lockdown – here we go again!

lockdown - here we go again!

aqueduct marina learns to live with covid 19

Aqueduct Marina - first lockdownHere we go again. Locked down, so why does it feel different?

Back in March locked down for the first time felt like starting a new school. It was a combination of fear and excitement mixed with a determination to make the best of it.

This time round it is like the middle years of school, starting the Autumn term. The novelty has worn off, leaving school seems a long way off and there are some important exams ahead.

aqueduct marina perspex screensIt does feel vastly different, not only because schools and colleges are staying open, but we have now, as standard, Perspex screens at customer contact points, one way systems and people wearing masks. In short we have learned to live with Covid.

The other major difference from the spring lock down is that November is a time of year when we generally start to see less of our customers visiting their boats as the cruising season has finished and C&RT start to close locks and bridges for maintenance. Whereas in the spring the opposite applies, we were gearing up for the spring rush.

Where it has impacted us is the onsite café that normally remains open 12 months of the year. , Our cafe has had to close again as it was not worthwhile doing take-away. So, our four café staff are back on furlough for the time being. The decision to re-open the cafe after the lock down will very much depend on the restrictions (tier level) we are put into. Working with family groups and those in a ‘bubble’ only was proving unviable.

The Brokerage operation has also been curtailed because we cannot carryout viewings in person. Combined with getting boats in for sale which can be difficult over the winter anyway, Covid restrictions will make for an even more tricky winter period.

aqueduct marina boats for sale We are though still successfully completing sales already in the system, with buyers not pulling out.

Encouragingly we are also getting enquiries from new boat buyers who are generally buying to a specification rather than relying on a viewing.

Though the sooner we can get back to viewings in person by appointment the better.

The Chandlery is interesting, we found it actually worked quite satisfactorily during the first lockdown as a Click and collect outlet, with customers happily phoning/emailing ahead and collecting, then paying either over the phone or we emailed an invoice out for online payment. So, the Chandlery will revert to this C&C system only for the time being.

This system also works for the diesel and pump-out which have remained successfully DIY all summer.

aqueduct marina work going onMoorings with customers visiting their boats are normally quieter at this time of year, but this year combined with the lockdown is even more apparent. Though on the plus side the engineers are getting asked to do a few pieces of work on boats as the owners cannot get down.

The storage yard is similar to the moorings but does have a few more frustrated owners who had planned to do some out-of-water DIY maintenance and are unable to attend to their boat.

In summary, this second lockdown feels much less dramatic than April, with business as usual in most areas.

While typing, the American election has a winner, and a Covid vaccine appears a more realistic possibility next year. Just get Brexit Done and we may have a much more positive 2021-2022 than many predicted even a few weeks ago. Just need to knuckle down now and revise for those exams!

Aqueduct Marina LogoRobert Parton is the managing director and owner of Aqueduct Marina - a modern, award winning marina on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union near Nantwich.

Call: 01270 525 040  Visit: Website Link

excel voted best fuel among boaters

excel - voted best fuel among boaters

Oxbow Coal Ltd were delighted to win Canals Online Magazine’s award for best fuel among boaters for our premium quality Excel briquettes. The fuel is hugely popular among the boating community up and down the country and we’re very proud that Excel has truly become the fuel of the houseboat over the last few years.

oxbowThe Excel briquettes are produced at our plant in County Durham in the North East of England.

Originally the plant had ovens and baked the briquettes but after a fire burned the facility down, they were forced to start again. With no money to replace the ovens then owner John Bartlett came up with a plan to produce the country’s first cold cure briquettes.

That vision blossomed over the years and Oxbow partnered with John’s business in the late 90’s before acquiring the business in 2014, by which time Excel and Oxbow’s other fuels Red, Newheat and Glow were all established as firm favourites in the home heating market.

OxbowSince then Oxbow have learned not to mess with the classics and the Excel remains consistently top quality with the recipe largely unchanged for many years.

While other manufacturers produce countless different fuels, Oxbow chose a different route as the ‘stove revolution’ began early in the 2010’s.

excel briquettes. OxbowInstead of bringing out a new fuel to compliment the open fire fuel Excel was considered to be, Oxbow, with minor adjustments, made the fuel versatile enough in its own right to be considered a multi-purpose fuel.

Whether used on a closed appliance, a multi-fuel stove or on an open fire, the fuel remained the premium brand on the market at an affordable price.

It’s also a fully approved smokeless fuel, so when the legislation changes next year nothing will change and it’s also fully HETAS approved.

For those not aware of the difference Excel can make, like all of the Oxbow fuels it’s very low in ash compared to its competitors - meaning a lot less time spent cleaning out the ash pan. In addition it’s a high heat output fuel and gives a long lasting burning.

All in all the ideal fuel for the boating community. We’re proud to be your first choice fuel.

Oxbow coals logoOxbow Coal Ltd provides a diverse line of products, backed by expert technical support and knowledgeable customer service. Our philosophy is that the most effective way to earn a customer’s trust and loyalty is through the superior performance of our products as well as the energy and talent of our people.

01469 577 635



an ingenious idea which saves you time, effort and fuel!

Isn’t it funny how things go around sometimes?

Wayne & Rosie with coalcageLong ago I met my future wife after mooring up next to her. We spent the next few years being young ‘love-aboards’ and enjoying Narrowboat life.

We then did the ‘house thing’ and 30 years later, after ending up with the neighbours from hell, we decided to return to Narrowboat life.

We revelled in the freedom of it all again and, once we’d got used to the space, settled down to the usual daily routines of boaty life.

One of these was the stove. The good old glow in the corner.

It was while going through the usual faff of coming in and getting the stove going that I thought that there must be some way of improving this procedure.

You know what it’s like - bits of paper, firefighters, carefully stacked kindling and the precarious balancing act of the coals. Then watching it all fall apart and trying to jiggle things about and re-stack etc etc only for it to go out and start again.

It suddenly dawned on me that if it had a basket of some sorts I could just bung it all in and it would take the faff and balancing act out of the procedure.

I got the pliers out and made a rough prototype out of an old fire guard and, guess what, it worked a treat!

I couldn’t believe it! It worked and it was so simple.

All of a sudden I had a stack of glowing coal that looked good and all I had to do was top it up. In fact what I soon realised was that I could actually put an amount in that would last me all day with no constant topping up and no over-filling of the stove base. The pyramid of coal was no more!

I couldn’t wait to tell my wife when she came home.

All we could do was sit and look at it! It was better than telly!

coalcageSurely, I asked myself, there must be something available already? No - nothing. Nothing at all like it was available as a stove accessory for coal.

I wanted to tell my acquaintances in my boaty world but it dawned on me that I may have stumbled upon a potential future income that needed more thinking about.

The original prototype lasted a week!!! I didn’t realise that metal burned!

This meant getting into the qualities of materials. I learnt more about physics and metallurgy over the next few weeks than I had at school!

Stainless steel and sturdy construction was the way forward. Another prototype - and this was the answer.

Wherever we moored we would be off sneaking about in stove shops measuring grate sizes to get the most appropriate size for a mixture of stoves.

Next it was off to Birmingham to have a chat at Birmingham Library with the Intellectual Property team and access to a free interview with a Patent Lawyer.

All the while this process was going on it was the hardest thing to keep quiet! We we’re so excited with how it was working and improving our stove experience. Visitors to the boat were kept at a minimum whilst we tried surreptitiously to draw any attention away from our stove. We now couldn’t imagine life without it!

I was constantly trawling the internet and trade magazines in case I’d missed it somewhere but, no, it appeared that we had definitely stumbled onto something.

The big leap was taking out the Patent Application and the costs, plus trademarking the name and registering the design.

We went through the usual ‘think of a name’ scenarios and decided that ‘Coalcage’ was what it was, and what it did, so decided that this was it. This is what we’d called it from it’s inception anyway!

I wanted it to be a UK product so searched for a supplier and, after few brush offs, I found my saviour up north and a fabulous Victorian family business who could produce the quality the product needed.

Getting the first batch was so exciting as it suddenly became real. Boxes and labels agreed with a local printer and we were away.

It’s hard to believe that it’s taken two years to get this far!

The way things are going with the government's clean air policy we are being encouraged to use smokeless fuels and wood. Smokeless fuels are being better regulated all the time so using it in conjunction with a Coalcage can only benefit future emissions as it doesn’t encourage you to overload your stove and waste coal. It allows you to quickly establish a deep fire-bed that feeds itself with better control. As it’s open ended it also doesn’t impede any riddling mechanisms in the stoves grate. It could also prolong the stove's life by reducing ‘hot spots’ and stove fractures.

We’ll be out and about selling from the boat wherever we are throughout the year. Price is £20 plus £4 postage. They’re also available from Midland Chandlers & Venetian Marina.

Hopefully you’ll catch us at some point but we are also able to sell via the website www.coalcage.com

or EBay, or you can contact us at coalcageinfo@gmail.com for individual enquiries.

Rosie & Wayne Sharman live aboard their narrowboat James Arthur and if you are lucky enough to spot them on the cut, you can buy directly from their boat.

Alternatively you can order one direct from their website, by phoning Wayne or by emailing them.

Tel: 07776 217 125 Write:  coalcageinfo@gmail.com Visit: www.coalcage.com

Coalcage is also available from most chandleries, and on Ebay.

very different personalised canal boat gift idea!

stoke art pottery

brings you a very different, personalised canal boat gift idea!

the beginnings of stoke art pottery

Established in 2006, Stoke Art Pottery was perhaps a bit of an accident. First of all, we are not a pottery or even "potters". But an online store, selling high quality pottery and ceramics.

The owner of Stoke Art Pottery, Malcolm Dean, realised that the potteries landscape in Stoke on Trent was changing dramatically. Instead of the area being dominated by very large factories, there were now a large number of small potters and ceramic artists working independently, setting up their own studios or working from home. Malcolm thought there was an opportunity here: he could work with these people to develop their businesses, and Stoke Art Pottery was born.

Being based in Stoke on Trent was quite an advantage. It enabled Malcolm to work very closely with the Ceramic Artists, enabling him to offer Studio Trials and One Offs that were totally exclusive to Stoke Art Pottery.

who are these ceramic artists?

The first ceramic artist to come on board was Anita Harris. Formerly the Lead Designer at Poole Pottery, Anita was also a senior designer at Moorcroft.  Alan Clarke (another well known designer for Poole Pottery) and Deborah Wood (hand painter of Brian Wood Designs) soon followed.

grotesque birds - stoke art pottery

It was not long before Stoke Art Pottery were also stockists for Lorna Bailey Artware, Burslem Pottery (famous for their Grotesque Birds inspired by the Martins Brothers),  Emma Bailey Ceramics, and Marie Graves (a well established designer for Carlton Ware). In addition to several other ceramic artists.

the potteries' best kept secret

The close working relationship that Malcolm had with each potter and artist worked extremely well with Anthony (Tony) Cartlidge.

Tony has been a free-lance ceramic modeller and artist for some considerable time, and  is often described as one of the best kept secrets of the Potteries.

Normally working with many of the large pottery manufacturers based in Stoke on Trent, Tony's career has included designing and modelling two-sided character teapots for Royal Doulton.  These were produced in 2002, each one in a world-wide Limited Edition of 1500.

stoke art pottery character teapots

royal doulton character teapots

However, probably one his most exciting projects was being involved in designing and modelling “The World’s Largest Toby Jug".

the largest toby jug in the world

Standing over three feet tall, this Toby Jug was commissioned by the American Toby Jug Museum, based near to Chicago in the USA.

Tony modelled it, building up the three-foot Toby Jug around a barrel and a bucket.

Tony says it was probably one of the most complex projects that he had ever worked on, due to the extreme size of the jug, and having to ensure that it did not collapse around him!

It was then hand painted.

The first giant Toby Jug was delivered to the museum in 1999, with others available by special order (limited edition of 50).


stoke art pottery - exclusive designs.

hand painted vase by tony CartlidgeMore recently, Tony has been hand painting vases with his own designs for Stoke Art Pottery, each design being totally exclusive.

It was through the close working relationship that Malcolm had with Tony that the idea for the Personalized Canal Boat Gifts was conceived.

Tony had designed and painted vases with canal scenes, and during various discussions someone said, (and no one can remember who, exactly) "How about personalising these designs with individual canal boat owners own boats?"

hand painted vase by tony cartlidgeThe idea was hatched - so after some heart searching it was decided we should go ahead and offer the facility of hand painting owners own canal boats onto the scenes already developed.

These hand crafted vases would be totally hand painted with one off designs, Totally different and unique!

fantastic souvenir and a great gift idea!

Just picture your own boat on one of our hand painted ceramic vases, with a choice of different locations (currently Trent & Mersey and the Macclesfield Canals).  A totally unique piece of pottery. Hand painted by one of the Leading Ceramic Artists, Tony Cartlidge. Each one will be signed by the artist and designer. And will come with a signed Certificate of Authentication.

the craftsman at work

stoke art potteries - hand drawing on vase

Tony Cartlidge hand painting design on vase

Anthony Cartlidge with one of his creationsThe hand drawing and hand painting of each vase will take three to four days to complete. The delivery time for each order is 28 days, and as already stated, each will come with its own certificate of authentication.

stoke art pottery

Stoke Art Pottery is an on-line business, but we endeavour to give a personal service online. We are a small family business, not a faceless large business. Your custom matters to us. If there is a problem it gets sorted quickly and professionally. Regretfully on occasions something does go wrong. Or mistakes are made. That is Life! Thankfully these instances are very rare.

Call: 07872 435 590 Write: info@stokeartpottery.co.uk Visit: website

revolutionary outdoor cooking

revolutionary outdoor cooking

cook anything, anywhere, anytime!

how it all began...

In December 2001, Time Magazine featured the Cobb as one of the best inventions of that year. This was a major turning point for what had started out as an obvious idea to an environmentalist in Africa several years earlier.

The developer’s idea was to encourage native Africans to use corncobs as fuel for cooking, rather than wood or coal. He devised a simple clay pot stove with a steel mesh grill that Africans could easily make and fuel with their abundant supply of corncobs.

The idea took hold and resulted in the development of the Eco Cobb, an inexpensive, all metal stove that could be distributed in aid programmes in third world countries globally.

Cobb’s commitment to a continual improvement program has resulted in the worldly acclaimed product we see today which is available with several accessories.

total versatility...

The award winning Cobb™ system can roast, bake, smoke, fry and grill. Cobb cooking is fuss-free. Perfect for home and away, the Cobb is easy to clean, light-weight, simple to use and maintain. You can even move the Cobb while cooking to wherever the social gathering may be – outdoors, on the beach or even on a boat.

Endorsed by the South African Heart Foundation, the Cobb's unique patented design allows excess fat and oil to drain away into the moat / inner sleeve for healthier cooking.

The Cobb is virtually smokeless, since the fat and oil drain away and not onto the fire. The base always remains cool-to-touch on the outside whilst cooking hot on the inside.

The Cobb is made of only the highest quality durable materials and because the Cobb has no moving parts, nothing can go wrong.

This highly portable Cobb Premier and Pro weigh only 4kg (8.5 lbs.), zipped into the carry bag it’s 325mm wide and 270mm high.

cobb bbq elementsthe elements that make up Cobb...

  1. Dome: made with stainless steel and it has a heat-resistant handle. The holes in the Dome ensure even ventilation throughout the cooking process creating an oven effect.
  2. Grill Grid: with an easy to clean Teflon® non-stick coating. Excess fat drains away through the holes and into the moat.
  3. Fire Basket: A secured area for the Cobble Stone or loose briquettes.
  4. Stainless steel moat: catches all excess fat. The moat can also be used for cooking vegetables.
  5. Base: with anti-slip rubber feet, the base remains stable and cool to touch during use.

The Cobb is packaged complete with instruction manual. All the components with the exception of the base are dishwasher safe.

Cobb BBQawards...

  • Time International voted Cobb one of the best inventions worldwide in 2001
  • Double Vesta Design Award Winner
  • Spoga + Gafa Innovation Design Award Winner
  • disa - Design Innovation South Africa
  • Heath, Patio & Barbeque Association
  • The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
  • Heart Foundation South Africa

Cobb BBQ logoAs far as we can determine, the Cobb has the smallest carbon footprint of any manufactured oven on Earth. Order yours online today!

01296 681 095

painting tips for canal boats

painting tips for canal boats

expert advice from rylard paints


When choosing colours, ensure that comparisons are undertaken in daylight. It is always advisable to compare colours with a painted boat as it is difficult to appreciate the colour in large areas. Our printed colour charts have accurate colour rendition but the enamel will appear to be lighter when applied to large areas, especially when adjoining complementary colours.

Where possible, ensure that you have the same batch number for the finish coats.

rylard paints for canal boatsWeather conditions play an important part when painting outside. Avoid if possible painting in direct sunlight or when the boat is obviously warm to the touch. The ideal temperature for painting is between 12oC and 20oC. Higher temperatures could result in poor flow, rapid drying and loss of gloss. Windy conditions will lead to dirt pick-up and faster drying. Do not apply in damp conditions and aim at finishing painting by mid-afternoon, as overnight condensation may affect the finish.

Drying times will vary considerably depending on conditions, but at 20oC in still air, light touch-dry for both undercoats and topcoats will be 1 to 3 hours, and through-drying will be 12 to 24 hours. If possible, longer drying times should be allowed before overcoating as this will make rubbing down easier. Where low temperatures are experienced and there is little air movement, drying times can be as much as doubled, so take this into account when judging when to apply the next coat.

A dust-free environment is essential to obtain a really good gloss finish. The removal of dust prior to painting is essential, and dust and debris must be removed between the sanding of each coat and the application of the next.

Rylard Plus Enamel has a high pigment level and therefore thorough stirring is necessary. Best results are achieved with a wide flat-ended blade or a piece of clean, flat-ended wood. Screwdrivers are not efficient for stirring! It is advisable not to wear loose or woollen clothing when painting as this can contaminate the freshly painted surfaces.


Rylard paints bare metalBARE STEEL

Preparation: For best results, steel should be blast cleaned. This is not always possible, so alternatively mechanical cleaning by sanding and wire brushing can be undertaken to remove any rust.

Cleaning: The surface should then be thoroughly degreased using a water based or water dispersible degreaser, which must then be thoroughly washed off. Solvent cleaning is only efficient if clean wiping cloths are frequently replaced, otherwise the solvent just spreads the grease or oil around without removing it. Any remnants of grease or oil will affect paint adhesion and can cause slow drying and tackiness of the paint. Do not use diesel, paraffin or turps substitute for cleaning as they promote rust – white spirit is preferred.

Priming: The hull above the water line should then be coated with 2 coats of Rylard Zinc Phosphate Primer. If it is to be left outside for any length of time before applying finishing coats, 2 coats of Rylard Holding Coat are essential to prevent rust spotting.

narrowboats brightly paintedPREVIOUSLY PAINTED SURFACES
Rusted areas should be abraded down to clean steel and existing paint edges feathered to prevent ridging showing through. All clean metal areas should be patch-primed with 2 coats of Rylard Zinc Phosphate Primer.

Should rusting be extensive, consider having the boat blast cleaned and professionally repainted for long-term protection.

Where there have been feature lines, names, etc., ensure that these are completely removed to prevent shadowing-through.

If there is general unevenness and poor feathering, several coats of Rylard Primer/Filler should be used, abrading between coats to give an even surface. Rylard Primer/Filler can be used directly onto small patch areas.

Rub down the surface overall to an even matt finish using 320 grit wet and dry paper. If a colour change is to be undertaken, the relevant undercoat colour should be used.


Rylard Paints side of narrowboatApply the paint using a good quality 2½” to 3” brush. Gloss rollers and pads can also be used. To ensure even application, apply by crossing brush strokes before laying-off. On boat sides, always lay-off with vertical strokes. With large areas such as cabin tops, best results can be obtained by two people applying to prevent loss of wet edge – one person applying, the other laying-off. When brushing, it is recommended that the brush is held at 45 degrees to minimise brush marking. Where masking tape is being used, it is recommended that this is removed before the paint has reached a light touch-dry state, as this will ensure a smoother edge.

Clean brushes regularly (about every 20 minutes), to prevent thick build-up of paint in the brush. Stir the paint regularly during application.

Except for the primer, rub down with 320 or 360 grit wet and dry paper between coats, to ensure a completely smooth, even finish. When using wet and dry paper, always use it wet, and occasionally apply domestic soap to the paper, as this will prevent blocking and aid abrading. (‘Blocking’ is build-up of paint debris on the paper, which may cause scratching of the paint film).

Rylard PaintsWipe over thoroughly after abrading, as dust and debris will affect the final appearance. The smoothness of the finish is ultimately dependent on the preparation, especially for Undercoats and Primer/Filler. Where coarse profile steel has been used, or where underlying imperfections in the surface exist, extra coats of Primer/Filler and Undercoats should be used.

Under normal circumstances thinning of the paint is not necessary, but where application is undertaken at low temperatures, or previously used paint has bodied in the can due to evaporation, small quantities of recommended thinners can be used.

Rylard primers, undercoats and topcoats can be applied by air assisted or standard airless spray. Thinning may be necessary dependent on the spray equipment used, please consult the relevant Product Data Sheet.


red narrow boat Rylard PaintsNEW WOOD
Bare new wood should be sanded using either sandpaper or wet & dry paper, finishing with a 180 grit paper prior to applying the varnish. Ensure that all sanding dust is removed by either brushing or vacuuming before applying any varnish coats. The use of a tack cloth to remove any residual dust may also be used.

It is essential that any new oily wood, such as teak, is degreased using white spirit or cellulose thinners in order to improve penetration and adhesion. However, it should be noted that Polyurethane Varnish is NOT recommended for use on oily woods such as teak. The first coat of varnish should be thinned – 1 part varnish to 1 part of white spirit – and thoroughly stirred. Brush this coat well into the pores of the wood to ensure full sealing. After drying, sand smooth to remove the timber ‘nibs’ using a 320 or 360 grit wet & dry paper.

If the existing varnished surface is in poor condition and is showing flaking or other imperfections, it is recommended that it is removed back to bare wood (using either a proprietary paint stripper or sanding) and the timber treated as for New Wood. If the existing varnish is in sound condition, rub down with a 320 or 360 grit wet and dry paper and clean with white spirit.

To obtain a good depth of gloss on both new wood and existing varnished surfaces, a multiple-coat treatment is recommended, with a minimum of 3 coats, with light rubbing down between coats using either a 320 or 360 grit wet and dry paper. Note: Rylard eggshell varnishes are not suitable for exterior surfaces.

non slip tread paint on narrowboat roofRylard Slip Resistant additive can be used with all Rylard topcoats.

Thorough mixing must be ensured to obtain an even dispersion of the fine aggregate.

Care must be taken to ensure brush marks are not apparent.

All Rylard topcoats are suitable for sand-blinding, but care must be taken to ensure the sand is thoroughly dry.


painting tips for canal boats table 1


painting tips for canal boats by Rylard

  1. To obtain the cabin length deduct the length of the bow and the stern from the overall length of the boat
  2. Deck area should be approximate to window area and has been allowed for in the above calculations
  3. On bare steel 2 coats of Rylard Zinc Phosphate Primer should be used at a similar coverage rate to the topcoat
  4. All figures are approximate and given for guidance only

rylard paintsRylard Paints is a well-respected name in the supply of paints for canal boats, narrow boats, dutch barges and leisure craft. Through its Research and Development program Rylard continues to provide state-of-the-art products, manufactured in the UK to the highest Quality standards. We provide a range of coatings for canal boats, from blacking to topsides, anti-slip for decks and roofs, to brass lacquer to keep metal fitments glowing.

01623 510 585


yorkshire bespoke tiller pins

yorkshire bespoke tiller pins

the story from the very beginning...

Pennine Cruisers, SkiptonThrough odd canal holidays, trips on the rivers and being fortunate enough to have friends on the canals as a child, I eventually caught up with our fantastic inland waterways and the lovely people that live, work and holiday on them. We found a fantastic company to hire from, Pennine Cruisers. A Skipton based company on that lovely Leeds and Liverpool canal. This company soon became the key to the start of Yorkshire Bespoke Tiller Pins. As the article goes on you will see why. All staff and owners, over many trips with them, soon became what me and my wife class as our Skipton family.

I had decided to make one of the staff there (and now good friend) Wayne a gift. At this stage I really didn’t know what. He had just finished off his boat that he had recently moved onto, having built it from a bare shell. Back home I was in my workshop wondering what I could make him. I knew it would be for his boat.

On rummaging around, I found an old piece of round brass stock, along with a solid piece of aluminium from my workshop stock. Straight away I knew I was going to make him a tiller pin. The two pieces of material had caught my eye, even though they were both very dull. I thought that if I could use the two pieces together, the result would be quite unique. I began looking at new ways on how to work and join the two pieces together. I also knew when they were machined, they had to give a flawless impression as though they were all from one piece. I eventually found a way to do this and set about making the blank into an attractive eye-catching shape. This just seemed to flow and sooner rather than later, the tiller pin was made. I was unsure if I was on the right track with it all, so for a bit of confirmation I sent a picture of it to ‘Our Zoe’ at Pennine Cruisers to ask her opinion. I was expecting some changes may be needed, but all I got from Zoe was ‘Wayne is going to love that!’ It was buffed, polished and ready for our trip up to Skipton for our next of now many boat trips.

We got up to Skipton for our week’s break, and as we were unloading, I presented Wayne with his gift. He was delighted and said, with a smile on his face, he had never seen anything like it. Job done; off we went for our week’s cruise. My wife Jayne stated as we were cruising out of Skipton towards Gargrave ‘I got the impression he was over the moon with that!’. I agreed.

Halfway through the week we had winded round and got back to Skipton as planned to spend the night around the town catching up with our Skipton ‘family’. Of course, this meant a night with Phil before heading towards Bingley in the morning to achieve a bit of east and west. As I went into various pubs on our evening out, it seemed like the whole town knew I had made Wayne's tiller pin. I was introduced as ‘that’s that fellow who made that tiller pin’, all with lovely comments and positive feedback. I was chuffed but didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t till Jayne and I were back in the Boat House that I realised people were being very serious and even suggesting I should continue to make them.


By our next visit 6 weeks later, now October 2019, I had come up with 4 new designs all combining brass and aluminium. However, one of these was clearly turning heads: Tiller Pin Zoe (all my pins are named after the staff at Pennine Cruisers). Tiller pin Zoe was a little different, because I had incorporated a recess in the top to house an enamel Yorkshire rose.

I had taken a total of 16 tiller pins up - 8 given for the shop, and 8 to go on a craft boat which goes around the network (a good friend of Wayne’s).

The positive feedback and interest were increasing, and all seemed to be going well. We soon arrived back at home; it was clear that I may be busy out of work hours.


In the middle of November I had the unfortunate, very poorly timed news, that after 11½ years I was to be made redundant from my place of work. To be honest it was no shock: I was the last of four employees to go. The firm had hit problems and that was that chapter over.

I was now out of work with time on my hands and a new venture that was not yet established, still in its infancy, but with an interest growing. The product was there - just not known. I now started to use my redundancy to pay myself a basic wage to cover my bills. I soon started altering the workshop to accommodate much needed machinery tooling and workspace. This took around a month, and while my tidy lovely workshop of many years was in bits, I couldn’t work in it. However, it was eventually completed and workable – but without work.

coal miner tiller pinI started getting odd jobs - repairs, lathe work brazing and odd bits. Then people started sending me brass items that they wanted me to turn into tiller pins. Many were hollow and could not accommodate a good thread for the actual pin itself. So, I would machine a solid brass boss, then tig braze that to the hollow cast body. This was becoming a popular request, and other work started to flow in. Praise for my work was building and it was common for customers to say they were told that what I managed to do couldn’t be done. I suppose wrong advise from wrong person scenario.

One afternoon my oldest son and I were having a drink in the workshop after a day of help from him altering the workshop again. I got a very lovely comment (beer may have been kicking in) he said, ‘you are a very clever very multi skilled talented man, but you are not known enough, and word of mouth is going to be very slow’. He suggested that I speak to my daughter in law Sammie and ask for help in getting myself known, joking that I am useless with computers and social media. The next day I took my son’s advice and asked Sammie if she would be interested in helping me out. Sammie was over the moon I had asked her.


The rate and pace to me was exhausting. Sammie was relentless. Left no stone unturned. Within three days Yorkshire bespoke tiller pins had a running Facebook account. Had a web site not only built, but up and running. Had a PayPal account set up etc. Groups were getting in touch from our posts asking us to join. I had picked up my first big order thanks to Finesse boats who were very helpful and encouraging. This led to me finding a Sheffield based enamel logo and badge place. Which led to a local material suppliers Avus Metals. The snowball effect was starting to happen. New customers from the website and from Facebook were steadily on the up. Comments and positive feedback were a massive incentive for me to carry on. What really hit home was just how willing the much bigger companies, boat builders, marinas online canal merchants were to get behind the little firms. It really felt like big brothers were keeping a look out.


variety of tiller pinsIt is very early days. I have a range of tiller pin bodies now and there will be more designs in the future. All named after Pennine Cruisers staff. There are now many other material options available and body material combinations. I am passionate about brass ware and love to repair figures that are broken – it gives them a second chance with a fantastic view from the tiller for their retirement. I find it very warming to know I have turned a personal object into a lovely tiller pin for someone. I now incorporate and work with more enamel options in my own tiller pin range along with boat name plates. I’m also venturing into other things for my growing customers, the cards are still on the table, but I believe they will be something to consider on your boat.


file and tiller pin
array of refashioned and hand crafted tiller pins


As for many this has just wiped out the order books. I have not been idle – I have spent time making special tools to assist me in my work. I took delivery of a lathe which is much larger than my original one. Now I am able to work the two in different rolls, which will be helpful.

This was in the pipeline when things were advancing forward. It has pretty much broken me financially, and I feel the timing couldn’t have been more wrong. To help keep things going I am currently working early morning starts in a supermarket, picking online orders. I am hoping to do this as well as my tiller pins. It is do-able. I believe hard work pays.


yorkshire bespoke tiller pinsStephen Johnson is the owner and creator of Yorkshire Bespoke Tiller Pins. 'We are a new small family business, created in Skipton.  Our Handcrafted tiller pins are made to suit you, different designs are available. Reliable, friendly service. Please send us a message if you have any enquiries. We are willing to help with any further questions. Thank you.'

Tel: 07775 593 852  Visit Website  Follow on Facebook

canalpost & postal distancing

postal distancing

myth busting from canalpost

As the market leader in the provision of virtual addresses for canal and river boaters, we are constantly being asked how this dreadful global pandemic will affect the post and, of course, our management of your mail, so we have put together this factsheet based upon your questions.

what is covid 19?

Unlike bacteria, viruses are not 'alive' in the accepted, biological, sense. They are just extraordinarily tiny bundles of organic chemicals and DNA that cannot exist for any length of time outside of a host cell, and have just one purpose... to create copies of themselves. Ironically perhaps, it's our own bodies' immune reaction to this reproductive drive that can make us so ill.

Novel Coronavirus (Covid 19) is a new addition to the existing family of Corona viruses, which also include SARS, MERS, Avian Flu... and even the common cold. This group of viruses are so named because they are surrounded and protected by a corona, or 'crown', of fats. It may help to think of them as being 'greasy'. This protective coating, just like any other oily substance such as butter, lard or diesel fuel, is impervious to water... but add common household soap (which contains chemicals known as 'surfactants') and voilà! Dead naked virus.

where did covid 19 come from?

Please don't be taken in by the plethora of utterly ridiculous conspiracy theories that are feeding on the oxygen of social media. Covid 19 is NOT the result of a global biological attack by the Chinese, Russians or little green men from Mars... and it is absolutely NOT a consequence of 5G or the MMR vaccine! As with many emerging virus, Covid 19 is almost certainly the result of a 'spill over' event, in the same way as the recent Avian Influenza (H5N5) where the virus mutated, purely by chance, and was then able to cross-over into human hosts.

can the virus be caught from a letter or parcel?

In theory, yes. However, the best scientific evidence suggests that Covid 19 can only remain viable for around 24 hours on porous surfaces such as paper or cardboard, before its protective corona is absorbed and the virus 'dies'.

Remember that we always process mail the day AFTER it is delivered to your Mail Centre so, even if you are set to daily forwarding, your letters will have been isolated in the mailroom overnight... even before they are despatched and have spent a day or two in the post!

how else do we protect you?

Each of our mailrooms is located within the residence of the Mail Centre owner, which is one of the factors that makes canalpost virtual addresses unique. It also means that we are able to isolate our operations so much more effectively, keeping our customers and staff safe from contamination.

When your post arrives at any one of our mailrooms, it will have passed through several hands on its progress through the postal system. This is why, for everyone's safety, we have implemented strict protective protocols, including the physical isolation of each Mail Centre premises, scrupulous sanitising of all work surfaces and the wearing of PPE when handling mail.

By far our greatest ally, however, is the clock!

By the time incoming letters or parcels have been processed, stored, despatched... and have then navigated the post on their way to you, any viruses originally present on the contents will have lost their viability.

​take your own sensible precautions

Whilst the contents of your forwarded despatch may be safe when you receive them, the tamper-proof postal bag in which your mail is enclosed will have been handled by any number of people involved in its local delivery and, therefore, should be considered as a potential source of infection.

Fortunately, these postal bags are waterproof and impervious to all common sanitising gels, fluids and biocide wipes! For this reason we strongly suggest that you clean the bag on delivery, confident that its contents will not be damaged. :o)

As always, our 'belt and braces' safety advice is that; once you have opened your letters or parcel, dispose of the envelopes or outer packaging carefully, then wash your hands with soap and water!

are there likely to be interruptions to the post?

The Royal Mail and domestic courier firms alike are experiencing increased absenteeism due to illness and have, understandably, introduced restrictive working practices to protect their staff. As a result, some delay in postal transit is inevitable.

The Royal Mail are operating staggered shifts in their main Delivery Offices in order to maintain workplace distancing and have also reduced collections to once a day. Whilst this does not directly affect our Mail Centre operations, it is having a negative impact on the delivery time for 1st Class mail.

To further complicate this situation for boaters, if you collect your forwarded mail from a 'Poste Restante' you may find that some smaller sub-Post Offices (especially those located within retail stores) are either closed, have limited their opening hours... or offer a restricted service.

how long is this disruption likely to last?

I wish we had that crystal ball.

However, knowing how important mail is to you, especially during these uncertain times, we are planning for the long term. If it takes six weeks, six months or even longer for the situation to settle down, canalpost.uk will be here throughout... reacting to the constantly changing health landscape to keep you safely connected and in touch.

the ultimate postal distancing. . . have your mail scanned!

A little over half of our boating customers, and those living full time in motorhomes or caravans, now have their letters scanned so they can read them instantly on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone... and at 50p, it's even cheaper than a stamp

to forward them! As a result, canalpost mailrooms are digitising many hundreds of pages every morning, so if you are worried about privacy, there really is no need... we simply don't have time to read our customer's post! :o)

...and we are still here to help

Thanks to modern technology, our entire Head Office staff (Support, Accounts and Compliance) are now working from home through a VPN and virtual switchboard, so you can still contact canalpost , as normal, on 0333 789 0011 !

please stay safe. . . for yourself, and for the most vulnerable in society!

canalpost logoCanalpost is part of the Expost group of companies, offering virtual addresses in the South West, South Wales, the South East, Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with live telephone support available six days a week. Our customers rate Expost as 'Excellent', with 5 Stars in Trustpilot!

Call: 0333 789 0011 Write: Email Visit: Website

Read CanalPost's article 'Your Post Sorted' in this magazine

the wrong way round #by boat

the wrong way round #by boat

by Rob and Lesley Pearson

The Wrong Way Round #byboat is a journey of discovering the 2,000 miles of inland waterways. This of course led to Lesley & Rob taking Artistic licence to record their adventures, by drawings, maps and the written word.

Rob & Lesley Pearson have been travelling traders since 2014. Lesley is an Artist who has taken to creating drawings and maps of their journeys. Rob is a computer programmer.

Rob's claim to fame are his jottings about the beginnings of their journey on NB Hekla. They came into being initially as a short story about ‘The Long Way Round’ which was featured in Canal Boat Magazine. The success and feed back from this article prompted Rob to divulge more of the  journey, as the magazine article alone didn’t seem to give enough of the essence of that journey.

Rob's book came to life in 2015 as ‘The Wrong Way Round’ which is available on Amazon.

Lesley is a member of the Guild of Waterway Artists and of the Association of Animal Artists. She describes herself as a travelling artist: "the journey is the artwork and the art work is the journey".  For the last four years the Pearsons have been exploring the inland waterways, with Lesley making drawings & maps of things they have seen, and putting her art together with Rob's prose - so combining history and the things they encounter.

Lesley offers prints of her beautifully illustrated maps for sale, as well as prints of her waterways and countryside paintings. She also sells mugs with her paintings on and stunning cards for all occasions.

cards, prints & mugs by Lesley Pearson

lesley pearson, easel & painting

our journey

We have travelled almost all of the northern canals and river navigations in the UK. It has been a carry on from our genuine interest of ways to travel. It’s a way of seeing a country, people,  and  how people live and interact with each other. We try to embrace it as a way of life, which leads me on to ‘steampunk’, an alternative way to look at life and to what is important about how you embrace it.


Our alter egos are Captain Pepsi and Miss Mavis Ming; which is why you will see us dressed in a peculiar way. Time travellers from the last century - with a tongue in cheek humour which we find amuses people we meet.

Rob Pearson

lesley pearson

NB Hekla PopUp Art

It is what it is.. we PopUp in unexpected places, much to the surprise of our followers. We enjoy festivals, markets and of course we open up in places we visit - be it a town, city or just out on the towpath. There is no rhyme or reason to it -  it’s what takes our fancy.

This year has been a bit strange as we were deciding to head South for the summer. However, as with most people, Corvid19 has put a halt to any plans we might have had. We just watch the tide and see where it will take us. We are currently on the Chesterfield Canal in Nottinghamshire, waiting for the news of the all clear. Then we will be off South, hopefully.

Lesley & Rob PearsonRob and Lesley are currently open for business on the Chesterfield Canal, and of course with their on-line shop.

Check out their webpage for more of what they  are and have been up to; follow NB Hekla PopUp Art on Facebook, and visit their on-line shop.

To buy a copy of The Wrong Way Round, visit Amazon.

boat maintenance tips

boat maintenance tips

from river canal rescue

In a bid to reduce the number of incidents on our waterways, River Canal Rescue (RCR) shares the main causes of this year’s call-outs and offers some maintenance, grounding and lock cill tips to help boaters enjoy stress-free cruising in 2020.

During 2019, RCR on average attended 105 call-outs a week (covered by its membership service). Of these, 18 per week were for major rescues and repairs, chargeable outside membership, the remainder were classed as minor.

Minor is defined as situations which on attendance, can be resolved (within two to three hours) without the need for a full rescue team. Major, as submerged, partially sunken or grounded craft, plus salvage work (engineers typically spend a day on each call-out).

Minor call-outs were primarily due to fuel, alternator, electrical, battery, cable, cooling system, gear box, starter and propeller problems. They included;

Gearbox, propeller, drive plate, coupling, prop shaft, engine mount, hull and rudder damage, due to hitting underwater objects or locks

  • Loss of propellers and nuts/rudders coming away
  • Domestic water ingress due to a lack of bilge pumps
  • Engine electrics catching fire

maintenance tips

RCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, comments: “Fuel problems are mainly caused by diesel bug and contaminated water. Diesel bug is an enzyme that lives off water in the diesel, either appearing as black dust/ soot or a black slime/jelly. Once in the system it clogs the engine’s fuel arteries and stops the engine working. Mild cases will respond to a fluid ‘Marine 16’; it prevents bacterial growth and kills anything that may be forming in the tank. More severe cases require a diesel bug shock treatment. Dirt and debris can also block filters and contaminate fuel so check and service regularly.

“Alternators operate in a damp, hot environment which is not good for electrics. If the bilges are full of oil and water when the engine’s running, it will be thrown over the engine, hitting the electrical components. If left for a long period of time, rust can also develop and affect their operation, so it’s important to check the bilges and run the engine frequently.

“Electrical issues are usually due to overlooked connections. Check for corrosion, wires coming away, loose connections or disconnected wires before starting a journey and use a water resistant spray or petroleum jelly to stop damp getting into isolators and block connectors.

“Starter systems must have the right batteries. A cranking battery delivers a high output quickly while a leisure battery delivers a lower continuous output, so needs regular charging to maintain capacity. If in a good condition, each battery in a bank generally requires two to three hours charging as a minimum to keep them topped up and will require more if discharged.

“Each battery cell can affect the whole battery bank so to prevent deterioration, regularly check and top up the cells’ water levels with de-ionised water. If one cell’s water level drops to below 50% it will bring the battery bank capacity down to the same level, irrespective of how good the other batteries are. Never mix batteries and always replace a whole bank of old with new.

“As most of the cable terminus is set outside, if not used regularly, cables will rust. To prevent this, grease the end of the cable, particularly if leaving the boat for a long period of time, and when setting off, check for any roughness or stiffness. If fitting new cables, keep bends to a minimum (they’ll suffer higher stress and so may fail in the future).

“Overheating is usually due to an air lock in the cooling system. To identify this, feel the top and bottom of the swim tank – there should be a difference in temperature. If not, find and unscrew the bolt sitting on top of the swim tank. This releases the air locked in the system. Overheating can also be caused by a coolant hose rupturing, a water pump failing, a fan belt shredding or at its worst, a head gasket failing.

“General wear and tear is the main cause of gear box and drive plate failure, so regularly service the gear box. When hitting an underwater object, it may affect the drive plate, but not necessarily the gear box. With a fouled propeller, loss of propulsion is commonly due to the prop being covered in debris such as weed or leaves. Clear by putting the engine into reverse.

“Prevent water ingress by keeping an eye on water levels within a craft and installing an automatic bilge pump. When there are stormy weather conditions and periods of heavy rain, water can seep into a boat, build-up and if not addressed, cause it to sink.”


RCR reminds this can occur anywhere if owners stray from the middle of the water course, cut a corner to take the shortest route or fail to check water levels before setting off.

Stephanie continues: “If your boat grounds, put on a life jacket and put the boat in reverse to see if it moves away from the obstruction. If this fails, identify the area of shallow water, by walking around the vessel testing the surrounding water depth with a boat pole.

“If the front of the boat’s grounded, move ballast that may be holding it down to the rear (gas bottles, the anchor, chains etc) and turn on the taps to empty the water tank (always at the front). This creates more buoyancy at the front and potentially lifts it a vital few inches. Half a ton of water can create a six inch difference. If it does clear, put the boat in reverse.

“If the boat’s grounded on one side, it’s a similar scenario; move anything that’s weighing it down in this area to the opposite side. Be cautious however, as if over-balanced, the vessel could list and take on water.

“If people are on board, one person should take the helm and the remainder can rock the boat gently to see if the momentum moves it. If the rear of the boat’s aground and the propeller’s lifted (a rare scenario), the boat will probably need a tow. But this should only be undertaken by an experienced boater - we’ve had cases where the person towing has got into trouble and two boats have had to be rescued. Hire boaters will invalidate their insurance if they undertake a tow.

“Once the vessel’s free, check it thoroughly, particularly the hull, as this could have been damaged.”


The most heart-breaking scenario – a boat sinking – in many cases could have been prevented with a bilge pump. Cases included:

  • Water ingress due to outlets close to the water line/leaks causing vessels to sit lower in the water
  • Water ingress via redundant air vents, caused by flood water and high winds
  • Leak from tank/shower pipes, bowl thruster pipes, water pumps, stern tube seals and stern glands
  • Incorrectly fitted and unsecure weed hatches/broken weed hatch seals
  • Too tight ropes and rising water levels allowing water to seep in
  • Caught on lock cills

lock cills

These below-water protrusions, positioned close to the top gates of most locks, catch many people out. Stephanie advises: “If travelling downhill in the lock chamber and the stern, ie rudder, gets caught on the cill, when the water recedes only the boat’s bow will lower with the water level, leaving the stern raised up. Sinking or capsizing can happen in seconds.

“If the stern is caught, close the bottom gate paddles to stop the water receding further and slowly open the top gate paddles to refill the lock. To stay safe in a lock, position the boat centrally and where possible keep the engine running with a centre line to hold it in position whilst tying off.

“A boat travelling uphill can equally get its bow stuck on a projection under the top gate – causing the stern only to rise with the water level. If this happens, close the top gate to prevent the lock filling and open the bottom gate paddles to allow the water level to fall.”

To find out more about River Canal Rescue go to their website check out their Facebook page call 01785 785680 or email