Thursday, 5 April 2012

We Arrive at Calf Heath Well On Schedule

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

I've no idea if it would have been safe to fly this yesterday!
As Cath has already reported, our night at Tixall Wide has to be one of the wildest on record.  After an exhausting day yesterday battling through driving rain, we both could have done with a quiet night, but the reality could hardly have been different.  The winds clearly dropped as the night progressed, but with the counter of the boat sitting right in the line of the prevailing direction, the relentless "slap-slapping" continued even as it became a lot calmer.  I think I slept more than I expected, but this was certainly only because I had managed to get unusually tired before-hand.

This was to be an easier day, but, exhausted, we didn't race to get away, and several boats had passed in our direction before we did.  The canal, (we had now joined the Staffs and Worcs), was unexpectedly busy.  We found several boats queuing for the first lock, and, although it abated a little as the day progressed, for most of the day we  seemed to be in a kind of Southbound "convoy", with very few boats actually travelling the other way.  This meant that virtually very lock was against us, and had to be "turned" - that is the last boat through has left it full, and we have to empty it first, before we can use it.

We first collected Sickle from here less than a year ago.
During the day, we passed "Parkgate Lock", at Teddesley, North of Penkridge, the exact location we picked Sickle up from after purchase, a little under a year ago. Back then we were learning to handle this very different boat, thinking it was perhaps harder than we thought!  Now, passing down the Staffs and Worcs after sampling a fair few others, it became apparent it is actually a relatively shallow canal compared to many, making it a challenge for a deep draughted boat in novice hands.  Today we were running over heaps of goodness knows what on the canal bed, in exactly the kinds of places you might best expect not to be - for example near the middle on a nice straight bit!  Others with deep draughted boats subsequently confirmed similar experiences, so maybe I no longer feel we did too badly with Sickle on our very first day with her!

Sicle passes historic pair Monarch and Grimsby

About to pass under into Gailey lock
Eventually Southbound boats started to pull over, and finally we were arriving at locks that did not also have boats waiting ahead of us.  This only happened late in the day though, so it felt a long day for the relatively low mileages covered, without a particularly large "lock count".

The distinctive lock house at Gailey is a famous canal landmark.

Sickle after arrival, opposite Hatherton Junction.
We eventually arrived at our target "Calf Heath", near Hatherton Junction, (which for many years has not been a junction with another canal).  I guess around half a dozen of the boats expected to attend the event we had come for were already present, interspersed with others not involved.  On our first attempt to moor we couldn't get any part of Sickle within three feet of the bank, but moving on down we did find a spot where we could float without jumping a gap - a good idea, if planning to have a few beers!

We then commenced our first evening of practice before the main party - something we would get another crack at tomorrow, before the real thing!

Tixall Wide to Calf Heath
Miles: 14.6, Locks: 12

Totals for extended trip....
Miles: 121.9, Locks: 55

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