Thursday, 23 August 2012

Sickle to Alvecote

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Having got Chalice to Alvecote, all we now had to do was to retrieve Sickle from Grendon Dock, a bit to the South.  This should have been an even easier trip, but things do not always go to plan!

We had two choices.  Either we could boat down with Chalice, then bring both boats back to Alvecote, or I could take a bike, and cycle down, which, theoretically at least, should have been quicker.

Despite having a headache, I went for the bike option.  This was going OK, until I found I had a slow but significant puncture, but nothing to fix it with!  Fortunately I had a pump, and hoped I could keep going with occasional stops to reinflate.  However a good towpath surface quickly turned to a mixture of either rocky or muddy single-track!  By the time I had done the short trip to Grendon I was exhausted, and the rate of deflation was much higher!

Malcolm Burge at the tiller of Jaguar - one of his many Joshers.
I had been told that there might be nobody at Grendon, as Malcolm Burge was bringing Jaguar up to Alvecote.  As I had passed Malcolm and his son Drew whilst on the bike, (or possibly pumping up a tyre!), I wasn't surprised, but didn't expect a locked steel gate, with signs about loose dogs!  I rang Alvecote, who assured me I would not be savaged if I scaled the gate.

Having also hauled the bike over, I got Sickle ready to boat.  Or I thought I had!  Sickle normally starts almost immediately, but today, although the battery was initially turning the engine over well - nothing - nothing AT ALL!  More and more deperate attempts to start ensued, but I still saw no sign it was likely to.  After a while the battery was tiring, and I was having serious thoughts about getting Cath to bring Chalice down to tow Sickle back up to Alvecote!

However Malcolm Burge, the owner at Alvecote, turned up and we continued to try and start the misbehaving Lister.  Malcolm provided a battery charger, and was convinced it was close to starting - by now I was far less confident.  Phone calls were made to see if it had been run to get it out of the dock - it had, but it had been Sarah that moved it.  Her family had owned Sickle, and she had been a regular steerer, so should have known any foibles - she reported it had been fine - all very odd!  Eventually the engine stop switch was suspected, and found to probably not be fully returned to the correct position for "run".  Even doing this she still would not start at first - it seemed to have left some part fuel starved, but after a lot more cranking, she finally spluttered into life.

View from Chalice as I finally arrive with Sickle.
Breathing a deep sigh of relief, I handed back the battery charger, and set off somewhat late.  After that all behaved as it should, as I found myself in convoy with some of the Icebreakers and Tugs featured in the last post.  We were allocated a prime position right up nearest to the Samuel Barlow, so also nearest the beer!  As the pontoons filled up, and particularly as we finally got to get Sickle alongside her "twin" Tycho, it felt like a good event was in store.

Our first attempt at a vegetarian option in the Barlow showed just how good the resident chef is.  I also discovered a rather deceptively strong beer called fallen Angel, but am convinced that is not the reason I found everybody so welcoming and friendly.  We had not been to this modern pub before, but our first experiences were very positive.

Grendon Dock to Alvecote
Miles: 3.7, Locks:0
Total Miles: 405.5, Locks: 249 (Worked)

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