Friday, 30 September 2016

Bonk Bonk Bonk

No it’s not Saturday night and there’s no salacious information to share.  But more on this subject later.

Before we departed our mooring this morning I walked back to Bratch Locks to take a few photos  to explain how the locks work.

Each lock has a top and bottom set of gates with a very VERY short pound between.  The paddles are painted either blue or red and the blue paddles have to be raised first.  This next photo was taken beside the bottom chamber.  You might be able to see the blue top to one of the paddles.  By raising this paddle water from the side pound is allowed into the bottom chamber.  Once the water in the side pound has reached it’s lowest level the red paddles on the lock gates of the next chamber are raised allowing more water into the lower chamber with any surplus water going into the now depleted side pound. 

IMG_0929The side pounds are long and narrow.  They are located at a right angle to the locks and curve around the hill.

IMG_0930Looking down the locks with the side pounds to the right.

There were more boats on the move today than we have seen in the last couple of weeks.  This resulted in queues forming at most of the locks.

There was a red boat in front of us at Awbridge Lock.

IMG_0932The crew of six appeared to be novices with only one person going forward to prepare the lock whilst the other five waited.  However there was nothing on the side of the boat to suggest it was a hire boat.  At the next lock Jan spoke with the crew and discovered the boat belongs to the RAF and is available for service personnel to hire.  The family appeared to be enjoying themselves.

At one point whilst waiting for a lock I noticed an attractive setting.  It’s not like me to be aware of attractive scenes so I’m slightly puzzled about seeing this one.


More signs of CRT dredging operations with spoil being placed on the offside bank behind a post & mesh wall.

IMG_0934 I assume this is the cheapest option for CRT to dispose of the dredgings but I wonder how long it will take for the silt to work its way back into the canal.

I had just manoeuvred onto the landing below Wightwick Mill Lock when there was a loud BONK BONK BONK from under the stern and Waiouru lost all propulsion.  I guessed we might have one of those dreaded solid rubber fenders wrapped around the propeller shaft.  Jan managed to pull Waiouru against the bank using the centreline whilst I prepared to go down the weed hatch.  I’m rather impressed with the design of the Wilson Tyler weed hatch.  It’s completely separate from the engine compartment and therefore a loose hatch can’t allow water in potentially sinking the boat.  I’m not so much of a fan of the mechanism that secures the lower hatch plate that covers the hole in the Uxter plate which give access to the propeller.  The screw shaft has a steel on steel connection and no safety lock.  When I opened the top hatch I was surprised to see the lower hatch cover and securing mechanism loose.  The ‘steel on steel’ bracing had worked loose. I have a solution for that which I’ll describe in a later post.

Upon reaching down into the water and feeling for the “obstruction” around the shaft and propeller I was surprised to find it was clear.  However I received a most unwelcome shock when I decided to manually rotate the propeller and check the blades (I had turned the engine off).  The propeller wouldn’t move.  Worst thoughts came to mind about a seized shaft or damaged Skeg.  Then I decided to rotate the propeller in the opposite direction.    Some brute force (fortunately Weetbix for breakfast) suddenly released the propeller.  After further feeling around in the french onion soup I couldn’t find what had been jamming the propeller.  My guess is a rubber fender had wedged itself between the tip of one of the propeller blades and the Skeg.  Turning the propeller had released it to fall away and wait for another unsuspecting boater.

We stopped for lunch at Tettenhall Wood and Jan also went to the nearby Sainsbury’s for her weekly magazines.  Then we continued on passing Aldersley Junction and the Wolverhampton 21 towards Autherley Junction. 

There was a large mobile crane on the boat ramp at Oxley Marine which was in the process of craning a recently blacked narrowboat back into the water.  I wasn’t all that impressed with the safety plan. 


There didn’t appear to be a lookout on the towpath side and if we had arrived three minutes earlier we’d have found ourselves in the potential situation of a suspended boat being swung over us.  The man on the roof of the boat had no safety line or life jacket. 

We turned left onto the Shroppie only to find a boat in the stop lock.  fortunately it was going the same way as us!  A boat was moving off the water point so our timing was perfect.  Jan disposed of the rubbish whilst I topped up the tank.  It was then a short cruise to find a suitable mooring for the night. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

A change

It was a pleasant change in the weather after suffering the mizzle over the last two days.  Last night we had a very nice rural mooring all to ourselves so I ran the engine for an hour between 9 and 10.

I went for an evening walk with the camera to do some experimenting.  This next photo is of Waiouru using the automatic exposure setting.


And this next photo was taken using the standard landscape setting.

IMG_0915I stopped using the automatic setting on the camera two years ago on the advice of our youngest son. 

What I really wanted to do was take a photo of the spectacular sunset.

Red sky at night - shepherd’s delight

Red sky in the morning – shepherd’s warning.

The problem was the towpath tree line was obscuring the view.  After walking a couple of kilometres I finally found a gap.


Once again we passed Graham Booth’s boat Rome.  How could we forget both Graham and Rome as we had previously purchased a copy of his comprehensive book on fitting out a narrowboat when developing our own specifications for Waiouru.


This part of the canal has been cut through red sandstone and there are also a couple of tight bends.  Fortunately the canal was rather quiet and we didn’t meet an oncoming boat at either bend. 


We had just left Debdale Lock and were approaching Cookley Tunnel when we came upon this damned great CRT boat doing some dredging.  Whilst the canal definitely needs some dredging, the boat had broken down in the middle of the canal.


We did muse about how CRT had managed to get such a wide boat in a short pound between two narrow locks.  More on that later.  The CRT bank staff suggested we attempt to get past by going to the right of the dredger.  Waiouru did managed to squeeze through the gap and into the tunnel around the bend. 


Someone was looking down upon us because a boat came from the opposite direction as we exited the tunnel.  It might have been an interesting manoeuvre if they had arrived 5 minutes earlier.

There were a few vacant visitor moorings at Kinver but we didn’t stop having spent several days exploring the area last time we were here.  Wilson’s of Kinver have definitely gone and their building has been sold.


Not to be confused with Kinver Canopies who are apparently doing well.

We carried on passing Stourton Junction and then found ourselves in a race. 


This is one dumb squirrel.  He definitely won’t find any nuts up those trees!

Shortly afterwards we came upon a second wide dredger and realized that the boat is actually narrow with two hydraulically operated wings that swing 180° before clipping to the gunwale.

IMG_0926The ramp at the back folds down to provide access of the tracked excavator.  It’s a rather clever setup providing the excavator operator with a more stable platform.

Botterham Staircase Locks (2) were in our favour but Jan walked to the top to check before waving me into the empty lower chamber.  She actually waved me away because a boat coming down was about to enter the top chamber.  She assisted them down before walking back to the top chamber to fill it.  Jan had just finished filling the top chamber when a second boat arrived at the top where the lady exclaimed “Oh you have it ready for us to go in!”  Jan promptly disabused her of that idea so the lady went back to her boat leaving Jan to work the staircase on her own. Not that it particularly concerned us!


Botterham Staircase Locks

We continued on to Bratch Locks where the friendly volunteer lockie assist us up through the three locks.  They are not a staircase.  Each lock has a very short pound between it and the next.  I’ll walk back tomorrow and take a photo.


Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Failed Escape

It wasn’t us that failed to escape but the tame horses near Stourport Locks.  They failed to pick a good route and ran up to a brick wall.


I suppose that was only fair.


I suppose I should stop being frivolous. Smile

The volunteer lock keeper was in fine form joking away with Jan.  I suspect it was part boredom because he told her it had not only been a quiet day but also a quiet season.  There were a gaggle of gongoozlers all waiting for me to make an error transiting the staircase locks but I disappointed them!


This is all very familiar to us having covered the same route last year. We stopped and had a very enjoyable late lunch at the Black Star.  Generous proportions and very tasty.  It’s also beside the canal. Why didn’t we eat here last time?


The Black Star

The last time we passed this way they were constructing the bank abutments for Hoobrook Link Bridge.  Now it’s complete and in use.


After passing under Falling Sands Bridge there was the sound of a steam whistle and we looked back to see the Flying Scotsman hauling a row of restored vintage carriages. By the time Jan grabbed the camera the engine was gone.


We had a brief stop in Kidderminster to restock the cupboards from the adjacent Tesco (Note: Aldi Kidderminister is currently closed for renovations) and then we continued on taking the usual photo at Kidderminister Lock.


This time Jan managed to take a photo of the two carved birds overlooking the canal on the eastern side of the town.


We’ve found ourselves a quiet rural mooring for the night.  No ’dot’ and only 20 terrestrial channels to choose from (did I really write that knowing how few channels there are in Oz!).  But we have the media tank with hundreds of recordings to watch so that won’t be an issue.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Worcester to Stourport

It’s not our first visit to Worcester so we were reasonably familiar with the street layout. We moored on the 48 hour moorings below Sidbury Lock walking up to the lock passing the Commandery on our way into the city. The last battle of the Civil War was fought in Worcester and the Commandery had a significant role.

First stop was the cathedral.  Some type of official service was being conducted in the Nave so we confined out movements to the Cloister.  The Charter House was also closed to the public.


The cloisters have stone vault rooves whilst the main roof is constructed of timber.  A small information plaque stated the cloister rooves provide a fire resistant barrier to the main roof.  Whilst this is logical I also suspect the weight of stone in the cloisters helps brace and support the main structure.  Both King John and Arthur Tudor (older brother of Henry VIII) are interned in the cathedral.

The other thing Jan and I remember about Worcester is Royal Worcester Porcelain.  Manufacturing ceased in 2009 and the site is now a museum.


In the evening I went for a second walk around the city taking yet another photo of the cathedral by night.


This morning we reversed back to the water point and topped up the tank before winding above the Diglis Basin locks and going back down onto the river.  


Things started to get interesting above Worcester Bridge.  British Canoeing were holding races and the contestants were certainly adhering to the rule “paddles before power”.  They were also determined to occupy which ever side of the river they felt gave them a competitive advantage.



For a couple of kilometres we were hard against the left (port) bank when we should have been on the opposite side.  Eventually we reached the end buoy and had the river to ourselves.

Jan noticed a couple of suitable riverside homes……. if we had the money!


Only three locks today and all of them manned by CRT staff.  The river level must be low at the moment because there was only a 6ft rise at each lock.

We had a small smile as we passed Stourport Marina.  One boater waved at us signally to slow down because we were producing too much wake. Smile


What wake…. the river is wide and deep here.  However we slowed down to tick-over and received a happy smile in response.

Well that’s the last of rivers for a few months.  It will be back to ditch crawling for us!

Monday, 26 September 2016

6½ Hours

That’s how long it took us to cruise up the Severn from Gloucester to Worcester.  Yesterday evening I asked the Gloucester lock keeper what the tides were like and when we should leave.  Also, were there any other boats leaving?  He informed me we should leave at 8.30am and six other boats were also going. 
This morning one other boat decided to go and as the steerer had made the trip previously, I invited him to lead.  The lock keeper informed us there was a neap tide which was pushing water up over the weir bringing some large items of debris.  Additionally, a tree had fallen into the channel but the contractors had apparently cleared it.   We were locked down onto a half tide, the idea being the majority of the debris would have gone back downstream over the weir.  Obviously we would be going against the current.  It was slow going for the first couple of miles up the Eastern Channel.
Some ducking and weaving was required
The contractors hadn’t exactly removed the tree from the channel.  Cut the top off it might be more accurate.
You can see how much water the neap tide has pushed back up the river by looking at the banks.
We only passed one narrowboat between Gloucester and Tewkesbury.  With the current behind them, they were gong much faster than us.
This is a rather boring stretch of water.  The boat ahead was making the same speed as us. We had the engine running at 1500rpm and I don’t like to go any harder unless it’s urgent.
Three hours after locking down we reached Tewkesbury.  From this point to Worcester is new water for us and fortunately the scenery was also more interesting.  The traffic on the M50 didn’t appear interested in us and was certainly going much faster.
By now we had left the neap tide well behind and were making good progress, albeit there was still an opposing current.  I did feel sorry for the fish at Saxon’s Lode.  The man fishing from the boat had a fishfinder and was carefully watching the screen in order to keep his boat above the unsuspecting fish below.  It seemed a bit unfair!
There’s obviously still some commercial traffic on the river.  The boat appears to be delivering aggregate to the wharf where it is moved by conveyor belt to a mixing plant on the other side of the bund.
IMG_0883The scenery became even more interesting and attractive.
IMG_0884And then this damned great box shaped slab of steel came around the corner.
P1030326It’s the hotel boat Edward Elgar out of Gloucester.  She has 11 cabins and can carry a maximum of 22 passengers.  There was very little wake from her which suggests to me she has very little draft and probably a flat bottom.
Diglis Footbridge was another first for us.  However the design is no longer unique.
A great approach to Worcester.  We were last here in 2009 and were far too nervous on the river to notice the scenery.  All I can remember is my total concentration attempting to collect Jan from the lock landing.
IMG_0889We decided to go up the two bottom locks onto the Worcester & Birmingham Canal rather than moor on the river. 
Perhaps a look around Worcester tomorrow.