Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Calm Before The Storm ?

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

This hasn't so much been a day about moving a boat very far - it was never planned to be much more than at least making a start at it!  "Sickle" has been safely lodged at Stretton for a couple of weeks, since Cath was due back at work, and the task for this weekend is to relocate her to the Black Country Living Museum.

Vista from "Sickle" - "Stanton", "Chertsey", "Bakewell" and "Plover"
It has however turned into a rather nice "social" day.  You get a lot of that on the canals - even former "grumpy old gits" like me seem  to end up with a social life, and our ever increasing boating activities mean an ever growing circle of friends, but often no absolute guarantees about who you will meet where, or when.

However  Sarah and Jim, normally base "Chertsey" and "Bakewell" exactly where "Sickle" has been lodging, so it was an obvious move to take a leisurely lunch with them, before we put in a few miles of boating.  However we could not have anticipated that Peter & Laura would be passing with the rather lovely "Stanton", so when they were persuaded to tie up alongside "Chertsey" and "Bakewell" we were starting to build a fairly impressive line up of historic boats, ("Sickle" herself being tied alongside the Josher motor "Plover").

"Stanton", "Chertsey"& "Bakewell" - "Sickle" beyond.
Sarah cooked us an excellent meal, supplemented by Jim's equally excellent home baked wholemeal bread, whereas our involvement extended to no more than providing the beers!

Eventually Cath pointed out that we were actually supposed to have been going somewhere today, and we did finally get going, once the boat crossing the aqueduct as we were waiting to turn "Sickle" around had made a fair attempt at bouncing off us, for no particular reason!

Initially we travelled the stretch we had done a few months back where we got a go at steering "Chertsey".  Back then there had been much discussion about Chertsey's performance, its propeller, how much ballast, etc, and was it performing OK?  Now, having tried the same bit in "Sickle" I conclude this really is a rather shallow bit of canal, and I was struggling to get from "Sickle", (a powerful boat), even the speeds we had managed with "Chertsey".  I conclude there probably isn't much wrong with Chertsey, and that this bit of the "Shroppie" is not the place to try out working boats for their performance - in fact, in power terms this is a case where "less is more".

Passing "Purton" another ex BW maintenance boat.
The canal has several considerable narrows, where I would not choose to try and pass a boat coming the other way with a boat of Sickle's draught.  At one of these we pulled up well before the "narrows" to allow another boat through, but (as is so often the case), they went into "slow crawl" mode, and by the time we needed to push forwards we were not in enough water to do so.  A fair amount of reversing back was required before we could find enough deep water to actually go in the right direction again.  This is not something we have often experienced with "Sickle", but at least it was sorted fairly quickly.

Not long before the "Shroppie" ends, a modern bridge has a narrowing before it, that contains stop gates, that could once have been used to isolate a length of the canal, (although not now - the gates are long since too poorly decayed).  It's not often we are brought to a complete stop by the shallowness of such a feature, but this one achieved it easily.  In such circumstances you can usually carry on, but only on absolute minimum power, so you crawl over, without the back end of the boat digging further into the silt.  Fortunately this was exactly what happened, but I conclude these final few miles of the "Shroppie" are some of the slowest boating we have yet done in "Sickle".  Last year in "Chalice" on the same stretch depth issues did not enter our though processes, (unless trying to moor against the infamous "Shroppie shelf" sides).

So what does tomorrow hold ?  Well we need to climb the well known "Wolverhampton 21" lock flight, (the clue is in the numeric part!). At the moment a cold wet day is forecast, but the worst "advertised" feature is gusting, and sometimes gale force winds.  Ah well - at least we are not in Chalice, which being high sided, and shallow draughted, can get blown all over the place.  "Sickle" is made of sterner stuff, and we proved a few weeks back that she will hold a straight line, when more modern boats are coming at you down the canal "on the diagonal".

Tomorrow should be OK then!

Stretton Aqueduct to Autherley (Shropshire Union Canal)
Miles: 6.2, Locks: 0

Totals for extended trip....
Miles: 227.8, Locks: 148

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