Saturday, 6 September 2014

Back to two boats in single locks - and the duvet from hell.

(Boat Sickle & Chalice - posted by Alan  / Cath)
Very retrospective post for Tuesday 26th August. 

Waiting at Atherstone after we had caught up slower boats.
We were well positioned to start off up Atherstone locks in the morning, but, as we were just getting going, a number of other boats wishing to do the same turned up.

It is good to not be behind other boats, although not as much of an advantage as you might assume when working two boats together, because after you have been through a lock with one, it is inevitably left full, and hence needs to be emptied before you can go through with the second boat.  This may be achieved simply by emptying the lock again, if no boat is coming the other way, or, if one is, letting that pass through the lock, leaving it ready a it does.

Hartshill depot - full of character but sadly neglected looking.
The problem is that with only 3 crew on two boats, only one of whom (David!) feels confident to take large leaps, it is very easy to end up with the boats separated, and hence not easy for the third person (David!) to assist both steerers.  At Atherstone, many people stop part way up the flight, often overnight, so it is a fair guarantee that even if you are first boats in at the bottom, you will encounter others casting off ahead of you as you move up - these may well end up between the two boats you are trying to keep together.  This is compounded by people stopping for, and restarting again, after making shopping stops, or using the water point that is mid-flight.

Former working boatman Top Lapworth passes on "Nutfield"
Considering the volume of boats trying to move up the locks, we did remarkably well, often assisted by a crew behind that knew what they were doing, but to stop David trying to assist at locks that were not next t each other, and hence covering far too much towpath too many times, I had a couple of times to pull over to let boats thatr had started up between "Sickle" passing a spot, and "Chalice" doing the same come past.  It really didn't affect the overall timing much, and kept things a bit saner for us.

And Alice Lapworth in charge of "Raymond".
I thought the whole thing took a long while, (it is not helped by just how slowly most of these locks fill), but from reports by friends who came up an hour or two later, we actually got off quite lightly!

We desperately needed a major shopping stop, and although it is a long walk to Sainsburys at Nuneaton, it was our best choice.  It is amazing how much harder it is to walk at least a half mile back with full bags, versus carrying them to the store empty!.

In the struggle "man versus duvet" we finally start to win.
We were aware that the "Friends of Raymond" boats, "Nutfield" and "Raymond" were a few boats behind us at Atherstone locks, but they didn't pass us at Nuneaton until we had done our shop.  I have no idea if other "Friends" were on the boat, but the boats appeared to be in the sole control of former working boaters Tom Lapworth, and sister-in-law Alice Lapworth, (widow of Les Lapworth).  I have no idea exactly how old Tom and Alice are, but I thought it rather wonderful to watch.

Cath captures David and me at work on Sickle, whilst hanging on to Chalice.
Shortly after restarting "Sickle's" engine died very dramatically, leaving us heading at bridge hole, and needing some fairly enthusiastic fending off to hang on to chimneys and fittings.  The prop was clearly very badly fouled, and we were going nowhere.  We were not in a good place to deal with it, as firmly submerged debris, including obvious shopping trollies that we could not pull out were stopping us getting the majority of the boat to the bank.  Every time David and I got to the point we were ready to have another go at working on the problem, a boat seemed to approach from one direction or the other, and we had to spend ages pulling "Sickle" out of their path, then setting it up again afterwards.

Probably beyond further use as bedding.
Initially I thought the large layers of fibrous material completely obscuring and jamming the prop might be some kind of padded clothing, but it soon became obvious it was far larger.  However trying to rip it off with the cabin shaft was ineffective, as was lying face down towards the water, and trying to hack through with craft knives or a freezer saw.  I began to think someone would have to go into the water, when David finally started to unravel enough to see it was clearly a duvet.  even so, we could not free it, and the propshaft would only turn small amounts, either of which wound it back in again.  Finally, after maybe an hour and a half, David triumphantly oulled most of it off, still largely (and rather remarkably) a single item.  We reckon it was a "double" but not a "king size".

"Large Northwich" "Slough" - one of the more "got at" "Town" class boats.
I think by this stage we had all had about enough, (including Caty who had largely just hung on to "Chalice" for as long as it took, and tried to keep Odin occupied), but we decided that as the objective had been to try and get a good day's boating in that we would still press on to Hawkesbury.  By then nobody was in a mood for finding the best moorings amongst the very limited space still available there, and "Sickle" was moored in an available gap, whereas "Chalice" was stopped some way before the regular mooring spaces.  Thank goodness we had only found the "duvet from hell" - I think a proper sprung mattress would have been beyond our capabilities to deal with!

Atherstone Bottom Lock to Hawkesbury
Miles:  12.8 (Chalice), 12.8 (Sickle), Locks: 22

Total Miles: 736.3, Locks: 499

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