On checking the oil as part of the pre-flight checks this morning, Steve found the level way down on the minimum mark. When I came to start the engine it sounded rough and was ticking over at a much higher speed than previously. There was no spare oil on board and in any case we had to set off as we had a rendezvous to make with Mark at Gothersley lock at 0945. Mark was coming from Oxford for another day with us, but with a landslip blocking the Oxford - Birmingham line was coming via Worcester to Stourbridge Junction. Gothersley is a rather isolated spot and not accessible directly by public transport. Mark had expected to get a taxi at the Junction but in the absence of any had taken the branch line railcar to Stourbridge Town, where he eventually found a taxi office lurking round the back of the bus station.
As we approached the meeting point we saw from the boat a taxi making its way back up the lane to the main road and sure enough, there was Mark opening the lock gates to let us in. Sometimes it helps to have a few public transport people on board!
The engine had returned to normal by now and a subsequent check at the end of the day saw the oil level back to its usual level so we put it all down to the weather, which was still very cold. We'd been breaking ice again, albeit much more carefully now with many more moored boats around. So far every moored-up boater we'd passed had been happy to see us but inevitably it couldn't last. Breaking ice past a long line of moored boats we were hailed by a boater and told that we weren't allowed to do it, we were not showing any "consideration" and we should stop immediately. When we demurred we were told our number had been taken and that we should "read the Boaters' Handbook" (and show some consideration). I wouldn't mind, but we were crawling along at tickover, as far away from the line of boats as possible and the ice wasn't even that thick. Out of interest, Steve retrieved a copy of the Handbook and we found that we were not supposed to travel in ice unless our journey was necessary!
Given that it was now Wednesday afternoon and we were due back at Gailey first thing on Friday we concluded that we had sufficient necessity to continue!
Highlights of this stretch are, of course, the two-rise staircase at Botterham, swiftly followed by the non-staircase of three at The Bratch. Photos of the latter are everywhere, so here's one of the former that's so often overshadowed by its illustrious neighbour:
|Botterham Staircase Locks|
The rest of the day passed uneventfully and we reached Compton shortly before dark - a handy spot to stop for the night and for Mark to leave us for a bus to Wolverhampton and a train home, although this time he opted for the direct route and had to take not just one but two rail replacement buses to get back to Oxford.
|Sunset at Wightwick|