Saturday, 8 September 2012

Starting to Bring "Sickle" Home Despite A Few Frustrations.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Reversing "Sickle" back to give "Greyhound" a "snatch" of the rocks.
When we were at Alvecote two weeks back, both attending the Historic Boat Gathering, and celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary, it had become very apparent that with Cath's work situation that trying to get both boats back in a hurry was just a step too far.

Fortunately the owners at Alvecote were perfectly happy for Sickle to stay berthed there securely for a couple more weeks, until we could fetch her home, independent of our hurried run South with just Chalice.

"Lamprey" first of a string of ex working boats we passed today.
The weekend moves that result, do tend to be more time consuming operations than might be imagined, largely because they more often than not involve not only delivering a car to wherever we hope to end the weekend, then driving on to our start point in a second car, but also involve driving from the end point back to the start point, once we have completed our boating, in order to retrieve the second car.  By the time we are talking about locations like Alvecote, these are not insubstantial mileages from our home, (and not insubstantial bills for both petrol and diesel!).

"Sickle" at Atherstone, having just passed "Tench".
However, we were at least able to arrive at Alvecote on Friday evening - a wonderful excuse to once more explore the superb food and drink at the Samuel Barlow.  Their resident "grumpy chef", (their description, not ours!), recognised the vegetarians from a couple of weeks back, and sent the waitress back to offer an option not advertised on today's menu - you do feel well looked after in the "Barlow"!

On Saturday we finally got to settle the bill for the hull blacking they had done for us on Sickle, but were then asked to help tow the Josher Greyhound back off an underwater obstruction that it had managed to get stemmed up on.  In practice once I had grappled with reversing Sickle the required distance, (she is much harder to reverse than an unshortened working boat!), pulling Greyhound off was easy, but, despite owning a tug, one doesn't often get involved in such things.

Empress, the last of the historic boats passed.
After that it should have been relatively easy, and fears of possible hold ups at the slow filling Atherstone locks subsided when we arrived to find no boats waiting.  However a few locks up, once more I went to use the gears, and got a sense of deja vu, as the wheel turned, but the gears stayed engaged - once more we had lost all control.  The reasons proved not to be too disastrous - a simple pin had sheared through - but a work-around temporary fix required some thought, as I had no spares for anything like this.  Eventually a "bodge" was rigged - quite adequate to get us going again, and we moved on, after a delay of (I guess) perhaps a bit over an hour.

A feature of the day was other working boats coming the other way - I failed to photograph some of them well enough, but we passed Lamprey and Canis Major near Grendon, Tench and Ilford in the Atherstone flight, and later on Whitby and then Empress.  Presumably most were returning from the previous weekend's event at Shakerstone - one we could not possibly squeeze into Sickle's timetable this year.

Completuing the 180 degree turn at Hawkesbury Junction.
The issue once you push on past the famous Hawkesbury Juction, (known to boatmen as "Sutton Stop"), and move from the Coventry to Oxford canal, is that much of it is either not easy to moor on with a deep draughted boat, or is near noisy motorways or alongside a major railway, (or any combination thereof!).  An obvious place to stop is Ansty, or it would be, if the same limited visitor moorings were not apparently occupied by the same boats as we had seen there both two weeks ago, and in many cases nearly a month before that.  Such visitor moorings are supposed to be limited to 14 days, but there appears to be little effort to move on overstayers, and hence such moorings are nigh on impossible for a casual moorer to even get a single night on.  We had struggled both times before, and again there was nothing, so I hoped to use a short length a bridge or so further up, that we had managed to get Chalice on two weeks ago.  No such luck - that bit was now also in use, and I knew there were few viable tying up places for several miles thereafter.

To tired to press on, and with the light fading, I made a bodged attempt to reverse back through a bridge, and was feeling pretty grumpy having to tie Sickle up in a spot so shallow, I could barely make the leap to the bank.  Fortunately though things improved when we took a walk to the local pub - yes they could do very suitable food.  So we settled to a very relaxed meal, and, although knackered, I managed to let thoughts of broken gear linkages, or boats that hog limited available moorings, slip from my head.  I even managed not to fall in, trying to get across the gap from muddy bank to boat, as we returned quite a bit later!

Alvecote (Coventry Canal) to Ansty (Northern Oxford Canal)
Miles: 22.0, Locks: 12
Total Miles: 524.0, Locks: 312 (Worked)
(I'm treating the delayed return of Sickle as part of the overall summer trip with both boats).

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