This was to be my third excursion with the Narrow Boat Trust this year and the most arduous of them all. The object was to travel empty from Bughfield on the K&A to Braunston and load with 40 tonnes of solid fuel of various types, with which to fulfil orders back on the K&A, Thames, Wey Navigations and Slough Arm.
I arrived just after midday at Burghfield to find Barry, the captain for this trip, already there and busy sorting out various items on board. The boats were moored bow to bow, with the motor pointing the right way, so we decided to breast up that way and wind the butty two locks down on the way to Reading. All went well and then we had to single out at one point, towing the butty on cross straps as it was empty. Just before County Lock, we had to breast up again, so as to keep the butty under control above the weir and enter the lock. This was attempted on the fly, but the butty drifted in towards the bank on the curve and the butty ‘ellum was dislodged from the short skeg at the bottom, which made steering impossible, but as we were now breasted it was not a problem. The usual method of reseating the ‘ellum is to put the long shaft through the tiller socket and use the lock gate as a fulcrum point and lever the ‘ellum upwards, but the gate beam was too high and another method had to be sought. Fortunately, Barry had brought along a Yale Pull-Lift, which he had bought some time ago at a boot fair. This piece of kit was to become invaluable, as we later found out. In the meantime, we flung a rope over the branch of a nearby tree and used the Pull-Lift to raise the ‘ellum and reseat it in a very short time. We were both ecstatic, as this operation done on a lock gate can take a very long time indeed. We were breasted up again as we entered the Thames and found a reasonably deep mooring on the end of the line outside Tesco.
Barry served up a fine repast before we repaired to The Jolly Angler for well deserved beer.