other but it can be done. There were 2 boats coming through the bridge ahead so I again pulled over and came off with the two ropes. Unfortunately they were going too fast past me causing the draught to suck my boat away from me. I was struggling to keep hold of the ropes, luckily a group walking past me offered to help as one of them took the stern rope I offered. Richard was calling in my pocket but I needed both hands. Thanking the very kind passerby I was able to then carry on.

A lady approached and told me i’d have to stop as they were on the way down, I was a bit confused as this section was 2 boats wide. The husband came into sight and I came over to one side as much as I could as he navigated through. He didnt see the massive tree stump in front of him as the boat boshed into it and sent her bow directly towards mine. I slammed on as much reverse as I could to avoid a collision. I kept a low reverse on to give him room to bring his boat back around. We had both ended up diagonally across the canal. Having no idea the camera wasn’t filming I was thinking how funny this will all look later. We managed to untangle ourselves and start going again only for me to have grounded. After a second of a slumped shoulder I allowed the logical thoughts to come and got myself back moving again. I started chuckling to myself as the words of the fraught wife on the bank rang through my mind.

Eek – bit shallow

“this is very badly organised, there should be a better system” – maybe she was expecting traffic lights or something. I can’t quite remember what I replied but I do remember smiling to myself. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that this bit wasn’t the narrows and that it gets a lot more challenging. I did tell her husband that as he came past though as he seemed super chilled.

I finally got to Richard and we carried on our way heading back to the big aqueduct.


A little reminder of the height of this beast to help put the next events in context.

The corner before the aqueduct coming back is very tight and as we came out under the bridge we could see something wasn’t quite right. We pulled over to the side and as we did we could see someone stood in the water of the aqueduct, halfway across. With him there there was no way a boat would even think of crossing. I got the binoculars out but it wasn’t clear to see as the pavement was so busy with pedestrians. I decided to go investigate, as I made my way I really hoped that it wasn’t something more sinister occurring and steeled myself ready with options incase it was. It surprised me how everyone was walking by, I didn’t see one other person check in on him and I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth it was only me bothering.

The water was up to his armpits as I gently enquired if he was ok. Turns out his friend was in the throng of people on the pavement too. They had lost their go-pro, it was on a tripod on their paddleboard when it fell off. I took a moment to let that sink in and then explained to them that they weren’t going to find it by sweeping their feet along the length of the aqueduct. I totally felt their frustration as those things aren’t cheap. I explained that the trust’s visitor centre would probably dredge the aqueduct frequently as they can’t have it silt up so to give their details to the visitor centre and hopefully they can be reunited with it in the near future.

About 15 minutes, things sunk in. A paddleboard! over that aqueduct! with this drop to one side and an exposed windy environment. They must be bat shit crazy to do that. Theres no way it’s allowed or advised by the trust but people do it anyway.

The sheer drop from the aqueduct

We chatted as we came back along the path and said out goodbyes. By this time the boats on the opposite side had seen it was clear so they were on their way. A canoe appeared at the side of us just as 3 boats came through the bridge and the 2 coming across the aqueduct were nearly in the basin. I was surprised he decided to place his canoe in the middle of all those moving boats so suggested he move to the bank to avoid getting crushed under tonnes of steel. He gave me a mouthful back. I simply said we can’t brake like you can and i’m just looking out for you. Some people are so quick get the grump with you in that sort of situation. I was glad to get going over the aqueduct, us, then the canoe, then 3 more narrowboats.

We continued back through the shorter tunnel and then Chirk Tunnel and this then had us straight over the aqudeuct. It was very busy the other side with boats waiting, the ice-cream boat and vendor friend trading and boats turning. Was glad when Richard had the next bridge open for me to go through and all of the boats following pulled over at the pub leaving Richard & I to continue our journey in relative peace. I don’t often drink at the helm but I did allow myself a little can of Goose IPA to relax with after a very eventful morning.

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