Thursday, 13 April 2017

Bumpity Bump!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

On these bits often not too much rubbing the bottom
Today was a no locks day, other than passing through the disused stop lock on the Stratford Canal at Kings Norton, just before it joins the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

But far to rregulatly we were bumping and scraping through these
On our old leisure boat "Chalice" this would have been a dead easy low effort trip, but with "Flamingo" it proved to be a very different prospect.  In simple terms we have not at any point in the day got very far beyond the last point where we were dragging over stuff on the bottom and rocking around a lot before we reached the next point here we were dragging over stuff on the bottom and rocking around a lot.  (The only real respite being Brandwood tunnel, where I suppose it is far harder for the locals to throw in large amounts of debris.)

Abject failure for first attempts on passing the Shirley lift bridge.
It has been a major work out, and despite lots of people claiming the whole very long pound at this level is anything between five and inches down, practical observation at the many weirs demonstrates it is actually only two or three inches off level.  Quite simply putting in an extra two or three inches of water would not have turned today from a struggle into a delight - both the Northern Stratford, and this leg of the Worcester and Birmingham are simply either not deep enough or too rubbish filled to be used pleasurably with a boat like "Flamingo".

Approaching Brandwood Tunnel - one place the locals can't easily throw junk.
Some, I admit may be my own lack of experience with a deep draughted boat on a very "bendy" section, but when  you are going up the dead straight bits, positioned exactly where the channel should be, and are scraping over what feels like very solid objects, then it is hard to see how more experience would make things much better.

Specifically today.....

£200,000 face-lift, and still a nightmare to get am ex working  boat through.
1) At the lift bridge at Shirley, you have no choice of route through it, because there is a "chicane" you pass through both on approach and exit, that is little wider than the boat, so you can go on almost nothing but a fixed path.  Having got the bridge open as we advanced, Flamingo stuck solid entering that "chicane".  It mattered not whether we used lots of power, little power, or no power, and pulled only on ropes, we were clearly going nowhere, so we shut the bridge and let a queue of unhappy motorists carry on there way.  No amount of feeling with poles found anything solid, but there did seem to be a bank of silt entering the "chicane".  We used the pole to try and disturb this, and were surprised we could pull it through by hand, (opening the bridge only at the very last minute).

I should have done better, but the entire area is far too shallow.
2) A staggering £200,000 was spent about 4 years ago to cosmetically restore the historic stop lock with guillotine gates at King's Norton.  Thee structure is clearly of great historic interest but has served no purpose for a very long while.  Unfortunately it now looks little better than it did before the cosmetic restoration, as the local vandals and graffiti sprayers have given it their full attention.  I had hoped, having been brought to a halt in it by silt in "Sickle" prior to the restoration, that money had been spent to clear the channel and it might now be more easily navigated by a deep draughted boat.  Well unless it has re-silted itself since, it seems things are no better at all.  "Flamingo" was also brought to a halt, and had to be rocked and otherwise coaxed to get it through.

Parallel canal and railway tunnels
3) There are two long narrow skew bridges on the Worcester and Birmingham where we had also struggled with "Sickle", but today the first encountered seemed much better,  It seems that the channel had been spot dredged, as there was huge heaps of detritus left through it on the edge on the non towpath side.  Better of course, but why leave all that unsightly stuff there, ready for someone  to throw back in - surely it could have been removed?  However the second one showed no evidence of any attempt to clear it, and once again "Flamingo" was virtually halted, and much coaxing was required to get through.

Finally on a good mooring, but exhausted after this day's boating
4) This stretch of the W&B is largely straight, so there should be little ambiguity where the deepest water should be.  However positioning either in the centre, or maybe slightly more towards the towpath still meant we were grinding over something sold much of the time.  We were lucky to get half a mile before the boat started either rocking sideways, or riding over something.

"Enceladus" heading where we are, and also blogging about it.
The whole are a is littered with CRT signage that attempts to be humorous, or with large and inappropriate CRT "publicity" banners on inappropriate structures, but actual evidence of maintaining the channel for navigation is largely lacking.   All rather disappointing, really.

On a brighter note, despite the delays, we were lucky to arrive in Birmingham and find a near perfect mooring for a 72 foot boat, exactly where we preferred to be.

Gas Street Basin manages to still look somewhat like it did some 40 years ago.
Cath and I went into town, but I was whacked after what felt like a major work out at the tiller.  This evening we all went for an excellent meal in Zizzi at the Mailbox.  However tomorrow David is leaving us to go home.  He has been our saviour time and time again, often heaving successfully on things we are no longer strong enough for.  It is not without some trepidation that we will be venturing on to some of the less used bits of the Birmingham Canal Navigations without having him as our secret weapon.

This our canal heritage, CRT - Do you really need to turn it into Disneyland?

Dicken's Heath to Mailbox, Birmingham
Miles: 11.7, Locks: 1 (left open)
Total Trip Miles: 56.7, Locks: 79

1 comment:

  1. Well done to David.
    Great atmospheric photo of Gas St basin.
    Agreed on spending far to much on none essential signage, dreadful state of affairs.


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