Thursday, 23 May 2019

The final "half" day into Hebden Bridge that proved not to be.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Thursday 23rd May)

Never far from a tall chimney - Flamingo leads Saltaire
OK, we own up, the crew of Flamingo admit we have got a bit behind with the blog! We actually arrived here last Thursday afternoon, and suddenly it has become Monday.

We were, frankly, a bit shattered on arrival, and it has been a delight to actually spend quite a number of days where we didn't need to go anywhere. However the consequences of that are that if you have not written up previous days, it becomes progressively harder to actually remember everything that actually happened, and trying to re-visit Thursday now feels a bit like that.

Trying to free Saltaire without grounding Flamingo.
In summary, I think, it was a considerably harder final day on the trip into to Hebden Bridge than we had anticipated. Todmorden where we had spent the night is only a little over 4 miles from Hebden Bridge, and a lock count of around 10 looked modest compared to the 3 days we had just done. On any "normal" canal it would be an easy half day, but this has rarely been a "normal" canal.

Low pound - trying to find enough water to get through
We knew it would not be one hundred percent straightforward before we even got going, or, more accurately, when we tried to get going. The pound we were moored in we had shared with (at least) Swan, Daphne, Joel and Maria. And as Swan and Daphne were moored on the outside of us, it was logical that the other boats all left first. This took at least two substantial lock-fulls of water out of the pound we were in, leaving us firmly on the bottom, as the level had dropped badly. Try as we may, we couldn't free Flamingo, without going back to the last lock, and running down enough water that we could re-float. This meant we and Saltaire were the last boats in the convoy, and hence we remained the last right through to Hebden Bridge, with all locks not in our favour. 

To non "boaty" friends "not in our favour" means the locks had been left empty by the boats ahead, so all needed refilling before we could enter them, and go down in them ourselves - not unusual, but always more work, and it heavily slows you down unless someone is sent ahead on foot well in advance to prepare them - usually good practice. However the levels in many of the pounds were low, and we were struggling with depth.  In these cases having someone setting the locks ahead can actually be counter-productive, as it is lowering the pound the boat is trying to get through, may make grounding more likely, and if you do ground, it may be very hard to become "ungrounded" if the water around the stranded boat goes down even more. We had to be very careful about having someone "setting ahead" often choosing to only fill locks once we were successfully through the pound that the water to do so would be taken from - less problematic, but it slows things down considerably.

Sometimes finding a way through low water was harder.
Even though the owner of Saltaire had removed a lot of ballast so it needed less water to float in, it still got stuck several times, often taking a while to get going again.  Sometimes if we tried to stop to help, we also got in trouble, particularly when trying to get someone onto the bank where we didn't have enough water to float in.

Also, I had been warned about certain locations, but didn't know where they were - only when I grounded firmly in a narrow bit where much of somebody's garden was now in the canal did I realise "this is the bit they were talking about where somebody's garden is now in the canal!"

Almost there.
Sometimes the only shallow channel through the depleted pounds proved far closer to the tow-path than you would reasonably assume - at others far further from it, but often it was nowhere where your normal experience might have expected it to be.  To some extent a narrow boat in shallow water will let you know that you are "out of channel" because you find you are fighting against it, but on this day often you were already riding up on rocks, and too late to easily correct your position.

We weren't sure of exact location of event - not here, it seems.
In one lock both boats locked together as we not to the bottom. We managed to get Saltaire out, thinking Flamingo would then follow, but despite no widthways restriction then, Flamingo wouldn't budge. We were simply sat on a pile of rubble, raising us out of the water.  In these circumstances you "flush"- that is you raise the top paddles with the gates at the other end open. Hopefully that will cause a surge of water that lifts the boat temporarily enough that engine power will then move it off the obstruction. Fortunately it did, and in this way boats can sometimes float temporarily just enough at places where the water depth isn't actually enough - just as well if water is scarce, because only very small amounts are used for a "flush". Finding enough to get the boat properly afloat, rather than just temporarily, would involve raising the level of an entire pound  - very much more wasteful, and often not possible.

It didn't take long to find Morris Dancers - 
these are the Hebden Bridge Hill Millies.
Eventually  we got to the right part of Hebden Bridge, almost certainly the final boats travelling from the Manchester direction. By now most bank-side moorings had been allocated, and we were not able to go outside of another boat, as our cabin configuration is very limiting in being able to get dogs on and off. Attempts to get close to the bank in the the remainder of main stretch being used proved impossible, so we were allocated a spot just through bridge, along with Saltaire, but a little detached from the main gathering of boats.  Not an issue, and actually a better location to try and generate some free electricity using the solar panel that we have been lent.

The boat looked well used, (or maybe abused!), unwashed, and unpolished.  However we were knackered, and sorting that out could wait for another day!

Todmorden to Hebden Bridge
Miles 4.4, Locks: 10
Total Miles 183.6, Total Locks: 173

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