Sunday, 20 July 2014

Slow, slow, slow

(Boats Sickle & Chalice - posted by Alan)

We thought we were planning a particularly short day today, but we were wrong!

Setting off from Tixall wide.
Having spent the night at the rather lovely Tixall Wide, we seemed to be in no hurry to get going, but somehow failed to pay attention to just how many people were moving off, or coming past.  When we did finally get away, we were following several boats, and the consequences of this soon became apparent at the very first lock, where four or five boats were now queuing, and we had to slot in behind.  Fortunately as Tixall lock is a fairly shallow one that can be worked quite quickly, the queue moved up a bit faster than we might initially have feared, but it was still a long wait.

"Sickle" on Tixall wide.
However in cases like this, where the next lock is considerably deeper, and takes longer for each boat to work, you often just end up joining much the same queue again, and, sadly, that was the case today.

"Chalice" finally gets her turn at Tixall lock.
So progress was fairly pedestrian, to say the least, but the other problem with this bit of the Staffs and Worcs, is that "Sickle" is regularly bouncing over stuff, particularly in some of the bridge holes, which are very silted.  Where you hit one of these, it seems to make little difference if you use the accepted technique of taking the power off as you enter it, and putting it back on as you leave.  In theory this should help the back of the boat, (the deepest part) rise up over the obstructions before settling down into the water when you are past them.  Well it's a good theory, but half the time you still crash through, with the added "fun" that you have far less steerage, and often sew towards one side of the arch or the other, (often prompting getting the range chimney down very quickly!).

Reprising our party piece of pulling Hudson boats of the shallows,
Another feature of this stretch is that you can be proceeding well down a long straight, open pound, nicely in the channel in the middle, when suddenly you start dragging the bottom, even though your position looks textbook perfect.  This tends to not be really hard stuff, but enough debris gets thrown up that the engine slows, and you need a spell of reverse to clear the prop.  These then are the joys of taking a deep draughted boat on a canal that hasn't seen a lot of recent dredging.

Odin checking everything is in order
We stuck with our commitment to stop for proper lunch breaks, but had only managed to do just two locks by this stage.  Unfortunately, much in the style of our slow departure from Tixall, several boats came past in our direction just as we were going to get started again, and the queing for locks started again in earnest.

We are watched having lunch.
Strange though it may seem, we have little experience of working both boats together on narrow canals with single locks some distance apart - where we have done it previously it has tended to mostly be flights of narrow locks.  What we are encountering now is different, and it isn't always obvious if we are better keeping the boats together, working each through a lock, before carrying on, or if it is sensible for the lead boat to press ahead.  The problem is the leading boat is usually me, alone on "Sickle", and I'm not particularly confident in single handing "Sickle" through with no other crew available.  However, by the end of today, it had still established itself as the best approach - I would go ahead, and, (subject to no queue!), try to get safely through on my own without any risk taking.  Sometimes I was nearly through before the others arrived, having largely worked the lock alone, but other times the timing meant I had hardly started, and David was arriving on "Chalice" and quickly coming forward to assist me.

Queuing for locks ye again
We have much to learn though, probably starting with "get moving from a popular mooring location in the morning before everybody else does"!

An excellent dinner cooked by Cath was enjoyed on "the patio", also known as "Sickle's" tug deck.  The engine oil change I really didn't feel like doing still hasn't got done though!

Penkridge Lock
Staffs & Worcs canal - Tixall Wide to above Filance lock (near Penkridge)
Miles: 10.3 (Chalice), 10.3 (Sickle), Locks: 14

Total Miles: 173.9, Locks: 79

1 comment:

  1. Would it help to put a lockwheeler on a bicycle? He could have the lock ready for Sickle, help you through, do the same for Chalice, and then pedal like mad to get to the next lock before Sickle. If he didn't make it, you're still no worse off doing it on your own and he surely would have arrived by the time you leave, to shut gates and paddles for you and prepare it for Chalice?


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