I had just finished my last draft post (no internet access here at Shadehouse) when I noticed the rain had stopped and the wind had dropped to a stiff breeze, so grabbing the moment I set off for King’s Bromley Marina. (Writing both of these on Tuesday 3rd)
Oh my goodness – what a terrifying trip just to empty my poo tank! Most of the way up was OK. The woods sheltered us from the worst of the wind and all I had to do was avoid submerged logs etc. Then, just as I was getting close to the marina I found a tree had come down and was lying across the canal. There was nowhere to moor and no way of turning round. I just about managed to live up to the boat’s name! I decided to aim for the small gap between the top end of the tree and the bank, go quite quickly and then as I reached the gap, put the boat in neutral and coast through, hopefully preventing any damage to my propeller from submerged branches or the silted up bankside. The plan thankfully worked although the boat tipped to an alarming angle as it surfed the silt.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I got into the marina and managed to spin the boat in the wind to reverse up to the diesel point. The manager was suitably impressed that I had made it, although between themselves, the staff probably said I was crazy. The relief of having my poo taken off and diesel put on is indescribable to anyone who is not a boater. Imagine you have had constipation for a week and then managed to go and you will have some idea of the feeling!
I left the marina feeling high as a kite as I figured I had made it one way so the return should be a doddle... Yes, the words pride and fall come to mind. The wind was really picking up again as I got to Woodend Lock – the only lock between the marina and Shadehouse which marks the top of the Fradley flight. I lined up for the gate (I had left it open for my return as I guessed rightly I would be the only idiot to use the lock today), the wind was doing it’s best to push me into the bank when suddenly my engine groaned and my tiller started to vibrate in my hand. I knew immediately that my prop had been badly fouled by something and needed freeing or else expensive damage could be caused. There was no way I could stop in mid manoeuvre so I gave one quick burst of power and then, for the second time that day put the engine in neutral and coasted towards the lock. It was a bit bumpy but I made it in. Then I had to strip my waterproof layers off, turn off my engine and go shoulder deep in freezing water to fish about by the propeller. I found a plastic bag, 3 sticks and a short length of rope all tangled around the shaft.
I dropped the boat the five feet or so in the lock and cruised the last stretch to Shadehouse where I planned to tie up for the rest of the day, returning to my mooring tomorrow. It was gusting at about 45mph when I returned (according to Met Office) and unfortunately those gusts were blowing my boat across the cut, away from the bank. This is where being single handed can really make things difficult. You have to steer the boat into the side, leap off with your centre rope and swiftly tie it onto something before it gets dragged out of your hand by 50 foot of steel being blown away from you. I didn’t manage it the first two times of trying. The third time I managed to jam my nose into the bank long enough to tie my bow rope to a mooring ring. In the time it took me to do that, my stern had swung across the canal and was jammed on the opposite bank. I walked down the gunwale, poled the stern off the silt and then used the engine to drive the stern towards the bank. Another wild leap and speedy tying up of the stern rope and I was finally safe.
So next time you use the loo, just take a moment to appreciate the fact that you can flush it and forget it!!