Archive for May, 2010

Where to begin?

Monday 3 May, 2010

First an update on the winter activities. The diesel leak was eventually traced to a dirty union in one of the injector feeds. Dismantling and cleaning the union has done the trick and there is now no trace of diesel leaking into the lubricating oil.

Apart from giving the boat a few turns around the local winding holesto help keep the batteries charged, little else was needed until it was found that a block of wood at the rear hatch had rotted away. A replacement was made out of Iroko and fitted during the early Spring.

Michael had received an invitation to take Tardebigge to a Tug rally at the Black Country Museum for the Mayday Bank holiday. Plans were made to take it up around Easter but work in the Museum canal arm meant a delay was necessary. So a trip on the Upper Thames was planned. At this point the weather turned against us and although the trip was started it was abandoned when, after spending about 40 minutes on the river, it became apparent the the river was winning the battle and we were not making much headway against the flow. Turning round we did the return journey in about 20 minutes and were glad to get back on to the Oxford canal. Plan B was invoked and we travelled up to Aynho before turning back to moor at Heyford on the Easter Sunday evening.

The run to Dudley was retimed starting on Sunday the 25th and Robert and Bernard set off at about 7am. Michael joined us at Banbury for the rest of the day’s trip to Cropredy. Disappointment was obvious when the pub at Cropredy was found to have only one real ale on sale.

Another early start the next morning gave us a good run at the remaining locks on the way to the summit pound and our target of the bottom of the Napton flight before we tied up for the day. A clear run across the summit and we soon arrived at Napton to begin our descent. Here we passed the “Cressy Run” convoy as they took a late lunch. Volunteer lockhelpers sped our passage down the flight and we decided to extend our run to include the Calcutt flight on the Grand Union. We eventually tied up just beyond the Boat Inn at Birdingbury.

Our plan was to make for the Cape of Good Hope so we set off with this in mind. A quick shopping stop on the outskirts of Warwick and a sandwich lunch filled us with good cheer and it was not long before we climbed Cape locks. Bravado took hold and we ascended the first four of the Hatton flight before tying up for the night.

The next day promised to be the hardest of the trip as we had seventeen more locks of the Hatton flight to climb before setting out for the narrow locks at Lapworth. Hatton flight were soon conquered and, after a brief stop for an ice cream and a chat about the lack of boats with a BW man who was painting at Hatton Top Lock we were under way again. Lunch was taken at Kingswood junction and the easy Lapworth flight were soon slipping past. A wait on the main flight delayed us for about twenty minutes whilst a slow boat was helped down and given basic instruction on how to operate locks. The top lock was soon reached and we decided to plod on until a mooring with enough water could be found. We were in Dickins Heath before a mooring was found and we happily tied up for the night knowing that the hard work was over – level boating until the rise to the Wolverhampton level at Tipton.

Train departures determined the start time the next morning and we set off to be at Bournville by 11.20. The deadline was duly met and Robert departed on his way to Trowbridge. Bernard continued on and soon approached the diversion at Selly Oak where an new aqueduct is being constructed. Things went wrong when, whilst passing under a temporary bridge, the boat suddenly stopped dead in the water and the engine stalled. Somthing was round the propeller! All attempts restart the engine failed and there was a boat closing rapidly from behind. Staff from the construction company soon gathered and attempted to pull Tardebigge free of the obstruction which, to Bernard, was clearly well below water level but the construction workers disagreed. All the horses (a dump truck) and the men pulled and the new mooring rope finally parted company. Plan B involving a JCB also failed and Plan C – getting in the canal – was implemented. Two of the construction workers donned waders and descended slowly into the canal. Further investigation determined the source of the problem – the ‘something’ was attached to the bottom of the canal!

Meanwhile the queue of waiting boats was getting longer. The waters cleared a little and floating just below water level there was a sheet of felt that should have been on the bottom of the canal. Further groping below the boat confirmed that more of the same material was wrapped around the propeller. Ropes were attached to the boat and to the dump truck and the JCB and whilst they maintained a steady pull on the boat a saw soon parted the material and, to a great cheer from the assembled company, Tardebigge floated clear. Tardebigge was dragged to one side and after more of the felt liner had been cut away from the bottom of the canal the waiting boats were allowed through. Half an hour later about two metres of the material had been removed and Tardebigge was declared free and allowed on her way. Steady progress was then made and the boat was moored in the basin at the top of the Farmers Bridge flight.

The weather forecast for the Friday morning was not good so Bernard set off towards the Museum at about 7.20 having already cooked and consumed a hearty breakfast. Excellent progress was made to the bottom of Factory locks where once again the engine suddenly ran very badly having picked up something from the canal. to save wrapping the problem even tighter around the propeller Tardebigge was hauled into the lock by hand and the lock was filled. Invesigations with the boathook showed there was someting big underneath the boat. Fortunately a a quick tug with the boathook and everything came out at once. Anyone want a heavy jacket! Round the corner to the museum and a quick fill of water and everything was ready for an attack on the notorious lift bridge that spans the entrance to the Museum canal arm. Someone had been at work and the effort required was much less the at previous times. A queue of arriving boats had formrd and the bridge stayed up for over two hours whilst boats were manoevered into their alloted spaces.

Boating experiences of the various steerers were exchanged and it was dicovered that there had been another instance of a boat snagging something at the temporary bridge at Selly Oak. A word with BW is in order.