We are facing the start of stoppages on the canal shortly, for maintenance work to be done to various locks. Each stoppage will last around 3 weeks and affects where I turn round at Alrewas and also means I can't reach Kings Bromley Marina where I usually fill up with diesel and pump out my poo!
So I decided to make the trip between Christmas and New Year. The weather was forecast good on Boxing Day so I decided to go up the flight and moor in the woods for a couple of nights to recover from being very sociable this month! The marina was opening just for 3 hours on the 28th so that fitted in beautifully. It also meant I could stay put on the 27th when a storm was forecast.
Well, the forecast was spot on and weather wise it worked out beautifully; sunny days with not too much wind when I needed to move and gales when I was sheltered in the woods. However other challenges awaited me. The first occurred half way up the lock flight when I suddenly lost all forward momentum. My first thought was that my propeller had been fouled by all the foliage floating in the canal. But even when I cleared my prop, I still had no power beyond 'tickover'. I managed to reach the top of the flight and tied up on visitors moorings. My friend Stan, who is very knowledgeable in things mechanical and had been helping work the locks with me, had a look. The bad news was my drive cable had snapped, the extremely lucky news was that the previous wonderful owners of Don't Panic had left a spare cable on board! Stan fitted it for me and decided to come to Woodend Lock with me just to make sure all was well - and it was just as well he did.
Dredging is a key part of keeping the canals navigable but unfortunately CRT seem more keen on spending money on pointless exercises like replacing perfectly serviceable water taps or painting anything that moves, rather than removing silt from the canals. When I reached Woodend I discovered that there was about 6" of clear water and the rest was a mixture of silt, fallen leaves and branches. I ended up having to use my pole to punt the boat into the lock, with Stan helping. Then as I climbed out of the boat onto the lockside I slipped on wet leaves and had Stan not grabbed my arm I may well have ended up falling down between boat and lock wall.
After a restorative glass of wine, Stan left me to go home and I carried on into the woods to moor. Bonny had been so good during all the delays so, when I was mooring, I let her mooch about on the towpath with no tether. Unfortunately she got bored waiting for me and attached herself to a passing family out for a walk. Half an hour later I persuaded her to return with me!
Huge winds kept us stationary the next day which was lovely as I caught up with a bit of cleaning and a lot of resting. The next day I got pumped out and dieseled up and returned to near the top of the flight where I planned to spend a further night. Getting there took much longer than I had expected. Thanks to the storm there was loads of debris floating in the water and I had to stop several times to clear my prop and could really only travel at tickover speed to avoid big logs which could do real damage to the boat. Then I had to tackle Woodend again, this time on my own. Once I had fished a load of branches out of the lock, all went reasonably smoothly and I managed to get clear of the lock with a minimum of poling.
That night I decided to cook a chicken and have a good dinner. Half way through cooking the gas went out! So there I was, in the pitch dark with a torch, wrench and hammer, changing my gas bottles over. It took 20 minutes of unladylike language and bashing my wrench with a lump hammer to release the nut on the gas tank. By that time the chicken was only half cooked and cold so I had to start cooking again.
I got back to my mooring at lunch time today in the most glorious sunshine. It is good to be back for a rest! Also to be safely moored before yet another storm hits us tomorrow. Well, even a 'housekeeping' trip can be exciting and this one was! Happy 2014 to all my readers.