To Cannie Cavalcade and Return.
Saturday 5th May.
Another very hot and sunny day was forecast. I walked up to the IWA info tent to collect my brass plaque and sign in. I also picked up the route for the Boat Handling Challenge, which appeared to be quite demanding as most of it was to be done in reverse. If you are not aware, very few boats can reverse in a straight line without correction in forward gear. Joshers appear to be the exception, as they have a very long swim so I have been told. Joshers were built by Yarwoods on the River Weaver for the carrying company Fellows, Morton and Clayton and named after Joshua Fellows. A Josher is also known as the “Sports Model” of the old working narrow boats.
I wandered around the stalls to see what I needed to buy that I didn’t really need, but it was only the beer tent that got my custom later. Watched the English Flamenco dancers doing their stuff in the Sheldon Square Amphitheatre, with Brian and Margaret, but having seen the real thing in Spain, I was not very impressed. The Flamenco music was recorded and genuine, but real musicians would have been far more authentic. It was extremely hot, so I walked further to see if Fabian Hiscock (NBT crew) was on board nb Roger (the last wooden working boat to have been restored to original condition). After inquiries were made, he would be there on Sunday.
I had a pint of Wandle beer in The Union bar, which was very pleasant indeed. I told the barmaid that in my youth I often passed over the River Wandle in Colliers Wood and it was always foaming with pollution from the board mills there. She probably thought my name was Methusela!
Back on board for most of the afternoon to escape from the heat, but also to watch the snooker semi-final, which was the longest I had known as the best of 35 frames.
The parade of the themed boats was also taking place at 14.30, so I had to keep popping up to see what they looked like; the theme being this year, the Canal Builders. One of the most unusual and original was the narrowboat with a group of navvies crewing and then on the top of the boat was Pontcycyllte Aqueduct, Braunston Tunnel and the Falkirk Wheel. This boat later won the cup for best dressed boat.
I was a little concerned that instructions for the boat handling asked the competitor to spring your stern after stepping off and shaking hands with the judge beneath Harrow Road Bridge. Now I don’t remember any rings or bollards in that area, because as I understood ‘springing off’ in general, it is done with a stern line attached to a fixed point and reverse gear to swing the bow out from the mooring. Further investigaton was needed.
Sunday 6th May
After a night of thinking about the upcoming problem, I walked up to Harrow Road Bridge to survey the situation and sure enough there were no rings or bollards in the immediate area where the judge normally stood. Walking back along Delamere Terrace I was passing Pat Barton’s boat which advertised narrowboat training and decided to ask Terry Barton what he understood by the term. His reply was that it just meant getting the stern into deeper water and he was one of the team who set the route. I did understand exactly what he meant, but did not necessarily agree with him. I asked a few other boaters during the day, who I knew to be experienced and they all described the term as I understood it. However, it does illustrate that not all terms in boating are interpreted exactly the same by all boaters.
Eventually 11am was reached and I had to wind Stronghold in the Pool first, so as to be stern first out of the starting gate. Bear in mind that this is not a race, so maybe ‘starting gate’ is not the right term. At 11am the gun went off, which in reality was the starting judge just saying “Go.”
With a slight crosswind, I knew that I had to keep my speed up so as to stop any sideways drift. After about four corrections in forward gear I was about to step off under Harrow Road Bridge and shake hands with the judge, who it turned out was a lady that I knew from the Braunston Hysterics team. I reversed into deep water and took off forward now around the south of Browning’s Island, where I had to stop by the chequered flag for 10 seconds. Well I could not see a black and white chequered flag, so asked one of the moorers where it was. It turned out that the flag was flying about 3metres above a boat and I expected it at water level; it was also yellow and black.
The 360 turn was next, in a clockwise direction, which went well, as Stronghold almost turns on a sixpence given enough power. Stopping again in front of the same judge, I now had to reverse into Paddington Arm, which was a tight squeeze between moored boats, so a bit more correction in forward gear to get beneath the road bridge and I was done. It was only at that moment that I realised how tense I had been, even after having competed in four previous years.
To relieve the tension, I took off around the island and through Maida Hill Tunnel to go through London Zoo as far as Cumberland Basin, where I knew I could wind the boat to return. There were scores of people walking the towpath and enjoying the most amazing weather for a Bank Holiday. I wish I had a pound for every photo that was taken of the boat. One elderly gent (same as me) was dressed impeccably in a light grey suit, but with shorts, white knee socks, black shoes, white shirt and pale pink tie. I congratulated him on his sartorial elegance as I passed by. Incidentally, back on my mooring later, a dark skinned man appeared on the towpath dressed in brown knee length riding boots, tight white riding breeches and short white jacket, and over the top was a black flowing cape. To add to the outfit his long greying hair was adorned with pale blue hair extensions. I commented again on his elegant sense of dress. What I do regret is that I did not take any pictures – I am sure they both would have agreed.
The crowds are out in force.
Macclesfield Road Bridge, aka Blowup Bridge.
After all that effort it was time to pay The Warwick Castle a visit and to my surprise there were seats to be had at that time of day. The illuminated boat procession was at 21.00, but I was too tired to walk that far again and managed to stay awake to see most of the Snooker World Championship.
Monday 7th May
Reckoned to be the hottest May Day Bank Holiday Monday since records began. After some breakfast, I set off to photograph and support Karen Cook (NBT crew), as she had decided at the last minute to enter the boat handling competition. She was also very nervous and shaky at the start line and plied me with questions about route and technique. At 10.30 she was set loose on the course, which she achieved slowly and with care and faultlessly as far as I could see. Nb Stella also winded on sixpence too, although it was performed quite slowly. At last she backed into Paddington Arm and the relief was obvious by the photograph.
nb Stella about to reverse after the 360 deg winding.
I strolled back along the south towpath chatting to various friends on the stern moored boats. At about 12.45, someone asked if I had had a phone call yet; the answer being in the negative, but I checked my phone just in case I had missed one. I said that it was too late for notifications of prize winners by now anyway. Two minutes after that I had a call from Mike Moore the Waterspace Manager, who informed me that I should be at the Horse Bridge in ten minutes, so I was up for something, but it could be runner-up. Karen was there too for a prize. Imagine my surprise when my name was called to receive the Westminster Cup once again and a bottle of Prosecco. Karen was awarded The Novice Boater Cup for being 1st time boater in the event and Runner Up prize in the Idle Women’s shield for boat handling, so she was well pleased with those two trophies.
The Westminster Cup is back in my possession again.
Karen with son James after the presentation.
Back on the mooring I had a spot of lunch and celebrated by removing all five batteries, and they are really heavy, so as to replace the 2016 pair of fridge and inverter batteries with newer ones bought this year. I should explain here that my batteries are in a side locker at deck level, but because the top of the locker is formed of angle iron and tapered, the batteries have to be removed in a set order one at a time. I took an hour and a quarter and my back is still aching the day after. I suspect that I was responsible for damaging the batteries by overloading them when using the inverter to run other devices that imposed heavy loads, despite running the engine at the same time, so reducing the time the pair would hold a charge. The inverter was no problem at 1600 watts, but requires more batteries to support it. However, they will suffice to run the domestic lighting and TV and a lesson learned through the wallet.
Later I moved Stronghold into the pool with the intention of winding for the return trip tomorrow. As there were now no mooring spaces on the Delamere Terrace left (someone had already jumped into my space) I asked if it was OK to moor in the Pool breasted up to the last boat in the line. All was well now for the last night. The beer tent was now closed, so I was abruptly informed by an officious lady sitting on a chair doing nothing, whilst everyone else was beavering away clearing up, so I took off to The Union Bar for a well deserved pint.
Tuesday 8th May
I was up early to greet yet another sunny day and several boats were about to move after 08.30, so I joined them after a bite to eat. I cruised slowly back along the Paddington Arm looking for nb Zavala, breasted up temporarily to another boat and said my farewells to Brian and Margaret, who were leaving their boat there for a week whilst they went home.
I was not looking forward to the boring trip back to Bull’s Bridge, but it was worse than I suspected with so much plastic on and just below the water surface. I stopped off at the Ladbroke Grove Sainsburys to collect a new Dyson handheld vacuum cleaner from the Argos stand there. I only ordered it at 09.00 Sunday morning and it was ready for collection at 16.00 the same day, which I think is incredible quick service. I previously tried to order the same item from Tesco and collect from the Bull’s Bridge store, but they were having none of that and insisted that it be delivered to my home address. There was no way I could change that online, so they lost the order in favour of Argos.
Wall to wall plastic and other detritus.
Looks like a terrapin - never seen one of these before.
It was a slow voyage back, with constant chucking back to clear the blades until finally I had to lift the weed hatch and clear it manually. This happened three times and I was thoroughly sick of it. So much for banning plastic carrier bags. Finally, after 7 hours to do 13 miles, I arrived at Bull’s Bridge and there were plenty of moorings close to Tesco, which improved my day somewhat.