Although the canal was restored in the seventies and opened in 1991, it has suffered serious neglect since, with little or no money injected into it's upkeep. However, here's hoping that the cash injection will now encourage boaters to make full use of it and clear the silt that makes it so shallow in places. 48 boats had applied to take part originally, but several dropped out at the last minute and as the Thames was on red boards, it was impossible to come from afar. About 12 boats were moored at the boat club overnight and we set off for Woodham Junction about 9am. It took me an hour to get through Lock 1 after the preceeding six boats and I thought that this would be the pattern for the rest of the trip, but the boats naturally spaced out as we went. Needless to say my Axiom propeller picked up a bladefull of rubbish before I even got out of the first lock. Fortunately, I had come prepared with a newly constructed prop cleaner, so no need to roll up sleeves and get my hands and arms in the dirty cold water.
|Houseboats owners get very shirty, if going any faster than tickover speed.|
I was in the company of Dick and Brenda on nb Nancy Bell and we completed the Woodham flight of 6 locks without waiting in any queues, although the locks were against us of course. Having small outlets to the sluices made filling very slow, but we got to Bridge Barn Hotel, our first overnight stop, in three and a half hours. Boats ahead of me were moored four abreast, so there was no through passage, but there did not need to be, as no boats were moving on this stretch of water, apart from ourselves. Tug 'Finch' arrived just before dark and breasted up alongside. The engine sounded like a Bollinder, but was indeed a hot bulb Petter - very unusual and totally new to me.