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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.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Pilot for a while...on a Wyvern hire boat.

 Thursday 5th October

Gosh, that wind all night...blew a gale it did. The rain started around 7ish but by 7.15am it had blown through so Ian did no more than get the paint out and give the gunwales another coat. With us not leaving until late we didn't get to Fenny Stratford until nearly midday. 

Did wonder if any moorings would be free but what a relief, a lovely free length of a piled edge. So glad about that as my Fitbit battery charger had packed up and a new one ordered from an eBay seller on click and collect at Argos. So a quick bite to eat before heading toward Bletchley. Then a quick haircut for Ian and by the time we got back to FS it was nearer to 1.30pm. On the walk back I very nearly had a fall. Those Crabapples on the towpath are a menace. Tread on them and feet go everywhere but where you want them to go. It was only the moored boat that stopped me from going head first into the cut! Managed to grab the handrail and save myself. Noone came out so assume the boat was unoccupied.

Fenny lock with the swing bridge in the middle

Pulled pins and headed for the Soulbury Three at Stoke Hammond. Water was deep and canal wide so before we knew it we had arrived at the bottom lock only to see a lady gesturing wildly and pointing. We passed two Wyvern hire boats and pulled in. "There's a problem after the lock" she shouts. "Low water". Oh, no that's the last thing we want! This pound above the lock is notorious for having no water. Back in June this year we encountered the same problems with one very irate lady having a right go at C&RT. To see the post click here 

 I walked up with the camera to find another irate boater who had been stuck all day. Having moored overnight he now found there was no chance of getting away today. C&RT had been informed but all they did was to turn the back pump on. To fill a mile long pound would take some doing and I estimated it was a good 8" below normal levels. Judging by the way that chaps boat was out of the water, could see why they were going nowhere.

Two boats had made it down from Soulbury Three and with the lock now ready I suggested to the hire boats that they should go ahead. Most hire boat draughts are around 2 ft so I was confident they would get through. Our draught of 2ft 6" and I'm pretty sure we would struggle. But those hirers from both boats were newbies and very reluctant to go on their own. So I volunteered my services purely on a reassurance basis to go with them. And so it came about that I was to be a pilot on one of the boats.

Getting ready for the off

Second Wyvern boat getting ready.

Ian helping out with the ropes

Funnily enough, it was a Wyvern boat that also needed out help back in 2013. To see post click here 

On tickover, it took over 40 minutes to do the mile to Soulbury Three .Many a time the chap panicked as the tiller went light due to the silt and the bow drifted to the side. All I could do was tell him not to worry and just counteract the movement by moving the tiller to the left (or right) depending which way the bow went. The lock came into sight and I breathed a sigh of relief, but all too soon I fear as we almost ground to a halt. He suddenly pushed the tiller to the right and cut the corner and so we headed for the bank. I didn't quite grab the tiller but persuaded him to give a bit of throttle and move the tiller to the left. Almost coming to a standstill I wondered f we would make the lock but inch by inch we crept forward. A very relieved chap (and me) was very happy to have made it. Massive thanks from both boaters as the second boater said he had followed our every move. I said my farewells as they ascended the Three with shouts of hope to see you again one day echoing in my ears.

The chap in pink was one of the crew from the boat behind.
 Took these photos on the walk back.

And that was toward the middle!
 Meanwhile, Ian was in contact with a C&RT guy. Found out that the problem had been a boater not closing the gate and leakage through the bottom gate caused the lack of water. He also informed Ian that the house behind the back pumping station had been sold and the new owners objected to the noise of the pump. So the agreement was made to run the pump from 6am to 6pm only. With the pound still low after 6 pm, how on earth was it to fill up overnight?

Decided I didn't want to cook after all the excitement so Ian and I walked the mile all the way back to The Three locks pub. Here we met another boater who had attempted the passage and survived. A lone boater who would have been in serious problems had he got stuck. Ian and I helped him up the Three locks before grabbing a well-earned pint and burger at the pub


It was almost dark by the time we walked the mile back. Tomorrow we will try to make it to the Three locks. Ian suggested I take FS and he would walk so it will be an interesting day that's for sure!

And the Soulbury Three as the sun was going down.

And wildlife,

1 comment:

Carol said...

The same thing happened to us in July 14 with the same excuse -


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