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.
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.
The 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.
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.