Its a dirty job but someone's gotta do it...
If you get some boaters together, it won't be long before the conversation turns to toilets.
No seriously, it's a hot topic...cassette, pump out, macerator, composting..... there are
pro's and con's for each.
For example, a cassette toilet (a bit like a fitted porta potti with a detachable tank) can be emptied without the need to take your boat anywhere. This will need to be emptied every two to three days, whereas a pump out with a holding tank could last four to five weeks. However, you may need to travel a few hours to a marina or Canal and River Trust services to get the pump out done (or actually do it yourself).
So it's really down to personal preference or putting up with what your boat came with. Personally, we are happy with our pump out toilet as firstly, it looks like a normal toilet, but mainly because we only have to empty it about once a month. While we are on our winter mooring it is a four and a half hour trip to Plank Lane at Leigh where we can do our own pump out. During the winter it is hard to do this in a day due to limited light, so it usually means an overnight stop. Where some people may feel this was an inconvenience, we view it entirely differently. It gets us out on the boat during the winter months when we might not otherwise move around. Last winter we were using a port potti and we didn't do half as much cruising as this year.
Obviously, there may be times when work, weather or maintenance on the canal network may mean we couldn't move the boat, so we do have a couple of contingency plans. The first is a portable toilet hire company that will come and empty the tank on our mooring and the second is the port potti. I'm happy to say we have only had to use the former on one occasion this year.
So as Martin had the weekend off work and the forecast was good, we decided to do the bog run.
It was a really beautiful morning as we headed towards the DW stadium and the first of our six locks. There are two locks close together here, then a short gap before the next two in Wigan centre. These four locks are all taking us up but none of them are very deep.
Trencherfield Mill above is really impressive and hopefully the planned development for Wigan Pier over the next few years will improve this area no end and with a bit of luck incorporate some boater services which are lacking here. There were services here but the building is now empty and unused.
Henhurst Bridge above just past the Canal and River Trust offices, we only ever work one side of the lock here as its a really long walk up and round the road bridge to the other side!
Once through Wigan there is a right turn off the Leeds Liverpool on to the Leigh Branch which eventually becomes the Bridgewater Canal. The first lock (our fifth on this journey) is next to a pretty little church and along with the next lock is taking us down. This lock, below, has winding chains attached to the lock beams but I have never used them as it seems easy enough to push them.
There is a good view from here and its a straight run to Plank Lane swing bridge.
It was pretty cold so a cup of tea and a foot warm is always welcome!
You have reached your destination.... Without being too graphic, in the shed behind the sign is the pump out gear. You need a card to operate it which are bought from CRT and this gives six minutes of pumping time. It doesn't sound a lot but it is plenty as you can pause it while you fill the tank with water to rinse and then pump it out again, in fact we managed to do this twice.
Say what you like about social media but the Narrowboat Users Group on Facebook is a great way to connect to other boaters both near and far and as we were finishing off the pump out a woman called across to Martin. She recognised the boat from the Facebook group and she and her partner came over for a chat. This, like most encounters with other boaters, resulted in a tour of the boat and a good half an hour chatting. Its a shame we both had places to go or we would have opened a beer with them..... but it was time to head back, at least part way to our overnight stop at Dover Lock (where there is no longer a lock). We opened one anyway.
Approaching Dover Lock pub, this is where we moored for the night. There was another boat there that moored near us at Crooke for a few weeks and we had chatted to the bloke a few times. We did in fact see him as we moored up and he told us that his wife is seriously ill in hospital so he had moved nearer to Leigh to make visiting easier. It brings it home to you that life is too short
not to do the things you want to and to do them now.
Once inside we both noticed how each others face was glowing red from being out in the cold all day, windburned rather than sunburned, this we nicknamed this a Wigan tan. So with a great day cruising under our belt, time for showers, victuals and of course.....another beer.
Sunday morning greeted us a little overcast but not long after we set off, a bit later than the day before and with a cooked breakfast inside us, it brightened up into a beautiful winters day. The first hour was lock free so I had plenty of opportunity to take some photos, especially of the flashes on both sides of the canal as you head into Wigan. It really is a lovely stretch.
What a great view of a snow capped Winter Hill in the distance.
Wigan Pier, looking a bit run down of late but with the potential to be a really nice place for boaters if the plans come to fruition. Below is the lock next to the DW stadium, it's quite shallow and takes hardly any time to get through. After that the last lock and round the corner we are back at Crooke.
Home Sweet Home!
Until the next adventure.......