· Tue 1st Jan – Cold & frosty. Broke starting-handle. Ran to catch other boat. Grand
Union to B/ham. Digbeth Branch, Ashted Locks, Left up Farmer’s Bridge Locks to . Meal. Pub. Indian meal with Jim Davies and others. Gas St Basin
The limited battery capacity, long evenings and cold mornings meant that there was never enough juice left in the batteries to start the engine in the mornings, particularly as no separate starter battery was fitted. The usual drill was to take both the supplied starting handles, attach them to either end of the crankshaft and get the two fittest crew members available to crank like mad and at the appropriate time a third would push home the decompression taps. It could take several attempts and up to 10 minutes on a bad day!
"Bittern" and "Bainton" followed the Grand Union route into Brum via Ashted tunnel (above). Note that the "meal, pub" combination applied even on New Year's Day and appears to have been followed by a second, Indian, meal!
Typical BCN scenery on the Digbeth branch in 1974
· Wed 2nd Jan - (The day the trouble started) Very cold. Icy. “
Main Line” of BCN & Wolverhampton Level to Tame Valley Jct.(actually Pudding Green Junction) Very low bridge at foot of eight locks (Ryders Green Locks, so perhaps Great Bridge Bridge?). Pete cut face – and had to be taken to hospital [a flying windlass!] Tame Valley Canal frozen. Boat grounded repeatedly. Prop fouled then stuck in ice. Hauled by rope to Stone Cross (aqueduct over M5) Meal. Pub.
"Meal, pub" was probably well-deserved that day!
The infamous low bridge at the bottom of Ryders Green Locks, Walsall Canal (since rebuilt)
When the prop became fouled the lack of a weed hatch and the shallow sides meant that this was the usual means of clearing it!
More of Bittern's adventures tomorrow. . .