Today’s plan was to make our way through the locks in Wigan while avoiding the showers that were forecast. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. So although we set off as soon as the rain stopped, it wasn’t long before we were being rained on again.
We moored up for lunch on the edge of Wigan at a convenient spot for sending a shopping party to a large supermarket (other large supermarkets are available). We were all pretty damp by then, so we put the central heating on for a bit to dry wet clothes. While we were moored, we were passed by Bridie Bear. This was a boat Clare and I hired in February 2019 to see what winter canal boating was like – that didn’t put us off!
After lunch I realised that I could avoid some of the rain while driving if I put the cover up. The next bridge was a railway bridge which was fairly low but we cleared it by a few inches. At the next lock I lined myself up for a fast approach but realised in time that the foot bridge below the lock was (just) too low. Some hasty reverse thrust avoided disaster and we folded the cover down again.
A number of people have recently described using bow thrusters as “cheating” – I know what they mean, but I enjoy doing things that a boat without them can’t do. At one of the locks I was waiting at the bank for another boat to exit before I went in. Once he had passed, the usual manoeuvre is an S-shaped wiggle. By careful use of the bow thruster and throttle I was able to move the boat sideways off the canal wall while staying parallel to it, and so lined up with the lock. I was especially pleased that Roland had witnessed and appreciated what I had done.
We headed out of Wigan on to the Leigh Branch to stop for the night at the flashes we had enjoyed when travelling the other way. As we coasted in to our chosen mooring spot I tried a gentle push with the bow thruster to get Clare near enough to the bank to take a rope ashore. The controller usually shows a blue light when it is on, and a red or green light to show it is pushing to port or starboard respectively. It suddenly started alternately flashing red and green and showing a magenta light too – at the same time the thruster came on at full speed pushing to port. Luckily that was towards the bank so the boat didn’t move very far or fast. We spent some time fiddling with buttons on the controller before Roland suggested using the isolator in the bow. That stopped it – panic over!
We went for a short walk along the flashes before the light went completely. Afterwards I reconnected the thruster – it seems to be behaving correctly again. I suspect that water may have got in to the controller, but that it has now dried out enough. Another bit of snagging to deal with, the controls will be out in the rain again! A sudden uncontrollable burst of bow thruster could be awkward, or even dangerous.