Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Winter Boating - 1970s style - Part 3: More Trouble

So far, the intrepid crew on "Bittern" have survived a broken starting handle; ice; a fouled prop; running aground; getting stuck under a low bridge and having a crew member taken to hospital! (What did happen to "Pete"? He isn't mentioned again in the log!). But their troubles weren't over yet: -  now read on!


(Note: These are my logs, not the boat’s, which may have started &/or finished at different points. )

  1. New Year 1973/74 – Rugby – BCN – Coventry Canal – Atherstone (Continued)
On the Tame Valley Canal
·       Thu 3rd Jan – (More trouble) Very cold again. ½” ice. Stuck again on Tame Valley Canal. Bought wire-cutters, drained pound in Perry Barr Locks and freed prop. Salford Jct. down Fazeley Canal to Curdworth. Stuck repeatedly . Pub. Small meal. Karen poorly.
Once again the "no nonsense" approach of the crew is apparent. Something serious on the prop? Call out the boatyard? NO! - Buy wire cutters and drain the pound!! And only a small meal at the end of it all; at least they got to the pub!
Fazeley Junction 4th January 1974

·       Fri 4th Jan – Warmer, but now two days behind schedule. Down to Fazeley. Right up Coventry Canal to Polesworth. Prop fouled again. High winds, blowing boat into bank. Unmanageable. Spent night stuck in middle of canal by West Coast Main (Railway) Line.. Very heavy rain. Meal. Had to stay on boat. 
There is no record of what Willow Wren thought about getting their boat back two days late: perhaps they were just grateful they got it back at all. The state of the Coventry Canal in the early 70s is apparent when a 70ft boat couldn't get near enough into the side for the crew to get off and go to the pub. This was probably the biggest disaster of the lot.

·       Sat 5th Jan – 0600 start. Freed boat, but still wet and too windy. Got to Atherstone Locks for lunchtime. Had to leave for home. Electric train from Atherstone to Nuneaton. and an InterCity to Rugby, with another local train to Birmingham. 1550 InterCity to Leeds (Class 45 loco). Bus home.
As Martin had to leave before the boat got back to base we'll never know if this was the end of the problems or indeed whether they got back at all! Although an extreme example, the happenings were not untypical of on those winter trips - a combination on old boats, badly maintained canals and inexperienced crews. The difficulties however fostered a pioneering spirit amongst the crews and forged several friendships that have been maintained ever since.

  ( Any working boat fanatics amongst you will have noticed that the camping boat referred to, on which I was travelling, was not "Bainton" at all, but "Bexhill" as I now see from my own record of the trip. Here she is breaking ice above Hatton on the Grand Union with Bittern in the far distance. )


Halfie said...

One thing I notice about old photos is that you don't get wide angle lens distortion. Probably because people rarely used wide angle lenses. See how vertical the verticals are in the photo of Fazeley Junction?

Starcross said...

That's true - I don't think I had anything other than a standard 50mm lens in those days.