Thursday, 11 August 2011

A sunken boat - working boats - no diesel

(Boat Chalice - posted largely by Cath, but finished by Alan)

The scene as we are told we must stop.
I took Charlie for a walk, and then we got going at about 9 am, knowing that we had to negotiate around a sunken narrowboat a mile or so north.  It was raining intermittently as we came under bridge 36, and saw the boat in the middle of the cut.  A man on the towpath waved us over, saying that they had already begun the raising of the boat, and as they had men in the water, we would have to wait.  So we took the opportunity to watch the process.

Trying to stop water going in faster than it can be pumped out.
It was only a small boat, some 42', and, while not new, it was clearly cared for.  One side was under water above the gunwales, while the other side was clear by a couple of inches.  The team had already got an inflatable air bag attached to the outer side, to help with the process.  The boarded up as much of the cruiser stern as possible with wooden sheets, and plastic sheeting, then began pumping water out.  For a while it looked like nothing was actually going to happen, but they added some more sheeting, and the boat slowly began to tilt back again - with the danger of the side nearest the towpath going under as well.  The men used more sheeting, and began heaving the boat towards the bank.  Eventually, the whole boat was floating, although at a heavy tilt.

Afloat, but still listing heavily.
The owner, and his son, were present, although we didn't speak to them, so can't confirm the story, but we were told that the boat had been in the family for some time, and they had done quite a lot of work on it.  The son had been using it for 4 days.  He had taken the weed hatch off, but for some reason it had not gone back on properly - the men raising the boat said that the weed hatch sealing was missing. The result was a sunken boat in the middle of the canal.

Early in the descent of 11 locks at Atherstone.
We were eventually waved on through at about half past ten.  When we got to the top of Atherstone Locks, I went off to the large Co-op supermarket, while Alan and David began to work down the flight.

At one of the locks I saw a damson tree overhanging the lock apron, and tried one of the damsons, thinking that it would be under ripe, but on the contrary, it was delicious. Alan isn't a great one for plums, but we pulled a bowlful from the tree while we waited for the boat in the lock below.

This is a perhaps unexpectedly beautiful setting.

Alan winds the side-pond paddle.

One of the Atherstone locks has a working side-pond.  These formerly existed in large numbers as a way of saving half the water used as boats locked through.  Sadly nowadays, virtually all have been taken out of use, and a single one in a lock flight is of little practical use.  Still, we worked it, just to prove we could!

"Chertsey" no longer sporting her Red Oxide finish.
We knew we were getting very low on diesel.  The Nicholson's guide said it was available at Grendon Dock.  This sounded unlikely, and indeed it was not.  However we did see our friend Sarah's boat "Chertsey" well advanced in receiving its striking new paint job.

Spectacular line-up includes 7 Joshers, 6 of them loaded!
Our next port of call for diesel was Alvecote Marina. There were many working boats moored, several heavily loaded. Unfortunately, the marina had no diesel, but told us that Fazeley Mill Marina should have some. A bit of calculation, and Alan decided that we could make it there.

There was a bit of a mix-up at Fazeley Junction, as Alan had wrongly understood that  Fazeley Mill Marina was on our intended route, and he should still turn right.  Fortunately the rest of the family checked, and we turned round and headed to where the now much needed diesel could be bought.  Not so long ago fuel costs were not that big a boating cost compared to others, but increased cost and increased taxation means a fill like this costs over £175.

Retracing our steps back over the bit we had already done when we should not have, we then made our way up a piece of canal that should logically still be part of the Coventry, but for historical reasons is part of the Birmingham and Fazeley for a while.  We moored at Hopwas.

The pie that I made from the damsons looked delicious, but was not to everybody's taste.  Strangely only Alan, the one who is not usually a plum fan, found it acceptable, and actually finished his helping!

Hartshill (Coventry Canal) to Hopwas (Birmingham and Fazeley Canal)
Miles: 17.0, Locks: 13

Total Miles: 101.5, Total Locks:53

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