Monday, 17 April 2017

Far too little water followed by rather too much water.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Cath 

First lock of the day - Rushall top.
I woke up early, my back aching and painful.  I had thought that I had largely got over the back injury that I got a few days ago, and that had made the trip from Walsall to Brownhills very difficult - so I was very fed up to find that I couldn't even sit up in bed without groaning.  Fortunately, Alan was on hand to give my back a painful massage, and, with the help of some painkillers, I was ready to work down the Rushall flight.  A nod to the CRT man, who was just checking water levels in the flight and we set off.  This is a nice area, middle class detached and semi-detached properties, carefully cared for.

Odin and Max run ahead of the boat.
A very brief stop for the friendly Coop supermarket in the long pound after the second lock, and we set off again - only to come to a juddering halt mid-pound not far before the third lock.  We were stymied.  The pound was down about six inches and we couldn't get the boat to move in forward or reverse gear.  We tried using the long shaft against the bank but couldn't get much of a purchase.  We tried one of us using the long shaft while the other used the engine, but nothing.  We were stuck on a hard, gravelly surface, just in front of the engine room - and the boat was pivoting on that - and we were several feet from the bank - too far for even a daring leap.  I was aware that we were being watched from the well cared home on the off-side and hoped that they might come up the embankment to ask if we needed help - with a thrown rope they could have pulled us off the obstruction - but they obviously decided that it was not a good idea to go to talk to these people at the end of their garden.

Believe it or not, it's the tow-path side we are aground on!
We tried a number of ideas, trying to rationalise what we could do, but every idea failed.  However, somehow we tried pushing the bows considerably to the left - into the bushes, and this allowed Alan to get a plank off to the bank (just - I had my heart in my mouth as he walked across, with barely an inch on anything solid at either end).  Once there he tried pulling ropes - no good, and I was just looking up the CRT emergency number when finally Alan managed to slowly start to shift the boat with the long shaft that I had managed to pass to him.  We had been stuck for something over an hour.

The Rushall flight us quite attractive - when not firmly aground!
In lock 4 we had to watch the boat very carefully, as the Nicholson's guide says that it is very narrow - and Flamingo has spread a bit as she has aged.  We think that there was about a centimetre spare on each side at the bottom of the lock.

The rest of Rushall was something of a relief after that, although we encountered a low pound or two.  Fortunately, going down, it was less of a problem than going up, as we were taking the water down with us.

Tame Valley canal - novel attempt to secure rock cutting.
At Rushall Junction we met with a contractor's work boat and push tug in the middle of the cut as we went round - something very similar happened the last time we went through the junction three years ago.  I made lunch, and fed the dogs, and before we knew it we were at the top of the Perry Bar flight - as was the smiling CRT man from that morning at the top of the Rushall flight - with a van full of rubbish that he had cleared from the flight.

Tame Valley canal - much is deep cuttings or massive embankments,
He asked how things had gone, and I told him about our long stay in the middle of the Rushall pound and he said that I should have phoned him - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week he said - the evidence was all the work that he had done on Easter Monday.  I asked him about levels of water in the Perry Bar flight, and he said that they should be OK, but, as we are a deep draughted boat, he would make sure to send some water down for us once we were out of the lock.

Looking down the "thick" of Perry Bar locks (known as the "new thirteen").
A pleasant flight at the top end, we carried on down quickly, although I had a momentary fright when I turned around at one lock to see Max swimming along the pound behind me - and trying to get out of the water.  Unlike Odin, he is very wary of water, so I can only assume that he fell in.  I rushed up, and grabbed hold of his harness (both dogs wear them if we are boating), and he was out in a second - I didn't even need to pull, he just needed a bit of stability.  No worse the wear, but a bit surprised.

It's usually Odin that turns up this wet - this is Max.
Soon after that we met with a couple of very nice young girls who offered to help to push gates, and who asked questions about how the locks work, and the boat.  I do enjoy talking to the people we meet as we are on our boating travels.

The further we got down the flight, the more water there seemed to be - our CRT man must have pulled out all the stops, although we couldn't see how the water was getting down the flight.  Pounds began to overflow, and the lock areas were decidedly soggy - I had to wade through wide puddles around the locks to go to work the gates and paddles.  Passing cyclists and walkers began to comment on never having seen the pounds so full.

Charming young helpers

Near the bottom of the flight we met with a lovely Polish family out for a walk, who wanted to ask lots of questions, but were limited by language.  Fortunately one of the sons spoke very good English, and acted as an interpreter.  They helped us work some of the locks, while asking questions about the boat, and the history of the English canal system.

Finally, we were at the bottom of Perry Bar.  Two hours to sunset - could we make it to Curdworth six miles and three locks distant (the Internet said this would take three hours) - what if we hit any more problems?  So, we decided to take the sensible option - to stop at Star City Moorings - despite the fact that we had heard about some recent problems with them.   These are a short distance down a branch from the Birmingham and Fazely canal that we were on.  The problem with them is that we need to go back in the same direction in the morning so, either you have to travel several hundred metres of the canal in reverse, or you have to carry on for several miles to find somewhere to wind.  We decided to reverse.

Big, big mistake.

And everybody else has been complaining about too little water at Perry Bar.
We were all over the place, the boat didn't want to go backwards, then, not entirely surprisingly we picked up a huge bladeful of rubbish.  We managed to clear some of this in the remains of the narrow stop lock, but then we got a large floating propane cylinder wedged down the side of the boat while we were in the narrow area - requiring Alan to get handy with the sledgehammer.  We got to the moorings one and a half hours after the bottom of the locks.

I cooked dinner, Alan delved under the back end of the boat with the boat hook to remove some of the rubbish - although I think that he has more to remove in the morning.  The only other moorer at Star City came to talk to him - perhaps impressed by having seen the antics with the sledgehammer - and asked if we didn't have a weed hatch.  I know that some old boats have been fitted with a weed hatch, but Flamingo isn't one of them - the only ways to get the rubbish off the prop, is to delve under the back end with a boat hook, or, if things get really bad - to get in the water and hack at the rubbish with a knife.

Rushall Top Lock To Star City Birmingham
Miles: 8.1, Locks: 22
Total Trip Miles: 99.6, Locks: 117

1 comment:

  1. Just a regular trip then! Note to self: Make Andy walk even the longest pounds...I hope today is a better day


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