About Me

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After thirty years of hiring, I finally bought my own 50ft boat in 2005, which was built in 2001 by Andicraft at Debdale Wharf. I mostly cruise single handed and have no problem with that, although it does take a little longer than with a crew. My mooring is on the Wey Navigation, so I have a choice of routes on the Wey or the Thames.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Grand Canal Tour 2014. Don’t Panic Mr Mainwaring!

I apologise to any regular readers out there for a severe lack of updates since my last post. I have to admit that writing a blog when travelling is a really time consuming business for me and to get all the relevant information written down as it happens, or very shortly afterwards takes time and organisation. When this get interrupted by events, like being dragged off screaming to the pub for beer by well meaning friends, my schedule goes to pot and so I have got well behind.

Another setback is the lack of internet connection out in the sticks, which is extremely frustrating after spending a great deal of time trying to upload photos, etc.

That was not all that occurred either. I took a day off at Uxbridge to tidy up after Terry left in the morning and to have a look at my domestic water pump, which was pumping nearly as much air as water into the sink. I had a word with Uxbridge Boat Centre about a new diaphragm, which surprisingly they had in stock (normally, a chandlery would only have a brand new pump). It was offered without payment, until I stripped the old pump to see if it would fit – which it did. After the second attempt at refitting the new diaphragm ( I had left out an O ring) all went well and I returned to make payment. £15 was far better than £70/80 for a new pump, but all this took up most of the day.

I cruised quietly further north and Chris Hodson joined me the following day helping out with the locks. I was still doing fairly short days and even explored the Wendover Arm one afternoon. It is still only one and a half miles long and awaiting restoration of the remainder.

It was not until I had a pint in the Anglers’ Retreat at Startops End (where did that name originate?) at the bottom of the Maffers Flight on Sunday, that I looked up the route to Withymoor Island moorings in Netherton, where I was to meet my crew for the BCN Challenge. I discovered that I had to cover 109 miles and 104 locks in the space of five days, which meant cruising for nearly 12 hours per day! This was something that I had hoped to avoid this year, knowing that it meant putting pressure on my stamina and ability to travel without making errors, or break downs of any description – hence the title of this part.

On Monday, I had to be at the New Bradwell Aqueduct, so I set off at 05.30 and cruised for a total of 15.5 hrs – the longest day I had ever done. I did actually get to the top of the Stoke Bruene flight, when Kathryn Dodington dragged Mike Partridge along to work me up the flight. It was beer in the boaters’ bar of The Boat Inn, before falling into bed later.

The following day was scheduled to get to the west end of Braunston tunnel, but I arrived at the top of Stockton Locks, being now well ahead of schedule by several hours, even though I only did 13 hrs today. It was beer and an enormous meal at The Boat Inn, before turning in and gearing myself up for the following day, down Stockton eight locks. As usual I was on my own, but only using the paddles one side of each lock, so saving myself half the work of opening and closing all four paddles. This was welcome advice given freely by Mike Partridge at Stoke Bruerne.

There was a welcome long pound between Radford bottom Lock and Cape Locks, after which I arrived at the first of the dreaded Hatton Twenty One. Although I had the company of another boat through the Cape, they abandoned me at 4pm that afternoon, so I was on my own once again to attempt the 21. The day was hot and sunny and I started slowly up Hatton in shorts and tee shirt. There was help with a couple of locks by a man whose wife and boys I offered a ride to on the boat. I heard a steam whistle at one point, which I thought might come from a steam locomotive, until I spotted two guys with the flat hats and red neckerchiefs and I then knew that President and Kildare would be around the corner. Sure enough, she approached at high speed towards my lock, breasted up of course and I had to get out of the lock fairly smartish. Now a lot of the locks would be in my favour and several single gates were left open, which was even better. As I was about to meet up with my daughter at The Hatton Arms, as it is now called, at 8.30, I had to stop three locks from the top. I don’t think I could have done them that evening anyway, as I had now totalled 40 locks in one day – the most I have ever done in a day!

I have often wondered why the Hatton and other locks built in that era were originally made with paddle gear looking like this and then altered to the chain and square holding device. Was there originally a pin to stop the windlass in the open position?

Original lock gear.
Present lock gear.

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