Māhina Avon Ring – Day 16

So, the plan for the day was, 2 miles to the start of Wilmcote lock flight, poodle through there and either stop just short of the basin in Stratford or in the basin itself. The Canal planner website had this journey listed as a 4hr 20 mins journey………mmmm about that! Try 9 hours later.

The day started with me admiring our ‘spiders wearing shoes’ and nursing my annoying horsefly bite.

We started off gently as we were aware the pound was low after yesterdays fun and games. It seemed better than before so i started to relax into the journey.

We reached the start of the Wilmcote flight. It’s only 11 locks as we settled straight back into the rhythm we’d had previously. There was a boat ahead so we eased up the pace as not to be right behind them. It’s not nice to feel rushed on locks so best to give them some space.

Yup – they’re still narrow!

Two lovely CRT volunteers came to see if we fancied a hand getting down the flight, we were halfway through so why not. We were hoping to have the afternoon to stroll around Stratford so anything that speeds that up, great! As the gates of lock 49 opened I could see the volunteer still struggling to get the next gate open. I found it easier to hang back in the lock chamber when the gate wasn’t quite open on the next lock as then I had a straight line to just hop across.
As I was waiting, I could see him battling with it, it just wouldn’t open enough for me to get through. Between the volunteers & Richard they were poking away to clear what was behind the gate. The volunteers called the maintenance team, so I came out of the lock and pulled over to wait for them. He arrived very promptly and fixed it with a note to send another team in the morning to do some more permanent fixes.
Whilst we were there the volunteers gave us advice on the next water points, the nearest supermarkets and then warned us to avoid the basin at the moment as the kids are making it a bit rowdy at night. They advised us not to stop between lock 52 and 55, typical outskirts of town issues that are best avoided.

Was so excited to pull away from the final lock in the flight that I wasn’t paying attention to the rope and the newly poured tea – whoops!!!

Steering towards the next lock, we went past a boat yard. The kind folk on the side warned us of shallow pounds ahead – yippeeeee, my fave.

16:46: We pulled into this lock, not that I like McDonalds, but they’re definitely missing a trick not having a drive-by panel this side of the wall too! Lock was going as normal until the bottom gates opened. We noticed the tide marks on the gates and the wall and started to get concerned. This pound had been drained by nearly 2 feet!

In the distance of this picture you can see my other dilemma, another boat coming but stuck grounded in the bridge-hole. Going to speak to them we offer to run a bit of water through to see if we can get them off the ground. After a bit of controlled water movement, I can see them moving, so I start to pull forwards only to get myself stuck in the middle before the bridge-hole. With a bit of wobbling and some more water from above I can start moving slowly to the bridge-hole. All going well, slowly does it and just as I start to get the centre of Māhina through, water comes back towards the front of my boat after rebounding from the next lock gate. I try and keep her going but nope, I’m pushed backwards out of the bridge-hole and back on my rock.

Knowing the water will essentially hit the lock gates again and come back to hit my stern again I wait to feel the boat rise a little then go for it. I get mostly through the bridge-hole then I feel the bottom ground on an uneven surface just after. Nope i’m stuck, I try forward and reverse but not only do I get nothing movement wise but I also get a horrible clanging noise suggesting I have something attached to my prop. This is something I have been waiting for, to be stuck, grounded on the bottom in the middle of the canal with Richard on the bank and too far to reach me! I tried the boat pole but lets face it, I have the arm strength of a gnat, that wasn’t going to work. I tried rocking the boat side to side, no, she’s not budging.

Deck plates have to come up for me to get into the engine bay and more pertinently the weed hatch. I have to use the mooring hammer to release the T-handle and get the cover off. I strip off to my T-shirt as I know the next job is to get my arm into the murky water to fumble around trying to find my prop. Another problem ensues, it appears I have annoyingly short arms! I’m up to my shoulder in water I can’t see through fumbling around trying to find the propellor or prop shaft but also being cautious in case the offending item is sharp. I finally find a blade of the prop, search, nothing. Slowly spin them round blade by blade, nothing. Check the shaft, nothing. Reporting back to Richard he asks me to check the skeg (bit of metal under the prop). I say that without half my face being submerged, the furthest I can reach is the bolt in the middle of the blades that screws the prop on! Whilst pushing all images of what the hell lurks in canal water like eels and many many unthinkable waste products, I come back out empty-handed and seal the water hatch back up.

The boat that passed me earlier has now made it into the lock and whilst chatting to a passer-by finding the humorous side to this challenge I felt the back of the boat raise up. Enough so I dared to try some forward, yes, yes, YES! I’m off again. I go in tick-over as I’m not convinced Māhina is not going to bottom out again. The passer-by says goodbye and walks on, then I see him come back round the corner with a big thumbs up. As I turn the corner I can see the lock chamber full and he’s holding the gate open for me, what a gent!! I slide in as he closes behind me and I see a Richard trotting along the bank to catch up up. I am so relieved to have got moving again. It had taken just under an hour to travel what I could walk in about 4 minutes.

17:40: We noticed the gate was a bit different in this lock. Where they have widened the road they have changed it from a balance beam like normal to a cranked arm gate. These are awkward at the best of times but we noticed the gate wasn’t quite opening flush to the wall like it should.

17:46: I tried to get through but I didn’t get very far before I noticed I was getting stuck. I had heard boats could get super wedged when they try and force it through so I put her into reverse.

17:49: Richard had seen a man at one of the previous jammed lock doors (when I saw the vole) cable tie the piling hook to the boat pole to use as a boat hook to try and rake the space behind the gate so we went ahead and fashioned our own.

We were trying using forward and reverse to keep the boat up against the gate to be able to prod, poke & rake the congested space, then reverse to attempt to pull whatever it was out of the water. We were doing this persistently and although we were getting loads of crap out, it still wasn’t opening enough to get through.

We just kept going but was started to get concerned as the early evening was now coming, we were in one of the locks they told us not to stop at due to anti-social behaviours and going nowhere fast.

18:40: A friend had posted the emergency number on my facebook so decided to call them, I had to keep in a queue for 15 mins. Just as I was about to give up she answered and said someone would call me back.

19:02: Call received for co-ordinator to check problem and advise me a team is on the way but they are North Birmingham and may be a couple of hours.

19:10: Another boat appears behind us wanting to get down the lock. We explain the issue and they start to try and help. I think when they first got there they thought we were being silly about it but after a few attempts of mother/father/son combo they too saw we were in a predicament.

19:35: We thought we had dislodged a fair amount of the obstruction so Richard thought about running a bit of water into the lock chamber to see if we could flush it out a bit by opening the bottom paddle and then running a bit of water through the top paddle to attempt to push it through.

19:40: The boat behind were about to go to walk down to the basin when it appears the father had a brainwave which we could have never done between just Richard and me due to the weight of the gate. By looping a rope each over the gate post and essentially having a team tug ‘o’ war over the lock chamber making the gate swing open & closed to create suction to help the obstruction move.

19:50: The gate is looking better, we decide to push it in as hard as we can as I steered the boat out breathing in and going slow. Fuck me it worked!!! Felt so good to be out of the lock. The other boat’s team started to reset the lock as Richard came down to set the next lock.

20:15: We both continued at the same pace for the final 2 locks and thankfully saw one mooring space just before the basin and pulled in with the other boat coming past us about 10 minutes later.

Exhausted after what was a mere 12 minute walk between points took 3 and a half hours!

Today’s video can be found here: https://youtu.be/mNutrjU-E4A

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s