About Us

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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

inches do matter!!!

What with the road noise, the Crows creating merry hell and the continues drip drip of the rain coming off the leaves from the tree's, staying in bed was out of the question. We got going by 7.45 am and entered the first lock on the Junction canal 10 minutes later Before I continue with our story, I should make you aware of several problems we encountered on the way.
    1. Lock 1 &4, the top of the staircase lock are vicious fillers. Beware if you are coming up the flight.
    2. Lock 1 & 2, the bottom gates don't stay open.
    3. Don't try to get your crew off anywhere other then the lock landing. Its the only place not full of silt.
    4. Make sure you check your air draft. The culvert is very low!!
    5. As you approach barge lock be careful when you alight because the landing is very slippery, especially now that there has been numerous landslides. 
    6. Make sure you take your BW key with you, as the swing bridge in this lock needs to be opened before you go in.
    7. And lastly.  If a boat is exiting the lock and going downstream, and you are coming upstream, Please let the down stream boat go through the bridge 'ole first. Its very difficult to stop a boat and wait when you are having to go with the flow!
Okay. Now I can continue with this blog.

I had to wait while Ian filled the first lock. ( see point 1 ) Thats when he told me about the violence of the water rushing in causing a huge 3ft  wave to career along the lock chamber.( Note to myself. Open paddles slowly! ) Only  problem coming down was the bottom gates not doing as they were told.
 ( see point 2 ). Apparently there are two pieces of wood lying near the lock gates with a note asking for them not to be removed. These are probably for keeping the gates open although Ian reckoned they didn't look long enough. Anyway Ian had to walk back to me to get our pole.

Gates refusing to stay open.

The next lock also had the same problem.but at least Ian kept the pole with him. Heading for the next lock we had a boaters eye view of the narrow channel caused by all the reeds, and of the thousands of wildflowers planted all over this site.

The top lock of the staircase lock had to be filled for me to enter and Ian said that this lock was by far the most vicious filler he has ever seen. When we were at the festival last year, BW was manning this lock and had put limiters on the paddles so it could only be opened a quarter of a turn. At the time we wondered why they would do this. Now we know why! This lock is also very deep and going  into the next lock I noticed loads of slugs along the wall. Its funny that only this morning BBC Breakfast TV had been talking about the Spanish killer slug and how it can become cannibalistic. I witnessed this actually happening. Quite bizzare really after all the news coverage.

Very deep lock

Wall was covered in slugs. These are only a few but there must have been a hundred or more.

We only had one more lock to go through before the M5 culvert. Both of us walked on down after leaving the boat in the lock, to see if the river gauge had changed from yesterday. It hadn't, so next thing for us to do was remove the top boxes, plants, TV, horn and tiller pin. We were not going to risk entering the culvert with them on as we knew that it was slightly lower in the middle then the height gauge showed.

Horn removal

Top boxes in well deck

Had to get a wrench to twist the tiller pin.

That Ian  used a pin punch to take it off completely. You may wonder why we have 2 tiller pins. We hang our stern rope on this one.
Look a clutter free roof!!

More eggs to be had by the lockside.
Now that the roof line was as low as we could get it, we dropped down the lock and with some trpidation slowly made our way to the culvert. I left my camera on the roof so I could record the event. Only trouble was the camera focus was on the rope instead of where I wanted it, but you can still see that we had only inches to spare as we went through.

A bit tight.

Look at our hatch cover. That shows how close we were to the roof. This is when inches do matter!

On our way out.

Breathing a sigh of relieve that we made it through unscathed, our final lock on the junction canal came out onto the river section again. Another boat approaching  had stopped on the landing, so once Ian had opened the gates he came down the lock ladder and back on board. Thats when we realised another boat was also coming our way. This brings me to point 7. We were traveling downstream after leaving the lock and heading for the bridge 'ole. This other boat going upstream just kept coming. Trying to stop our boat and keep it from hitting the bridge was very difficult. In the end Ian only just managed to avoid a collision with the brick work and a few choice words were said to the other boater.  Our final lock of the day was the wide barge lock. This is where Ian nearly went flying trying to get off the boat ( see point 5 ). I knew this lock was with us so instead of roping up on the landing I sat out and waited. The landing is before a sharp left hand bend to the lock. The river weir is straight on and the warnings are in place to keep left. Because I knew the lock was with us I stayed to the left and kept on going, only to see Ian running toward me telling me to stop. So..... lock to left, weir directly in front, me in the middle with nowhere to go and Ian was telling me to stop!!!! He had forgotten  the BW key to open the swing bridge which is smack in the middle of the lock and has to be opened first before you bring the boat in. ( see point 6 ). I never knew Ian could move so fast because when I threw him the key, he raced back to get the bridge open just in the nick of time as I entered the lock.

Lock landing is around the corner, not where the Bw boat is. I took this, and the next photo, last year in July at the opening ceremony of the canal. It  shows very nicely what I mean about the weir.

 Again as we left another boat arrived and Ian told me he would help this boat through. Usually no proplrem for me to hang around in the middle but today the unthinkable happened, the engine stalled. Ian still had the key so I yelled to him to bring it, but in the meantime I was now nearly broadside across the basin. I grabbed the center rope, attempted to throw it at him, only for it to end up in the water not on the bank. By now I was near enough for Ian to throw me the key. I shoved it in the ignition, turned it on and sure enough the boat started, but I had forgotten that I had left it in gear!!!! So rope in water, prop turning and the possibility of the rope around the screw! It was only my quick thinking to bang it into neutral that saved the day. I then had to walk down the gunwale to retreave the rope while still drifting toward the far bank. Few!!! Im quite glad today is over.  It's certainly been an interesting day!!!

The basin
You would have thought that nothing else could possibly go wrong. Well.... We got onto the water point at the end of the pontoon at Vine Park, went to get our hose and realised that out top boxes were right over the filler cap and totally inaccessible. Not only that but we couldn't open our front doors to get the hose or even the  TV Arial which we had placed on the floor out of harms way.. I think we can safely say that both of us had a serious senor moment when we forgot about needing to get water. Hey ho! Never mind, no showers for us tonight then!!! We did get to meet a lovely couple Vivien and Ian on Nb Persephone when they watered up. We must have spent a good hour chatting while they filled their tank. They were heading back to their mooring at Tardibigge Wharf and I don't envy them having to do all those locks.
 We are now listening to the rain beating down on the roof and wondering what sort of damage a Viking Afloat hire boat has done to our port side when the crashed their bow directly into us.We looked on in horror as they used us as a bow thruster and then the end of the potoon as a brake!

Ian and Vivien

On there way back to Hanbury Junction


Andy Healey said...

We where down that way on NB Centurion a month ago, the bits of wood do hold the gates open at Hanbury and are not too short, cant see why CRT cant pin a notice to the beams to let boaters know.

Peter Lee said...

Regarding Lock 4 violent filling - you can see what BW did over last winter on my website "Droitwich Canals Restoration in Pictures", specifically on page
http://www.leepd60.net63.net/DEIcanal405a.htm. I personally think a boat has damaged that gauge sign on the M5 culvert!

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