Moving on, Breaking free and setting sail

At long last we’re able to cruise again.
Back in March when the country realised the need to protect ourselves from the looming pandemic, we mulled over how we felt, were we safer or more at risk in a big city like Liverpool. There were pros and cons but on balance we decided safer. With a tall harbour wall protecting the handful of boaters from the general public and a fully serviced pontoon, we only needed to emerge when we chose, the food shops were an easy walk so we considered ourselves very lucky, when CRT made the decision to lock us in. Shortly after, the whole canal system was shut down with only essential travel permitted. Even the towpaths became off limits as well meaning passers by stopped to talk to moored boaters. We knuckled down for an unknown future, even fearing a second winter in Liverpool. I reinstated my nursing registration and volunteered to work at the Nightingale Northwest in Manchester, but thankfully the NHS coped and I wasn’t needed.
Unsure of when we would be allowed to cruise, we lost our first companions in mid May, when they arranged to have their boat craned out and transported by road to where they needed to be.

Cruising to the marina ready to be cranes out

At the end of May, 3 more of our friends made a bid for freedom even though the rules still remained not to use locks.

Nb Buffalo leaving via the Albert Dock

Another 2 followed the week after, we weren’t looking forward to cruising through all that weed and other debris thrown into the canal, whilst council tips remained off limits.

Thwarted only 10 minutes after setting off

By now we were getting weekly phone calls from the CRT office as the guidance was updated. The final 3 boats agreed to go our on June 17th. We weren’t too pleased to get a call on the 16th asking us to stay put another week, but we dutifully complied. And at 8am on 24th June 2020 with huge smiles on our faces, we finally all set off.

Sun’s shining, life jackets on and ready to go

The Green boat, as we affectionately called it cause their name isn’t painted on the side went first

The green boat, clearing the way

We were next

Entering Albert Dock

One of the advantages of travelling in convoy is receiving photos of Firecrest in fantastic places

Getting ready to go through Mann Island Lock

Thankfully the weed had been dispersed as we cruised under the watchful eyes of the Liver birds

Firecrest enjoying a clear run

The reward for waiting an extra week, was that lock keepers were back from furlough, so even though we had enough crew between us we only had to get off the boat to record the day

You’d imagine we’d run out of conversation after 8 months, but no

Sid has been looking after this stretch since it’s creation nearly 20 years ago and in recognition, the narrow channel between West Waterloo Dock and Trafalgar Dock is known as Sid’s Ditch. We had the honour of being accompanied by Sid as he hitched a lift on Bluebell’s bow.

Sid in Sid’s ditch on Bluebell

The volunteers were out in force, all happy to do the hard work to help us through the Stanley flight

We weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to our friends as we all moored up for the night at Litherland. And I was rewarded with another evening sunset

Sunset at Litherland

We all slept well that night.

With many thanks to Andy, Angie, Avril, Becka, Darren, David, Freya, James, Kitti, Little Darren, Mark, Paul, Reuben, Sharon, Sid, Stuart, Tam, the bin men, the checkout assistants, the CRT team the Dock security, the volunteers, and our families and anyone whose name I have missed off by mistake. Thankyou for helping us through Lockdown, stay safe x.

Hanging around

As I’ve already said, there’s just so much to see in Liverpool, 8 months isn’t nearly long enough. I took full advantage of my daily outdoor exercise to explore. So here are a few of the people I met hanging around, watching the world go by . Obviously there’s the 4 lads from Liverpool strutting their stuff on the Pierhead. And if you’ve got the Beatles, you’ve also got to have “our Cilla” on Matthews Street.

Cilla Black

where there’s always someone hanging around keeping the buskers in tune.

John lennon and the masked busker

There are Beatles monuments everywhere, And several more representing their individual achievements The John Lennon Peace Monument which was part of a global peace campaign shows a world wrapped up in music and peace doves, just imagine….

Peace on earth

Not all the sculptures are so modern with these wooden gargoyles keeping an eye on us in Dale Street

This is what happens if you hang around pubs too much

But I can give these guys a miss, the Lambananas. 125 of them appeared since 2008. As part of the European City of Culture, the 5m high original Superlambanana ( which has now been removed) was created to represent both the import and export of Sheep and bananas through Liverpool Docks and to highlight genetic manipulation. A lot of the 125 were sold off but there are 8 still scattered around the Pierhead

A bunch of Lambananas

The Pierhead is quite a walk through history, remembering the rock stars

Billy Fury

The workers, including the horses that hauled the cargo around the docks

The Carter’s horse

The regal,

Edward V11 and his loyal subject

And the innovative, this sculpture celebrates liverpudlian Jeremiah Horrock’s, astronomical discoveries, he was the first person to calculate the transit of Venus accurately, not bad for the early 17th century

Heaven and earth

The departing, commemorates emigrants leaving to start new lives in America, (I wonder if we will be worthy of a monument, narrowboaters finally allowed to leave liverpool)

Early 20th century Emigrants

The departed, Liverpool bares the pain of loosing many at sea, this particular monument remembers the engine room crew of the Titanic, many came from Liverpool.

The Titanic memorial

The hero’s. Captain Frank Walker, who was the most successful anti submarine warfare commander serving in both WW1 and WWII

Cpt Frank Walker

And the fallen, although these three monuments aren’t objects of beauty, they mark a communal place of rememberance , they hold plaques honouring the servicemen and women from various countries and services connected with Liverpool, who lost their lives at sea in times of conflict

The three war memorials

The Tate Modern North has it’s home in the Royal Albert Dock, and there are installations outside as well as in. The art works certainly fall into the sculpture rather than monument category and I shall leave to ponder their significance.

The Sound

This one grew on me, especially with a winter sunset to light it up

The Liverpool mountain

Although I think the buildings themselves are testaments to an era gone but not forgotten as the Royal Albert Dock is a grade 1 listed heritage site,

The Royal Albert Dock

and there are strategically placed artifacts and abandoned industrial and maritime debris scattered around to marvel at.

The prop from The sunk Lusitania

I was a little saddened not to see any figurative monument directly outside the maritime museum, (which houses the museum of slavery,) remembering the transatlantic slave trade, that clouded Liverpool’s 18th century. But across the Strand is a magnificent horse sculpture called The Great Escape, the horse made out of rope, which unravels in a bid for freedom, it is meant to represent man’s effort to free himself from slavery. It’s a bit off the beaten track, (unless you’re walking to the Tesco express for icecream)

The Great Escape

The monuments in the city centre continued to be thought provoking though for many reasons
Eleanor Rigby sits all alone on Stanley Street

Just one of the lonely people

Whilst one of Lewis’ stands proud over his department store. (which is sadly now closed, along side George Henry Lee’s and TJHughes about to follow suit-for those of you who remember the big old stores)


Liverpool is a mighty and grand city which liked to erect monuments to the great and the good of the victorian era. Although they are the ones I tend to hurry past without recognition, I’ve had the time to read up more about these people and the service they gave to our country.

The good and the mighty

Many just followed questionable orders out of loyalty and obligation, while others sacrificed much and build a city of extremes. Extreme poverty and wealth success and destruction, nothing can be taken at face value, there is always more than one side to the story. But throughout I get an immense sense of humanity.

As the Bombed out Church, St Luke’s, is preserved to remind us. The sculpture reminds us of the British and German soldiers, who were allowed to stop fighting on Christmas day so they could play football during WW1

Football in the bombed out church

As does one of the most beloved liverpudlian of all.

Ken Dodd at Lime st Station

And you can’t beat a bit of well meaning graffiti

Well written words

Even if there’s always a Liver bird watching over you

This replica stands over the canal in the Museum of Liverpool

But we knew it was coming to a end and it was time to pack up our suitcases and move on

Suitcases outside the school of art

The Sunrises and Sunsets, and life goes on

One of my favourite things about our Liverpool staycation has been watching the sunsets, I could nip out of the boat and be facing West over looking the Mersey in 2 minutes. I’d head to where Billy Fury was taking the pose

Billy Fury

and usually there’d be a small group of us anticipating the end of the day. It created a sense of shared faith as we all reflected on our strange circumstances

Gathering to say goodnight to the day

During the winter we would get the occasional splash of pink lightning up Salthouse Dock

The carousel by Salthouse dock

And if I walked to the far side of the dock I could look back towards Firecrest and the stunning backdrop. It was unusual to see the water as mirror still as this in an evening, much more common in the morning

Looking north towards Firecrests mooring

Of course during the winter waking up early enough to catch the sunrise wasn’t too difficult and I didn’t even need to leave Firecrest to see views like this most January mornings.

Looking south, from the boat early in the morning.

Although some mornings were so shrouded in mist that we couldn’t see anything in front of us.

Misty mornings

But it was always lovely to return to Firecrest after an afternoons winter shopping when everything was lit up

Winter dusk

The first Sunday in December saw the annual Santa dash, I couldn’t count how many, but they raised a lot of money before setting off for Lapland to pick up the toys. I’m glad it was such a lovely day for them.

Frosty December glow

And it never failed to amaze me how dramatically the Liver buildings changed colour at dusk with the lovely reflection over Canning Dock

Golden evening glow

And despite all my evening walks I was surprised that I only picked up this view looking at the Liver building through the Albert Dock this week.

Midsummers day at 9.30pm

Possibly because I liked walking past the tall ships anchored in Canning Dock, which they have recently moved into the Albert dock. This is the Kathleen and May, back in April

The Kathleen and May

One of the things I’ve missed during lockdown is spring in the countryside, no green fields full of frolicking lambs. But I know that when we start cruising again I’ll miss my evening strolls to see what colour the sky has turned, burning embers

Looking across the Mersey to Wallasey town hall

Or soothing duvet

Summer sunsets were soft and fluffy

It would always feel hopeful, the way ahead lit up

Lights along the waterfront

That there will always be someone looking out for us

Got Frank Walker

On Easter day in Suffolk the local churches would gather for a sunrise service by the river, in Liverpool that wasn’t possible, but I did see sunrise over the cathedral which helped me feel connected with my family and friends when we were all keeping apart.

Looking towards the cathedral on Easter morning

BOGOF part three.

BOGOF part 3

There have been many interesting things we’ve seen in Liverpool. Snowdrop, the Mersey ferry painted in its dazzle camouflage paint is one of the most iconic. We never got the opportunity to take the hour long tourist trip, accompanied by Jerry and the Pacemakers, but once we were allowed a bit more freedom, we hopped onto the direct crossing once the commuter run was over. It was fun to see the “iconic skyline from a different angle and to walk along the promenade to New Brighton.

Liverpool from the Mersey Ferry

I make very little apology for over using the word iconic, simply because so much of Liverpool is iconic. The Three Graces comprise of the Liver building, the Cunnard Building and the Port of Liverpool building. The canal runs through a large pedestrianised area known as the Pierhead

The three Graces.

But these 3 magnificent buildings aren’t the only buildings of note, Victorian Liverpool was affluent and not afraid to show off.

Liverpool town hall

But for all the wealthy merchants, there were a lot more hard working and impoverished unseen people in the city. The White star line was the company that owned the Titanic, and most of her crew were Liverpudlians. And it is from the balcony of the “streaky bacon” building that the news broke of her sinking.

The streaky bacon building

Many of the cities seamen were Chinese and in 2000 the people of Shanghai gave a Chinese gate as a symbol of unity and trade between the two cities. It is the largest Chinese gate in Europe, sadly Covid restrictions meant that the Chinese New year festivals were low key this year we kept an appropriate distance.

The Chinesegate

Not all of Liverpool is grand and affluent, huge areas of deprived areas still exist here, and the number of rough sleepers is heart breaking, even during the Covid crisis. (Though I also saw key workers offering help, so that may or may not have been by choice) I could easily fill pages of Liverpool’s extremes, but it’s not always appropriate to take photos of those in need.

Something I have missed during lockdown is being able to spend time in the cathedrals. I’m sure there’s a competitive streak between the musical directors as I was spoilt for choice during advent, with the number of concerts and services I attended, but it looks like choirs and church singing will be one of the last things, to be allowed again. Both cathedrals are modern, being completed in the 20th century, The Metropolitan (catholic)church is a very meditative space.

The Metropolitan Catherdral

The Anglican cathedral is more dramatic and dominates the skyline as it rises out of the local red sandstone, and when the organ is played every fibre of your being feels it. I was lucky to enjoy several recitals.

The Anglican Cathedral

But one of the Anglican cathedrals endearing features is that the architect sir Giles Gilbert Scott, also designed the iconic red phone box

The iconic phone box

Liverpool suffered from horrendous bombing during WWII meaning that huge swathes of the city has been and is still being regenerated. Some of the modern buildings are stunning and I think will stand the test of time,

Looking towards the Graces from the Maritime museum

But others have been allowed to dwarf the historic skyline and I think that in 20 years time they will need to be rebuilt

The old and the new

Some of the war damage has been made structurally sound and allowed to stand as a reminder, St Luke’s church is such a memorial. And whilst I was chatting to Eric’s brother David, we discovered that their great great grandparents were married. It’s nice to think we have another small reason to think of Liverpool with such affection.

Inside St Luke’s, the bombed out church

Liverpool isn’t just about architecture, we were treated to some unusual wildlife for a narrowboat lifestyle. During the spring the docks are invaded by swarms of moon jellyfish. And on certain days you could easily have counted a thousand floating around the boat, yet on other days only a handful. Very difficult to photograph without a polarizing filter, which doesn’t come as standard on my phone.

A 6inch Moon Jellyfish

The dock must have been teeming with life, we got quite used to seeing the cormorant trying to swallow 50cm eel. And such was the battle, we never knew who was going to win, even after the it had been devoured.I didn’t manage to snap that excitement, but several times we were woken up early by voices outside the boat to see swimmers braving the waters.

The things some people do for fun

The dock got used for a lot of water sport, with canoes and paddle boarders, and interesting visitors from all over the place.

May the Force be with you

Transport seemed to be a theme for a while as Liverpool played host to Britains newest aircraft carrier, the Prince of Wales. We had the privilege of seeing it dock. And I can tell you, huge is an understatement, aircraft carriers are colossal

The Prince of Wales aircraft carrier

But the Albert Dock is the home of some historic tall ships, which felt a lot more approcable.

The Kathleen and May in the Albert dock

The museum of liverpool puts on regular special exhibitions and we were lucky to catch two, Liverpool s transport, which featured cars made at Ford’s Halewood plant, which in the early 70s is where my Dad worked. I hadn’t anticipated the sense of pride I’d feel seeing some of their classics

A classic car

As I said earlier, Liverpool has been an amazing place to spend 8 months. Had we known in November what was ahead of us, we would probably have explored differently, but after 8 months, the one thing I really wish I had indulged in that got lockdowned, was football. Having been born in this fair city, it’s in my blood to support Liverpool but sadly I never got to visit Anfield. But even now that we have been allowed out and are 15 miles, I could still the fireworks sent me news came through that “we” had won the cup. (Other teams are available, but they don’t warrant blog space)


January and February lived up to expectations of being damp and dreary. I’d been suffering from an increasingly painful foot, plantar fasciitis. And with so much to explore I’d been ignoring common sense and had continued pounding the pavements. Luckily I’d stumbled, quite literally, across a company selling innersoles claiming to cure everything. The very clever salesman insisted I tried a pair, and told me there were only 2 cures, complete bed rest for 2 weeks or 6 weeks of minimal floor contact wearing his soles. (I don’t like to advertise and I still can’t be sure if it was the rest or the innersoles that helped but they were called SoleMates if you’re interested) So instead of me exploring the beautiful buildings and museums I sat still resting. But it wasn’t time wasted. Aunty lives about 10 miles up the coast and I was able to hop on a train to visit her. And while I was enjoying her company she taught me how to make bobbin lace.

My sampler bookmark complete with added character

In January we hired a car and spent a week down in Suffolk celebrating a belated family Christmas and someone’s significant birthday….. we’ve all had birthdays during lockdown so I foresee another excuse for a big party later in the year.

Liverpool is a city of entertainment, with so many magnificent venues to choose from. We really did have to limit our ticket purchases so we didn’t bankrupt ourselves. But you can’t beat the atmosphere of a live performance. We went to piano recitals and orchestral concerts at the Liverpool Philamonic, Matthew Bourne’s ballet, The Red Shoes at the Empire, the Japanese Kodo drummers, and the Horse of the Year show at the M&S arena. And several live bands at the smaller venues, I couldn’t afford the available seats to see Rod Stewart.

The Liverpool phil

Under normal circumstances the 4 month winter mooring period would run until end of February but we had already been advised that this year CRT was giving us an extra month free of charge because of on going winter maintenance . Our departure date was to be 29th March. The good life had taken it’s toll, and with my reduced walking we feeling decidedly unfit. What better cure than to take advantage of the local museums. The Museum of Liverpool on the Pierhead is a modern building overlooking the canal.

View from the top floor of the Museum of Liverpool

To reach the top floor there is a magnificent central spiral staircase. To Eric and I, this became known as “the gym”. At the begining of March, we started to take advantage and go for a daily workout, running up and down until our breathlessness drew too much attention.

These stairs were made to run up

In mid March, it didnt come as much of a surprise when CRT phoned us up to say they weren’t going to unlock the locks and we would have to remain here for the next 12 weeks. We don’t mind admitting we were quite actually relieved. We’ve had water and electricity on our pontoon, the rubbish is emptied daily. There are three Tescos and a Home Bargains all within 10 minutes walk. Our daily outdoor exercise was along a grade I listed heritage site, and not a muddy towpath in sight. We transferred our membership from the indoor gym to the outdoor steps of the museum. And I must admit running up and down stairs is an effective way of getting fitter.

Modern buildings can be amazing

Whilst we’ve been in lockdown it’s been frustrating not to be able to go inside all the museums and venues, but we’ve enjoyed some lovely summer sunshine, sitting on the pontoon. I even created my own garden, which has now gone to live at Lynnes as Firecrest can’t accommodate pots like this.

3 pots of geraniums

And I spent some quality time being creative, sitting on the pontoon with my spinning wheel, and even managed to knit shawls with my handspun.

Spinning on the pontoon

We suffered some wild wild weather as storms and gales lashed the coast.

Glad we don’t have to cruise on the Mersey

We’ve made good friends with our neighbours supporting each other with little acts of kindness. We were even given our very own engraved padlock to add to the chain around Salthouse.

Good friends making the most of not such a good time

And my cousin Lynne and I got into the habit of socially distant pontoon coffees, even in the rain.

Good family making the most of our circumstances

We’ve learnt how to use zoom and reignited friendships with people across the globe. And we thank God that non of our immediate family have knowingly become poorly with Covid. Several have suffered indirectly but we’re still here to get used to a new normal. This manhole cover was created in March 2019, for an exhibition at the Tate museum, I wonder if they had any idea it would be so appropriate.

Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’s drain cover.

There’s a part three on its way.

BOGOF part one

Yes that’s Buy One Get One Free. We began our Lockdown at the end of October when we paid for 4 months of winter mooring in Liverpool’s Salthouse Dock. Nearly 8 months later we are preparing to be released, back into the big wide canal system. But I can tell you, we are already talking about when we will come back for another winter here. There’s been so much to see and do I cant possibly do it justice to Liverpool in these few paragraphs. Salthouse Dock

Our Salthouse community

November began with a bang with the River of Lights festival. An impressive firework display let off from three barges on the Mersey and huge art installations appeared in the dock around the Waterfront, and we were right in the heart of it.

The animated runner leaping ovrr the gap

The sparkle and bling didn’t diminish as Christmas consumerism took over well before Advent. The dockside decorations remained lit up and buildings all around us were illuminated.

Although all the “I want” culture makes my toes curl, knowing I’d have the bleak months of winter to explore the tourist trail, I set about enjoying the colour and frivolity, I had to start a diary to keep track of when various events were happening. We had so many visitors

The annual charity Santa dash, with a fair few Santa’s coming from Everton

We were going rounds in circles

The beautiful carousel on the corner of Salthouse dock

And sliding around all over the place

The pop up ice rink on the pierhead

Of course we also had to look the part so Firecrest sported some twinkle as well,

Firecrest in her Christmas finery

as we spent our very first Christmas day on board. In fact it was the first Christmas we’d spent just the two of us for about 35 years.

Christmas day on Firecrest and

During December, I overdosed on music. Carols in the cathedrals, concerts and plays in the halls and buskers of varying degrees of talent on every street corner, we even got to hear a special performance of the Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts club.

Irish chart topping band KeyWest were the best of the buskers

The adventure continues in part two

Liverpool Canal Link

I’ve been putting off sharing our triumphant entry into Liverpool for far too long, simply put, I’ve just been too busy enjoying myself. The history surrounding this area is so interesting, every time I start to gather up all my info to share I find another snippet to take me off on a tangent. So in order to actually share our own story, I’ll point you towards this website for some insight into this newest of canals. The Pennine waterways.

The volunteers at Stanley flight

We turned and waved goodbye to the Leeds and Liverpool canal, and began our journey along the Liverpool Link Canal with James and his dad for company. Under several bridges that I’d be crossing by train later during our stay.

The four locks took us down into Stanley Dock On our left the derelict tobacco warehouse is awaiting it’s makeover into unaffordable apartments.

The Tobacco warehouse

And on our right the developers have created the highly desirable Titanic Hotel where the bedrooms are in brick vaulted bays.

Stanley Dock is traversed by a Scherzer Bascule Rolling Bridge, similar to the one we saw near Keadby on the River Trent. The engineering involved in these bridges is amazing, just a pity they look like scrap metal now.

Collingwood, Clarence and Trafalgar Docks are wide open spaces giving us opportunity to look around. Most of the warehouses have been pulled down but the octagonal Victoria clock tower still stands proud telling the correct time twice a day.

The Victoria Clock tower

Most of Trafalgar Dock has been filled in but the 2007 regeneration saw a brand new channel being cut, affectionately known as Sid’s Ditch.

Unfortunately there’s no Towpath along this section, although it’s clear the work is on going, as I’m sure the smart apartment owners would appreciate somewhere to walk their dogs. The waterway opens up again into Princes Half Tide Dock. The opening onto the Mersey currently closed off but it’s intended that this area should be the new terminal for the Isle of Man Steam Packet company. It’s an impressive skyline and reminded me of New York.

Where are We?

It’s where we got our first real glimpses of the Liver Birds, perched on their building.

There’s only one place with Liver Birds

Princes Dock lock took us down to enter the exciting tunnel section of Pierhead. Liverpool benefited from being European City of culture in 2008 and funding paid for this public space to be developed. Initially there was a lot of opposition for fear that the contemporary would obscure the beauty of the Three Graces.

The Liver building
The Cunnard building
The Port of Liverpool building

However  personally I love the way the canal is sunken in an open tunnel, looking up at the iconic Liver building, the Cunnard building and the Port of Liverpool building on one side,  and going underneath the  nautical Museum of Liverpool on the other.

Museum of Liverpool

Canal traffic is one way, changing direction in the afternoon, so no worries about meeting someone round the corner, weird to know there’s a building and pedestrians above you, and the Mersey tunnel somewhere underneath.

Under the museum

We had one more lock to go through, the Mann Island stop lock and flood gate,

Mann island Lock

And into Canning Dock with the pumping station and it’s chimney, competing with the tall buildings.

Canning Dock

And some more 20th century dock yard relics.

Not sure if this is modern art, an alien or old machinery

It’s where thousands waited to board their ships before emigrating to America. And the permenant mooring of a couple of historic ships

The Kathleen and May infront of the Maritime museum

 But for us, we had to run the gauntlet of thousands of tourists all making the most of this historic site, passing under bridges into Albert Dock, the first Bonded warehouse which was used to unload the flammable goods back in the day.

The entrance to Albert Dock, next to the Tate museum

We were almost there, one last bridge and we saw our mooring in Salthouse Dock.

We could hardly believe our eyes when we saw this amazing mooring. Spacious finger pontoons in the heart of the city.

Initially we made this journey at the end of September accompanied by Lynne, Freya, Reuben and Aunty.

And Eric has a new first Mate, Reuben keen to join him at the helm

Who’s looking where we’re going.

We were permitted to stay for one week, which we did, but shortly after our departure, events overtook us and we realised we would be hard pushed to get through to Cheshire as planned before the winter closures. A chance comment from another boater made us reassess our plans and low and behold we opted to take a winter mooring here in Salthouse Dock, centre of Liverpool, still a city of culture in my opinion, close to family, easy access to trains and public transport, and best of all not a single muddy Towpath for the whole winter.

I could get used to this.