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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.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Wedged solid in Ashted tunnel!!!!

The day started well. No rain on the roof and only a slight breeze. All seemed good for us to leave Brum and head for Stratford. First thing to do was wind. There is a small loop called the Icknield Port loop about half a mile from where we were moored, just right for us to turn round.

Icknield Port Loop

 Our aim was to, (a) first visit the facilities at the top of Farmers Bridge flight before tackling the 13 locks, (b) turn right at Aston junction to do Ashted tunnel and locks (c) finally go straight on at Bordesley Junction and do the last locks of the day at Camp hill.. All seemed straight forward until we reached Ashted tunnel. I'm now getting slightly ahead of my self here so I'll revert back to Farmers bridge. The flight was all against us and every lock had to be turned around. Only met one boat and that was right at the bottom. Took us the best part of 1 1/2 hours to do the lot especially as I wanted to take photographs. ( Well it was 20 years since we last did the flight.).

  Did the right turn at the junction and onto the Digbeth Branch and the first of the 6 locks came into view. I hit this lock big time because I hadn't realised that all these locks have finger pontoon to the approaches. I always look down the boat on my left side to judge the distance and came as quite a shock when I crashed into the concrete pontoon. This didn't bod well for what was about to happen next. Ian went on through the tunnel to set the next lock. I entered and thought at the time how narrow the tunnel was. Next thing I knew there was a horrible grating sound. I looked down the side of the boat fully expecting to see a tin can or bottle scraping along the side. Then it dawned on me It was our chimney!!! At this time of year it would normally be stored safely in our top box but because of the cold weather of late, the fire had been lit on several occasions. Ian came rushing back just in time to see me come to a complete halt. And that's where I stayed!!! No amount of pulling or pushing was going to get me out of this pickle. How a chimney can get one as wedged as that is beyond me and even putting the boat into hard reverse didn't make any difference.  Only one thing for it. Get the crowbar out!!! Finally with me standing on the front for a bit of ballast and Ian chipping away at the bridge wall, we managed to free ourselves and get going again. But this is not the end of a day of incidents.

Ian trying to shift the chimney

Ian with the crowbar

Beyond redemption?

Ian reckons that hitting it with a hammer might just straighten the top out.  I'm not so sure!

Not sure if this shows how narrow the tunnel is. It does show, though, how the roof isn't circular.
When Ian emptied the next lock it flooded the towpath. By-wash was blocked!! He had to run or should I say paddle through the next bridge ole to fill the next lock there by alleviating  the problem. After that the next 4 locks were all straight forward apart from meeting a hire boat who had to reverse into one of the side pounds so I could get into the lock.

Notice the finger pontoons. Thats why I hit the lock. I wasn't expecting it.

Waiting for the hire boat to ascend. He had to reverse back into the small pound.

Had to wait here and pull back to let the hire boat out.

The hirer did a great job. Me thinks he has done this before.

From one extreme to another. This time low water!!

 You would by now think that all our bad luck was over. Oh No!!! At the top of Camp Hill lock we couldn't equalize the water and after trying for ages to open the gate resorted to me driving the boat against the gate, keeping it in gear, while both Ian and me pushed the beam. Eventually she gave and with a last humungous effort by the pair of us got the gate open. How any single hander coming in the opposite direction to us would handle the situation is anyone's guess. Shame it was Saturday because we would have informed BW of the difficult situation any boat owner would have to face.  Ian said he's going to email head office about the leakage from the bottom gate, later tonight.

With my bow hard up against the gate.

The difference in water levels. We had to open the gate against this.

Finally got the gate open.

Our own Flotilla parade.

 Oh and one final observation. The majority of the bridge ole's on the Grand Union between top of Camp Hill locks and Catherine De Barnes have some sort of obstruction under the water. Our draft is about 2' 3" so anyone deeper beware!

Our mooring tonight by bridge 77.


Adam said...

At least by squashing your chimney you protected your handrails! I've seen boats come through Ashted Tunnel having lost a lot of paint. I usually walk through with the centre line to keep the boat off the wall.

Nev Wells said...

A great post with lots of excellent pictures. Certainly seems a challenging day,

Nev NB Waterlily

Nev Wells said...

A great post with lots of excellent pictures. Certainly seems a challenging day,

Nev NB Waterlily

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