Sunday, 26 June 2011

Our First Braunston Show with Sickle

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

This posting is long overdue, I'm afraid.

"Mimas" - Superbly restored wooden "Big Ricky" boat.
In fact, if I'm honest, I'm almost tempted not to post at all.  Why ? - well certainly not because we didn't have a fantastic time at our first "Braunston" with our own boat, as we most certainly did.  No, actually from our experience "Braunston" is something quite unique, and unless you actually experience first hand so many working boats packed into such a small area, or (even more so) witness the total chaos as the parades suddenly turn into traffic jams many hours long, it is hard to capture the spirit of it in text.

Near "text book" turn out from the marina at Ladder Bridge.
This year there are already so many excellent picture libraries in the public domain on the likes of Flickr, or excellent videos on sites like You Tube, and instead I find we were so involved in our own "Braunston" that our images seem to capture just small numbers of boats, and very little of the true atmosphere of the total event.  All I can say is that it it is easier if you are not actively trying to take part.

Rather less "text book" from "President" and "Kildare".
Anyway I'll say something of our event, and maybe post links to others rather better recording of the whole thing!

Immaculate "Ibex" and my brother Pete's old butty "Angel".
The weather forecast for the weekend looked a bit unpredictable, so when we arrived on Friday night to find slow steady rain turning to heavier steady rain, things didn't seem too promising.  Because the music in the beer tent made conversation near impossible, (why must they do that ?), like many others we ended up outside talking, not really noticing just how wet and cold we were getting.  A personal apology to Matt Parrott, Sickle's former owner, from whom I learnt a lot, but who I probably allowed to get far to wet!

"Vesta" - The boat I'd love to own, if I didn't have "Sickle".
Fortunately on Saturday things looked a lot better.  We had not formally booked in yet, but, when we did, Cath was told that because of the boat grouping we were in, we would be on the afternoon ("two o'clock"), parade of boats.  In practice we were never in with a chance, as the morning cavalcade collapsed into probably the most catastrophically slow ever.  Some boats finally crawled back after the commentator had turned off his mike for the evening, having in some cases taken up to 5 hours to travel what should easily normally be achieved in 20 minutes.  It isn't actually that hard to see some mistakes being made around getting the best possible flow of boats, but, actually, I suspect nobody is likely to change current arrangements, and that mayhem will continue to reign!

Large crowd on "Chertsey" - I hope nobody needed a loo!
I have to say, thinking we were going out on Saturday, I was slightly miffed not to have done so.  Not so much I didn't get a go, as if I had definitely known I'd not been playing that day, I would have spent more time observing others, or perhaps blagging a (very slow!) ride on another boat.

Anyway the next day it was obvious that our "cluster" of boats owners had decided they were definitely going out that morning, because when they saw other boats moving off that had already been around yesterday, they didn't wait for instructions to go, and engines were hastily started, as we all tried to  join the "fun".

Cath photographs her Dad  (Photo: Sarah Hale)
The good news was that, despite a few significant hold ups as loaded boats grounded, we got round in a rather more sensible time than many had the day before.  It's certainly true that once out in the spotlight, it is very hard to spot people you know "ashore", and I hope not too many people waved at us, and then felt snubbed.  We did spot Cath's father, Jim, his wife Dot, and old family friend Phil, who had turned up after we started in the parade, but only managed to embark Jim, for the final bit of our circuit.

I even look fairly relaxed.  (Photo: Sarah Hale)
We met many good friends from Canal World forum there, as well as some we had only "met" virtually before.  I'll not try to list them all, because there were so many, but it was good to see so many take an interest in the show.  Long after we should have been going home on the Sunday, a group of us were still at the beer tent, as we watched the price of the remaining beer stocks drop to "half price" and finally "here, this is free!....". (Well, one has to make an effort!....).

Still looking relaxed! (Photo David Schweizer).
So that was it really - our first "Braunston" with Sickle, but not adequately captured on our cameras.

Cath's Dad makes it on board.  (Photo: David Schweizer)

As the last few shots prove, others recorded our "Braunston" rather better than we did, so my thanks to Sarah, David and Tim for letting us use some of their images here.

A bit of clear water for once!  (Photo: Tim Lewis).
Tim Lewis from "Fulbourne" can usually be relied upon to produce a wonderful selection of photos from the main events of the "old boats" world, and he has not failed us this time.  There is a great shot of Sickle on parade, but it's just one of many great shots.  Have a look at his album link here....

Tim Lewis' photo collection.

Increasingly too, much of it gets captured on video.  Some canal videos that get published can be of questionable quality, but Mike Askin, (owner of "Victoria"), always puts together some compilations that well capture the spirit.....

Try these......

Mostly the loaded Joshers

The other boats (but sadly no Sickle, this time).

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Bound for Braunston

This weekend was earmarked to move Sickle up from Stoke Bruerne, (well actually just North of there, at Blisworth), to Braunston, ready for next weeks event.
Not hard in two days, but despite a deliberately late start on Saturday, we decided we really would like to do the trip in one day, giving us the opportunity of an evening meal in Braunston, and meeting people the next day.

Edgeware and Balham looking increasingly unloved.
This trip is quite a few lock-less miles, before the Whilton/Buckby flight of locks, (which never seem to be a "doddle"), followed fairly quickly by Braunston tunnel, (one of the "wiggliest" of the long wide ones), and the Braunston flight of locks, (usually nice and easy).

Whilton waterfall.
Apart from a brief shopping stop in Weedon, we went straight up to Whilton, passing what are now very familiar sights on this stretch, although I think there was more water coming over the bottom gates at Whilton than I have ever seen, plus it never seemed to die down throughout our long approach, until the lock actually started to be emptied.

Waiting for Whilton lock.
Whilton and Buckby were not too bad, but boat crews coming the other way were not behaving themselves, and firstly gates were shut on us, as we were approaching empty locks, and then locks that were ready for us were being actively turned.  Cath went and insisted that this was out of order, and we duly got our lock back!

Cath between locks in the Braunston flight.
Braunston tunnel is probably best glossed over this time.  A misunderstanding meant I was not outside ready prepared in time, and initially I just couldn't get it right.  The tunnel light has been refitted, and was pointing too high, not illuminating the lower part of the arch sufficiently.  Braunston tunnel allegedly contains one bad "S bend", due to a construction error, but the reality is it is so crooked now, if you try and cling to a wall too soon when passing, you are all over the place - and I duly kept falling into the traps!  However, we passed several boats without incident, although one hire boat did prove to have its front against the correct wall, but it's back rather less so!  Once clear of all boats, about two thirds of the way through, I finally was able to open Sickle up, and she roared through with a great crescendo!  She is remarkably good in tunnels if you can go down the middle, but frankly too fast when in gear on tick-over, given the skills of some oncoming steerers.  Unfortunately if taken out of gear, there is not very much steerage at all - I think techniques need to be developed.  But in my view Braunston remains the trickiest of all the longer broad tunnels where you regularly pass other boats in significant numbers.

And then it rained some!
I wasn't great at Braunston locks either, well at least not on the tiller!  Cath sensibly caught on to this, and just took over the controls - without any words being spoken, we both knew we might do better with me as paddle winder and gate pusher.  And indeed we did, getting down very smoothly, despite a mega downpour in the middle of it all.

Sickle passes Chertsey after the worst of the rain.
Historic boats are already gathering in reasonable numbers. The first we encountered was Chertsey, moored one lock up.  Sarah either has to do some serious reversing, or has a few locks and a longish trip to get where she needs to be!

Panther, Victoria, Bordesley and Cyprus.
Some boats are already moored two or three abreast along much of the length used for the event, some of them also having attended Stoke Bruerne along with Sickle.

Not only was Mike Askin towing butty Bordesley up for its owner, he had also managed to take on another load of coal, despite having been laboriously unloaded to another boat at Stoke Bruerne.

Belelgeuse, Renfrew and Owl
Renfrew is under new ownership since last year, and her joint owner is also the man behind reconstruction of Lucy, giving the prospect of this pair being together again at some future date.

Our intention on the Sunday was to spend a bit of time getting on with a few things, before going home early(ish) for Cath to do some essential school report writing.  The reality was we met so  many interesting people to talk to, that we were still there far too late, and Cath ended up having to stay up into the night to get her work done.

Mike Askin on Victoria gives well known Ron Withey a ride.
But we did really enjoy just languishing around on Sunday, a week before the real festivities.  We got an invite on board the butty Angel, once owned by my late brother Pete.  Pure nostalgia, although it's so long ago, I can't really compare in my mind then to now.  I was able to add to some of the information the owner had about the boat, and point her at pictures of it properly working with at least two additional motors in the 1970s, (being Elstree and Bicester).

We had one quick run around on Sunday - I hope I'm better at reversing round the three point Braunston turn when I have to do it in front of an audience, but I imagine if things go as they usually do with an audience, I'll actually be far worse!.  Thanks to a resistor blagged off Owl's owner, we may have managed a work-around to an "alternator not working" problem that has been causing us headaches ever since we first collected Sickle - here's hoping!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Stoke Bruerne Gala - Sunday (Down came the rain!.....)

Well we promised to try for better photos than yesterday.

Not to be I'm afraid!  The day started wet, and just got wetter, and photography was rather hindered by water on cameras lenses.

Anyway hopefully this brief selection gives a flavour, if only of boats in the rain, without the big crowds the organisers would no doubt have liked.

Candle Bridge Carrying's pair of "Small Woolwichs" - Archimedes and Ara, (unusually  they were unloaded!)


(As with all the blog pictures, clicking on any small image should give you a larger version).

Victoria, and the shortened boat Purton beyond.  A lot of trans-shipping of bagged fuels between boats was going on on both days.  The "tide line" clearly shows that a lot of bags had been removed from Victoria into Kestrel.

Whereas here Kestrel's butty Vienna, (here carrying it's alternate form "Verbena"), is being loaded from Trevor' Maggs' motor Corona, (by some very wet looking chaps!).  They couldn't understand why we had no enthusiasm for mucking in!

Meanwhile Sickle did its best to provide some moving boat action for the distinct lack of crowds now braving the weather.

This shot in particular shows definite evidence of the water getting into and on to the cameras, before we decided "no more photography".

So that was our first event with our own boat.  Practice for Braunston in just two weeks time, but I do feel for the Stoke Bruerne organisers and traders on this very wet Sunday.

Miles: 4.0, Locks: 4
Total for weekend Miles 6.0, Locks 8 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Stoke Bruerne Gala - Saturday


This is our first event with Sickle, and we are loving it!  Everybody seems so friendly, loads have questions to ask, or a story to tell, and the day just seems to have whizzed by.

Photography rather took second place, and my camera hasn't managed to come out all day.  Cath did rather better, albeit that many were taken from the rocking "floating patio".

Sorry to the many splendidly turned out boats we have not adequately captured - we'll try harder tomorrow, we promise!

Narrow Boat Trust's pair Nuneaton and Brighton with "Small Woolwich" Planet beyond.

Dodona, Panther (behind) and NBT Nuneaton and Brighton.

Plenty of immaculately turned out Joshers.

Something a bit different -  a radio controlled working model of Wyvern Shipping motor Benevolence.

South Midland's Bolinder powered Emu.

Sickle passes Emu outside the Navigation, between the top two locks.

Followed by Mike Askin's massive Royalty boat Victoria with a fair amount of coal on, but which was transhipped to another boat shortly afterwards.

We were asked to make some journeys around the gala site so the public could see some of the boats moving.  Sickle has the advantage she can turn where the vast majority of the historic boats attending would have no chance.

A bit of drama on our way back up through the top lock.  Ex FMC Kestrel was being reversed towards it quite rapidly as we wanted to leave, and my instinct told me not to push forward too fast.  Just as well, because it apparently suddenly broke its drive shaft, and was coming at us rather rapidly. Being directly in it's line of approach,  I reversed hard to lessen the closing speed at impact, but then had to apply enough forward power to stop both boats,before we rammed the lower gates.  They were quite apologetic!  The picture was only taken after the fun had died down!

The "Home Guard" were in attendance today!

A late addition to this entry.

Since I wrote op this day, Mike Askin has published a video he took that day.  Although principally featuring 2 other boats, if you skip forward to about 11 minutes 30 seconds, then "Sickle" gets in on the action for a short while.

Mike Askin's Stoke Bruerne Event Video.

Miles: 2.0, Locks:4

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Stoke Bruerne Gala - Historic Boats Preview

The boats are starting to gather at Stoke Bruerne for this weekend's Gala event.

Here is a taster.

(Would now be a useful time to remind people that if you click on any image in the blog, you should then be shown an enlarged version of it?).

"Small Woolwich" butty Cygnus - Currently offered for sale.

"Large Northwich" motor Stanton - a stunning restoration.

Narrow Boat Trust boats - "Large Northwich" motor Nuneaton and "Large Woolwich" butty Brighton - their presentation has been much improved recently.

Converted "Small Woolwich" motor Planet, with Station Boat Gilbert.

Our boat, "Middle Northwich" Sickle, (well some of it!).

"Royalty" motor Victoria with a bit of a load on.

Shortened "Large Northwich" Purton.

Chesterfield Canal Society's boat - Shortened ex Fellows Morton & Clayton (FMC) Python.

Dudley Canal Trust's "Small Northwich" motor Sagitta.

South Midland's ex-FMC Emu.

South Midland's ex-FMC Clover and Fazeley.

Mikron Theatre Company's touring boat, "Large Northwich" Tyseley.

Erewash "Small Northwich" Cyprus.

"Small Woolwich" motor Corona - It's owner was telling me he has had it since 1968.  It has had a stunning recent repaint, and has a good load of coal on.

Midlands and Coast Jubilee.