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Archive for May 28th, 2011

BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 9pm – 9.45pm

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

9pm – 9.45pm

Perry Barr Lock (2 from bottom) to Cuckoo Wharf

Well, I’m afraid that we’ve wimped out and decided not to do the two great Aston and Farmers Bridge flights this evening – we’re a bit jaded after 14 hours of cruising and the hounds are beyond of exhausted and won’t rest while the boat’s moving.

We had a bit of a drama at bottom lock when there was an obstruction behind one of the bottom locks – Graham managed to dislodge a bit of it with a pole then Andy and Graham managed to slam the gate open enough for Sarah to push the boat through – phew, what a relief!

Spaghetti junction looks even more surreal by dark……

We recall a good chinese takeaway near here so that’s the next step – we need a good savoury meal after pigging out on an all-day-breakfast menu and cookies!

At this time, the towpaths are deserted – whether the lowlife comes out later we hope we’ll never know – Cuckoo Wharf is a very secure mooring indeed.

Of course, no decisions without consequence – finishing early means that we’ll need to set the alarm for 4am and get off as soon as we get a glimmer of daylight at 5am – will I blog then – well, only if you promise to get up to read it πŸ˜€

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 7.30pm – 9pm

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

7.30pm – 9pm

Rushall junction (-ish) to Perry Barr Lock – 2 from bottom!

Well, that’s the main Perry Barr flight done – big debate on ambient energy levels as we cruise to the last two locks before we turn towards the Aston flight.

We had no incidents on the flight, though a group of lads were very curious about the locks – Andy is very good with lads and just engaged them in conversation – all very civilised. The lads were canvassing his views about graffiti – they were horrified that their locality was being defaced – interesting.

I’m not sure what the decision will be – we still have light for now and we’ll make a decision at Cuckoo Wharf…..

Right, better go, next two locks approaching.

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 5pm – 7.30pm

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

5pm – 7.30pm

Daw End to Rushall Junction (-ish)

Well, that’s another 9 locks done so we’re up to 30 locks and 30 miles in our first 11.5 hours – oh dear, there’s still a long way to go! But at least we still have daylight and the crew seem to have plenty of energy – I’m having a little sit down with the blog – if the typing’s off it’s because I’m occasionally resting my eyes πŸ™‚

The canine crew is restless – I think they’d quite like us to stop now so that they don’t have to be on watch any more! They really need Lou on board – she just sleeps regardless!

We met another boat coming our way above the Rushall Locks – it was “the cat who walks by himself” – also on the challenge and producers of the amazingly useful online guide to the BCN Challenge.

Apart from that it’s been very quiet. We found that the genial folk at the boating club at Rushall Top Lock were having a 60’s fancy dress gathering – they looked great, if a little surreal!

We shot down the Rushall flight – the crew was very efficient, though we need a change in personnel halfway down – I was on board at the helm (with the hounds on board), Richard was cycling ahead and Sarah, Andy and Graham were working the current lock and closing behind. But Archie’s too new to be left without his hu-mum and although he was locked inside, his face suddenly appeared above the hatch – I honestly thought he was going to bounce right out of the boat! Sarah took over the helm, the hounds all settled and I had the unusual experience of pushing some lock gates!

The Rushall flight was suitable pastoral, though there were a few lads starting to congregate on the towpath – they didn’t give us any trouble (being fascinated by the hounds on board) though one did jump right over the lock as it emptied – foolish yes, but undoubtedly athletic. The only noise was the loud chirping of the birds, oh, and the annoying buzzing of a moped being driven along the towpath – he soon turned off onto the road and peace reigned again, though Richard did cycle straight for him to make him slow down before he ran over 2 small dogs on the towpath.

We got to Rushall Junction at 7.20pm and turned right towards Perry Barr – we have to get down the flight tonight. Now, we’ve heard from boaters previously that BW chain up this flight after a certain time. However we couldn’t find any mention of this in Nicholsons’ or the online boater’s guide so we’re going to go for it. After that there’s the big decision – moor at Cuckoo Wharf and climb up the Aston and Farmer’s Bridge flights to Birmingham at 5am or push on and do it all tonight, or do something in between – we’ll see how we feel when we get there!

The section down to Perry Barr is very green and leafy – unfortunately with a few fallen branches following the recent high winds – but it’s very pleasant in the remnants of the day’s sunshine…….

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 3.30pm – 5.10pm

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

3.30pm – 4.45pm

Pellsal Junction to Daw End

After Pelsall Junction, the Curly Wurly passes through some civilisation, including a handy Tesco with canalside moorings. We saw two moored boats – one at the junction and one at Tesco – other than that the canal has been largely deserted – we certainly haven’t seen any boats on the move.

Note: there’s a large shoal offside opposite Tesco – we were scraping the bottom even in the centre of the channel.

All the hounds have given up now – it’s all too much effort to stay awake, proving that greyhound olympic looking is more than rigorous enough a sport to be included in the houndie games next year πŸ™‚

We’re still a few miles from Rushall top lock, so I’m just sneaking a quick post in before it’s all hands on deck again – a fisherman said that he hadn’t seen another boat on the move for 3 hours so with a bit of luck there won’t a queue.

The canal remains shallow – in places there’s hardly enough water to draw back so we’re a bit slow; having said that, it may be time for another prop inspection as the water here is very reedy.

There’s a very fine mooring Basin at Daw End (with many moored boats) – it’s more sophisticated than we remember and the visitor mooring past the bridge look good, though there weren’t any visiting boats there.

We did our good deed opposite the Daw End visitor moorings – Graham spotted a young crow (or maybe a jackdaw) floundering in the water – his feathers were sodden and he couldn’t get up the hard bank out of the water. We stopped and Andy deftly netted him up onto the towpath – result! The bird was exhausted and flopped into the adjacent undergrowth – I hope s/he survives.

The water is crystal clear around here, causing much frustration of angler Graham – the large pike were visibly laughing at him without his rod!!

The Daw End branch is a great bit of water – not only is it very rural but it also soars above the surrounding landscape, offering glimpses of the valley below – in places the quarried ground below the canal seems to sink as low as the canal is high (if that makes sense!).

As I type, we’ve just cleared the prop – this time some industrial looking ‘webbing’. Sarah, Andy and the hounds have got off for a walk – they’ve carried windlasses with them but I don’t think they realise it’s 2 miles to the Rushall Locks – we may need an emergency pick-up at the next bridge hole!

Ooh a bit of excitement – a working boat approaching – it’s nb Yeoford with a crew of young folk including the Lucky Ducks, and Mike Askin who we think is from nb Shoestring (we met on a Thames convoy a few years ago) – fantastic!

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 1.15pm – 3.30pm

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

1.15pm – 3.20pm

Birchills Junction to Pellsal Junction

There was much debate at Challenge Central i.e. the back deck, as to whether we should cruise up and down the Cannock Extension but it was just too many points to miss – the points for the trip and the points for correctly answering question – which is quite devious! We think the answer is on the towpath – look out for the post at the narrowing before the turn; but don’t take out word for it – we might be wrong!

Anyway, we’re cruising to schedule at the moment and the crew is in good spirits, but then again, it is a normal Indigo Dream cruising day so far – just over the 7 hours. The canine crew is looking a little weary – it’s so stimulating for them, though the excitement is starting to wear off now – the more experienced boating hounds, Lynx and Ranger, are asleep, new boy Archie is snoozing and Henry, well even Henry’s looking a bit jaded now, though he’s nowhere near ready to lie down yet.

But back to the Curly Wurly – it is the real hidden gem of the BCN – so rural – there are even cows in the adjacent fields and abundant flowers including huge mats of wild water lilies and vivid purple orchids. There were great swathes of lupins – escaped from adjacent gardens presumably, though I’ve seen lots of lupins along the New Main Line as well. We did meet another boat – last year’s winners nb Muskrat – some cheerful banter ensued – largely along the lines of “go slower and give us a chance to win” – I don’t they will though!

We met some more interesting characters here – three very young boys (8 years maybe) wandering down the offside path with a spraycan – they looked too young for graffiti or glue-sniffing but what do I know! They were friendly enough and were fascinated by the hounds, as was a character further down the towpath – a man who looked as if his nose had been bitten off at some time. He offered to toss a coin for the ownership of our dogs – no thanks!

Having enjoyed the twists and turns of the Curly Wurly, the Cannock Extension was amazingly straight, its uninterrupted vista giving the impression of great length. But it is short – just 1.5 miles – a nice distance to walk the hounds and for us to get the answer to the question! We cleared the prop again – a few plastic bags and a bit of tape – nothing too significant – the big bag that had fouled the prop enough for us to stop floated off before Richard got the weed hatch open.

We’re having a last bit of relaxation now before the serious locking starts at 4pm-ish!

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 11am – 1.15pm

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

11am – 1.30pm

Deans Road Bridge, Wyrley and Essington Canal to Birchills Junction

We’ve had a very relaxing lock-free cruise along the undulating Wyrley and Essington Canal – but where are all the boats? We’ve only met one boat on the challenge – nb Victorious, whose crew cheerfully waved at us with their beer cans – aah, so that would be the drinking element of the challenge then…

The only other boats that we’ve met have been from the Wolverhampton Boat Club, who have 16 boats of their own doing a little bobble around the BCN – quite separate from the BCN Challenge.

Otherwise we’re marvelling again at the rural character of the Wyrley and Essington canal – it’s so peaceful and the people we’ve met have mainly been fishermen, astonished that a boat is going past!

So far we’ve only been down the weed hatch once – nothing interesting, just a few plastic bags and, remarkably, some weed! We’ve had to do a prop clearance from time to time but we’re making good progress so far.The canal is shallow and we get the odd suspicious grinding beneath the counter as we travel over the gravel, or submerged trolley!

The weather has been relatively benign – mainly cloudy and mild, though we had a huge cloudburst at 12.15pm – uhmm, time for me to go inside and prepare the lunch then! The crew have declared themselves “totally stuffed” – let’s see how long that lasts once we start the serious locking later on this afternoon πŸ™‚

The junction represented the next leg of our trip – though the cunning people at the BCN Society put a quiz question at Sneyd Junction. The answer? You’ll have to find it for yourself!

We’ve made up the time that we lost on the flight this morning and are now back on target, and the sun has come out – brilliant!



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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 9am – 11am

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

10am – 11am

Lock 15 of the Wolverhampton 21 to Deans Road Bridge, Wyrley & Essington Canal

From Lock 15 onwards we suddenly got up some speed and the combined crews of Wanderin’ Bark, Indigo Dream and British Waterways ran some water down the flight. This meant smoother running between the locks as the pounds filled up.

Our progress was even faster when we picked up our relief crew at Lock 6 – Sarah, Andy and greyhounds Ranger, Henry and Archie. Archie is a new hound, rescued quite literally from the jaws of death when Sarah met his trainer/owner at the vet – he was there to be put down. Sarah persuaded the owner to let her rescue him, so now her pack is back up to seven. So we have a very appropriate crew for a greyhound rescue cruise!

This is Archie’s first time on a boat and he’s doing very well indeed – he’s curious but relaxed, and is currently lying on deck with the exceptionally laid-back Lynx and Ranger. Henry, of course, is far too excited to be lying down and is enjoying watching the world go by.

We got to the top of the Wolverhampton 21 at 10.35am so the first leg of our planned journey is done. Shortly afterwards turned onto the next leg – the long lock-free pound of the Wyrley and Essington Canal (aka the Curly Wurly!). So now we have time for coffee, doughnuts, pastries and all the other healthy foods that serious marathon cruisers need….

I must mention the reflective bridge (presumably pipe bridge) just past Dean’s Road Bridge – it’s as shiny now as it was 2 years ago, offering perfect reflections of the canal and of Indigo Dream and its crew passing beneath – magic!

We are taking lots of photos but we won’t be able to download them until a bit later……

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BCN Marathon Challenge 2011: 8am – 9am

Posted by indigodream on 28 May, 2011

8am – 9am

Aldersley Junction to Lock 15 of the Wolverhampton 21

Miles: 1Β  Locks: 6

We finally got the boat to Aldersley Junction just before 10pm last night, proving that there is just about enough light for cruising at that time of day – important intelligence for the challenge to come!

We moored overnight at Aldersley junction just opposite nb Wanderin’ Bark, also taking part in the challenge. We were all up early – partly out of excitement and partly because Richard had to cycle back to get the camera, which he’d left in the car back in Compton.

By 7.45am nb Wanderin’ Bark and Indigo Dream were in position with both boat crews full of Indigo Dream’s coffee. But in the spirit of honesty – given that Captain A’s crew member is called “Mr Truth”Β  – they set off up the locks at 8am and we followed some 10 mintues later.

We set off with a great sense of team spirit – just as well, subsequent water shortages along the flight made team working essential!

Nb Sarah Jane, not taking part in the challenge, had set up the locks just before nb Wanderin’ Bark – by the time we were ready to set off, towpath walkers were reporting that nb Sarah Jane was stuck on the mud. There followed a great bit of collaborative boating, with the crews of the three boats working together to get enough water down the pounds to enable us to move forwards. Knowing we were on the challenge, nb Sarah Jane kindly let us pass.

So, the first hour has been a bit slow but the camaraderie has made up for it…

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