Thursday 25 September 2008

The BCNS Explorer Cruise

Wednesday 13 /08/08

We attended the briefing last night where we were told which group would be in, when we would be leaving and who would be leading. We are in group 2 and were due to leave at 8am.
The alarm was set, dog walked and at 7-30am just as it started to rain we winded and made our way to the entrance to the Oozells Street Loop for about ten to eight, but every one had gone so we set off alone. We didn't do the Oozells loop as we did that yesterday and went straight to the Icknield Port loop and the Soho Loop, past Winson Green Prison. As we exited the Soho loop we could see two of the others ahead. There was a choice of route to get to the Wolverhampton level and we decided to turn sharp right on ourselves and go up the Spon Lane locks, here we found a boat waiting to go up ahead of us and as they opened the bottom gates we could see large amounts of water coming in under the top gate, just as they got in BW arrived to scrape the cill, they didn't bother to draw the paddles to fill the lock the leaking top gates let it in fast enough. BW couldn't find any obstruction and needed to investigate further so we turned round and continued on the Birmingham Level to Factory Locks at Tipton where we caught up with the two boats we had seen earlier, they said that the others had left quite early as they had not heard them go passed. BW assisted us up the Factory locks, as they just happened to be there to adjust water levels. Once clear of the locks it was through Coseley Tunnel and then right down the Bradley Arm, we only got as far as the first bend when everything stopped with blanket weed, poly and fishing line round the prop stopped us, I almost had it clear when the boat that had gone via Spon Lane arrived and gave it a try, he got just as far as us before we hauled him back to the bridge so he could clear his prop as well. We had just backed out onto the main line when a boat came sailing out of the arm, he had been right to the end and had no problem at all. We carried on in the continuing rain to the basin at the top of the Wolverhampton flight where the rest were already winded ready for the morning and moored up for the night.

Thursday 14/08/08

Last night it was agreed to start at our own times, so after chatting with the boat opposite we decided to push off at 8 am together. So at 8 this morning we backed up through the bridge and winded in the BW basin before heading off together to the Wryley and Essington Canal, often refereed to as the Curly whirly. There were still 4 boats to leave after we went; the rest had set off at 6am. The travelling was quite good but it wasn't long before we caught up with 2 boats who had their fair share of weed hatch visits, one of them did draw 3 feet, as we ticked along behind them a couple of the others caught us up. We passed the boats ahead on one of their many visits down the hatch, so we were now front boat of the late starters. The weather was kind to us and so was the rubbish and I didn't need to do a visit down the hatch until after we moored for the night at the end of the Cannock Extension. Clover, the old coal boat manage to pick up a sleeping bag and spent over an hour getting it off so it was just as well they started early. A couple of the boats went down the Extension, but we didn't bother having done it last time we were this way.

Friday 15/08/08

As today was only to be a short day we decided to go down the Cannock Extension, we thought we would be alone but most of the other boats went down as well, it takes between an hour and a half and two hours to get to the end and back but we wided just short of the end. As we left the arm we turned left and headed for Brownhills where we stopped for water and Diana went across the road to Tesco to stock up on food, if the weather holds we will have a BBQ tonight. Once watered and stocked up we continued on to Catshill Junction where we turned left onto the Angelsey Branch past Ogley Junction where the Litchfield canal used to come in and hopefully will again one day. We went right to the end of the Angelsey Branch and turned before mooring for the night on the old Angelsey Wharf.

Saturday 16/08/08

The working boats set off at 7am and we followed at about 8 am. We had a much better run than some of the boats. One of them managed to get a "Sport for Life" banner round his prop that took nearly an hour to remove with a Stanley knife and the ex working boat collected a load of wire round his prop. When we arrived at Rushall locks at about 12 the first two boats to arrive had already moored above the first lock in the only vacant mooring so we carried on down below the second lock breasting with the same boat as last night.

Sunday 17 /08/08

Last night we had fish and chips in the Longwood Boat Club clubhouse with an interesting talk about the history of RN engines by Brian Jarret. During the night we had very heavy rain but it had cleared up by this morning. We were woken early by some of the first boats leaving at about 6 am. We were booked out at 8-50 am but pushed off in a gap at about quarter to. We had a good run down the Rushall flight but boats started to bunch up at the bottom of the Ryders Green flight. It turned out that the first boats up found part of the flight dry and spent an hour letting water down to give enough depth to get up. Once the first boats reached the top and moored up they started helping the other boats up.. We reached the top and backed into the Ridge Acre Arm commonly known as the Chemical Arm at 3 pm. and after helping other boats to moor did some work on the top lock. The last boats arrived a little after 5-30pm. Both groups are together now so there are over 30 boats moored up here now blocking not only the arm but the main line as well.

Monday 18/08/08

As there were 5 boats moored on the outside of us last night we were a bit late getting away. We continued on the Wednesbury Old Canal to the New Main Line where we turned left towards Birmingham until we reached Smethwich Locks, to access the locks you have to turn through about 330 deg. I just put the boat across the cut and the wind did the rest. Once up the locks we turned hard left on to the Engine Arm, we have never been up here before, It is mainly residential moorings but there is a facilities block with very clean showers, toilets. pumpout etc at the end as well as a 48 hr mooring. The only thing missing is a water point, but there is a very long hose reel in the facilities block that will reach from the last residential water point to the visitor moorings. After watering up, we winded and made our way back to the Old Main Line where we turned left and carried on to Oldbury Junction where again we turned left on to the Titford Canal, up the Oldbury Flight of locks commonly known as "Crow" to moor with about 35 other boats just above the BCNS meeting rooms at the old pump house. The weather has took a turn for the worse but the BBQ organised by the BCNS was cooked in a tent and we ate it in the clubhouse.

Tuesday 19/08/08

This morning the boat next to us was setting off at 7 am so we decided we would get up and help the others down the flight so from 7 30 until 9 30 am we were locking other boats down before returning to Harnser to set off our selves. Once back on the Old main Line we turned left until we came to Brades Junction where we turned right down the flight to reach the New Main Line, then it was left to the next junction and left again, going under the Old Main Line to go through Netherton Tunnel. Just after exiting the tunnel we reversed down the Old Dudley No2 Canal for about 100 yards and moored for the night. As the day has progressed more boats arrived and a couple of marquees were erected on the far side of the canal to host to nights Black Country meal and real ale bar.

Wednesday 20 /08/08

Today was the 150 anniversary of the opening of Netherton Tunnel and to mark the occasion the Mayors from each end of the tunnel would come through the tunnel by boat cutting a ribbon at each end. Local TV and radio were there and the dignitaries finally arrived at about 1-30, following them in the electric trip boat were slightly lesser dignitaries like the IWA National Chairman and IWA President, Local IWA Branch Officers and BCNS Officers. When the Joey reached the mouth of the tunnel it was towed by horse for the final couple of hundred yards. Not far behind that was "President" the steam powered narrowboat and several historic local tugs. We had lunch in the local pub, The Dry Dock which has an old wooden boat as a bar. They serve local real ale and good freshly cooked food. The Sausage and Mash is made with sausages that are only available at the pub as they are made specifically for them.
After lunch all the dignitaries had departed on the bus back to the other end of the tunnel and we helped to take the 3 marquees down just as it started to rain. Once we had said our goodbyes we set of in the rain which just got heavier, We cruised for a couple of hours down the Dudley No1 Canal stopping for the night just passed the Merryhill shopping complex, there are good moorings in the complex but Diana spotted the sign that said the bars were open until 3am. so we moved on a bit. We were now alone and would continue the rest of our holiday bumping into people we had spent time with over the past few days.

Photos of the trip can be seen at