Monday, 25 October 2010

On the Jam'ole

Sunday morning 4:30am, Yaaaaawn...Breakfast...Light the oil lamp so I can see the engine and surprisingly it started. It's a bit like me, it don't like frosty mornings. Anyway, we set off and it looks like we're leading the pack. But in the first bridge 'ole the blade grabs something, we lose all steering and head for the green stuff, we've got Victoria up our backside with no brakes, I slaps into reverse then back into forward before Victoria smacks us one. From the off I was having problems, I just couldn't get going, so at Hartshill I had to pull in and let the others pass while I tried to clear the blade. We finally got on the way but it's still not right but we were making progress. As the sun came up as we passed the bottom of the Ashby and on the long straight down to Charity Dock, there was sign of the others.

We tried to crack on best we could and caught up with the chaos at "Sutton's Stop" it was total mayhem, boats everywhere.

Just as it was our turn through the lock, a boat came the other way so that put us back again. By this time Ling had caught us up and proceeded to chase us, in the end I had to let them pass, it was obvious they had to be somewhere quicker than us. However, we caught them up again at Hillmorton locks but due to one lock being busted, again! progress was slow with other boats coming down. It wasn't long before we bumped into them again, just before Braunston due to a cow taking a bath in the cut. This caused a lot of confusion and we finished up back in the middle of the pack.
At Braunston Locks we paired up with Renfrew
We blasted through the tunnel and it wasn't long before a plate of stew and dunking bread came out of the hatch. This is not unusual, I regularly have my tea on the slide. When we arrived at the top of Buckby locks we let Archimedes go with Renfrew, they had no grub and had to get to the pub and we went down on our own. It was now going dark and was a bit lonely, just me on the bank and Andrea steering. We arrived at Weedon about 8:30ish tied up and met the others in the pub.
Monday, 4:30am, again! trying to keep up and being chased by the Grand Union greyhounds round all the tight bends. Thrashing through Blisworth tunnel and on to Stoke locks. Here we paired with Stanton, what a cracking boat, the pride of the fleet. Andrea was steering and I went on to set the locks. At the third lock down I receive a message, Andrea has fell in, bottom over bussom, straight in the lock. My first thought was, I wonder if she checked the blade while she was down there. (joke sorry) She was dragged out by two gentlemen and nothing hurt, only pride.
We all re-grouped at the bottom of Stoke locks to take on water and take know what. Pressing on to Cosgrove and now at the lowest point of the canal where it wiggles through Wolverton and Milton Keynes. Here the canal is very shallow and at this time of year, just make it worse, full of leaves. With a boat as deep as ours you are forever dropping into reverse to clear the blade and getting round some of the bends is damn near impossible. Soon at Fenny Stratford and we rise 13 inches, lot of effort for little height. Next is Stoke Hamond Lock then the Soulbury Three Locks. This is where we start to get hold ups, with hire boats freshly out of Wyvern Shipping not knowing exactly what to do with these windy up thingies and these swingy gate things. through Leighton Buzzard lock and just Grove Lock in the dark and stop for the night.
Tuesday, 4:00am there's a funny ringing noise in my ear, then an elbow in my ribs, is it time to go again? We left Grove surrounded by the stars, Orion very clear and the plough stood on end. First lock of the day wasn't far, Church Lock and we paired with Mike on Victoria, Andrea steered the boat in and came to an abrupt halt when something grabbed the blade, she slowly floated in. At the top I got to work with the shaft, I hooked something but it took two of us to yank off, it was a coil of barbed wire with a rope fender tangled in it.
By the time we got to Marsworth it was light. I went on ahead setting the locks and Andrea steering. At the top I stood and watched Dove and Victoria hugging each other across the pound and into the lock, not bang or a scrape, what a sight and no video camera on me, damn.
Across the Tring summit and on to Cowroast, where we start the long descent through Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead to Rickmansworth.
This is where the bikes came out, Victoria's crew, Julie, on a fold up electric model and me...
...on our 1956 model which got me the nick name "ET". Thanks Andrea. On the way we came across BW jobsworth who took exception to us using Thumb lines, 10mm cotton line is going to bend 1 inch solid bar and 5/8ths bolts, I don't think so! We told him to go and talk to the bloke on the boat in front, Ron Withy!
At Apsley Basin, Victoria picked up Ara and we went on with Mike's dad and Ron Withy on Kissmet.
This was good for me as Ron worked this area on his parents boats and later, with British Waterways, so it was quite an education. We worked on down to Ricky in the dark and the rain, not a pleasant experience. Finally arriving at 8:00pm, a long hard day.
Leaving Ricky at 7:00am and arriving at Cowley in brilliant sunshine ready to go en mass to Bulls Bridge

Boats all together at Cowley, Renfrew, Dove, Victoria, Stanton, Archimedes+Ara, Corona

At Bulls Bridge we had time to re-stock the food cupboard and tidy the boats. With Dove now fully clothed, the best way to get from one end to the other is by way of the top plank, probably not the safest especially when someone rocks the boat.
Here's the bow line up at Bulls Bridge, Purton joined us here but not pictured.
We then moved on to where the Jam 'ole used to be 40 years ago, coal delivered, speech made, flowers placed and champers drunk.
Then on to Willowtree Marina for the night. A meal was on the books for us all here thanks to Braunston Marina. However, packet soup, Pukka pie, frozen veg and oven chips all cooked by master chef "Ber Ding" wasn't my idea of a nice meal especially when gravy had to be asked for.
A couple of pints then off to bed, early start tomorrow.
4:00am soon comes round and it's time for off to re-trace our steps back to Braunston. This was the longest day and when you're paired with a boat that's in no rush it got even longer. We were heading for Bulbourn that night but due to several groundings in shallow pounds and prop fowlings, time drifted on and we only made Cowroast by 9:00pm. A 5:00am start saw us in the lead and paired with Stanton, after a frosty start the sun came out and the girls took the tillers
I think it was Church Lock we were met by photographers and they appeared at every bridge and lock all the way to the Soulbury Three. I'm used to having festoons of photographers on the railway, but never on the canal. On reaching Milton Keynes the trouble started, evey bridge 'ole we picked something up and finally had to pull in to have a ferkel round the blade. I found a load of that red white barrier tape wrapped round the shoe plate support bar. After that we soon caught the others up ready to ascend the Stoke Locks and some how, still paired with Stanton.
By the time we got to the locks it was dark, Victoria and Kismet were in front and Renfrew and Corona were somewhere behind. We didn't bother breasting up but boats stuck together all the way up and our team of four worked very well together. Once again we had tea on the move so on reaching the top it was quick wash then pub.
7:00am, the last hop to Braunston paired with Victoria arriving at 5ish and finished the trip with a meal and a few pints in the Plough.
The next morning we said our goodby's set off back to Fradley. We've really enjoyed the trip and would do another, but not for a while.
Next trip, Stourport ring on Achilles


Mike and Chrissie said...

Great post. That first photo would be a worthy competition winner!


Brian and Diana on NB Harnser said...

Thanks for a great report, it felt like I was watching you.

Blossom said...

"Next trip, Stourport ring on Achilles" Sounds from this like you ain't coming up to Norbury this week end Andrew.

fmc dove said...

Thanks Mike, right time right place, I quite like it too.
Brian and Diana, you sould have been there it was even better.
Blossom, no we're no going, I'm afraid Dave said there was no room for us? never mind hey.

neil said...

i was at bulls bridge on the wednesday with my camera. i had no idea about it being the 40th anniversary of the last jame 'ole run, so it was lucky for me i just happened to be there. got some nice shots. also spoke briefly with ron, who gave me some background history. nice chap!