Friday 13 May 2011

The Easter Trip on Rosie 2011. (Week 2)

Friday. Day six. Eastwood Lock - Sprotborough Lock
The trip from Eastwood lock to Sprotborough Lock was in the main quite uneventful. We passed through Swinton which I would describe as a quaint place where the local people lean on things and seem to shout a lot. Conisborough seems to have a fair selection of kids frequenting the canal. They were all quite good natured, enjoying a Budweiser and one even raised his bottle and wished us "cheers mate".

The Doncaster Rowing Club had a few people out on the water. A last practice session before their rowing competition which is planned to be run on this section of the river tomorrow. We passed a few other boats going up river including our friend Granville on Nb Bonnie who gave us a cheery wave.

When we arrived at Sprotborough we were the only boat on the moorings. (If you are visiting Sprotborough for the first time the best moorings are across the canal from the tow path) A large grassed area is available with some seating. The short footpath leads up to the point where the canal divides away from the River Don. There is a large weir behind the grassy area. Later several other boats turned up to moor for the night. Our friends John and Tracy turned up for a free lunch.

Don't be surprised if a large group of noisy, rowdy young people turn up on the wharf on the other side of the canal. The youngsters are about to embark on a "booze cruise" on the Wyre Lady. The boat will be soon gone in a haze of revelry, ale and loud music. The booze cruise will be heading off in the direction of Doncaster. A couple of hours later it will return passing in the direction of Conisborough. An hour or so later the booze cruise returns and regurgitates the well stewed youngsters back onto the wharf. Where friends and relations wait to collect them in the car park. Soon peace and tranquillity will return once more to the canal.
Distance today 10 miles, 6 Locks 0 Swing/Lift bridges

Saturday. Day seven. Sprotborough – Long Sandal - Barnby Dun.
I awoke early and took the dogs for a walk along the footpath. It had been a cold night and there was a hint of fog on the water. Dawn was breaking and the birds were in full song competing against the rumble of the water passing over the weir. I watched idly as a fellow boater went about his preparations to leave. Everything was done, just so and very orderly. Lines neatly coiled into wheels. Everything seemingly had its place. Personally, I find it a bit disconcerting to to be neat and tidy and know where your keys are, without the need to frisk yourself.

It was about time for our next problem and true to form it arrived. This time in the guise of needing an urgent pump out. The bulb had blown on the high level indicator. It seemed that there was some back pressure being created, filling the toilet basin with evil smelling brown Windsor soup. I quickly opened the drain cover on the gunwale and a pungent cloud of escaping gas gave warning of how urgent the pump out was needed. Now that the back pressure had been relieved - so to speak - I turned to consulting Nicholson's guide. Long Sandal lock was the nearest place where we could off-load the poop. So we set off to do the biz at Long Sandal.

It was on arrival at Long Sandal that we had the second problem of the day. This came about when we realised that we were short to the tune of one British Waterways pump out card. As Long Sandal lock is unmanned and it was a holiday weekend we were unable to obtain a pump out card from the usual sources. We would have to look for an alternative pump out point. Long Sandal has some very good visitor moorings complete with a fenced off area, with wooden seats, tables and brick built barbecue stands. However it does not have a sanitary station.

Consulting Nicholson's guide again, we were able to find an alternative stopping point. We pressed on and moored up for the night at Barnby Dun after passing through the lift bridge. There is a British Waterways sanitary station located here, so we were able to do our ablutions off the boat.

We wandered off into the village and found ourselves a local pub for the evening. In a curious Royston Vasey moment, we were given the silent once over by the locals before the indifference and the noise of background chatter returned. I expected at any moment that "Tubbs" would announce "this is a local pub for local people". We survived the experience, but the Memsahib keeps pushing up her nose and saying "There's nothing here for you". We later watched a League of Gentleman DVD that I eventually found lurking in the back of a cupboard.
Distance today 10 miles, 3 Locks, 1 Lift/Swing Bridge.

Sunday. Day eight. Barnby Dun – New Cut – Knottingley
We were under way quite early in the morning after a hot shower and all the other necessities had been completed. As if to add to our discomfiture in the toilet department - the wind was very strong and making progress quite difficult. Soon we arrived at the junction of the "New Cut" and headed off towards the Aire and Calder Navigation passing under the two guillotine locks. At the end we turned left to join a very windswept Aire and Calder Navigation.

On entering Whitley Lock, there was a loud bump under the boat. I knocked the Morse control into neutral just in time to avoid the prop hitting a large solid plastic post about the size of a railway sleeper used for supporting large portable fences. The block which was almost invisible was floating just level with the water surface. We noted a number of similar large plastic blocks stored on the lock side.

Soon we were in Knottingley where we quickly got ourselves stemmed up. My excuse for this is "due to the lack of rain, the water levels were low than usual". A bit of manoeuvring soon had us back in deeper water. At which point a Sybil Fawlty like character appeared in a factory doorway. Just like Sybil, who Basil always claimed had a degree in "stating the bleeding obvious". She advised us that the water was quite shallow just here! We did a U turn and pointed our red faces towards the River Aire and moored up for the evening.

We had a walk around the high spots of Knottingley, it did not take long. Then we happened upon a small supermarket where we topped up our dwindling supplies of food and drink. The supermarket had a good selection of cigarettes and drink on offer, but something of a restricted food menu. Knottingly has its own set of priorities I suppose. There were a good selection of moored boats in and around the junction boatyard. We met up with Ken and a lively dog called Magoo who was re-homed by Ken to live on board Nb Phoenix.

It was at this point where we realised that we had now lost so much time, that we would not be able to make it to Ashton under Lyme. We had intended to use our friends Ian and Diana's home mooring as a base for some weekend cruising. So Baldric like, we had to consider a new cunning plan.

We knew that we urgently needed a pump out and Selby offered that opportunity, as well as a new canal to cruise. I rang Ian to explain our predicament, I explained to him that we had lost so much time that we would never be able to make up the difference. I felt sorry that after they had made all the plans on our behalf that we had to turn down their offer. British Waterways have some brownie points that they owe us.
Distance today 16.5 miles, 3 Locks and 6 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Monday. Day nine. Knottingly – Selby Basin.
We were under way quite early in the morning after a hot shower. The toilet or lack of was causing some discomfort as was the wind which was making steering difficult. We made a few forays ashore wherever possible to find ongoing relief. The River Aire was not running a deal of water. At Beal Lock the weir had a much reduced flow than normal.

We were sharing the River Aire with Ken and Magoo on Nb Phoenix. Alternating through the locks. After Beal Lock Nb Phoenix put on a bit of a spurt on and disappeared off into the distance. We met up again at West Haddelsey Flood Lock. Then we shared most of the Selby canal together at a quite sedate pace. This canal definitely takes your mind off whatever you might have been thinking about. It is a most attractive place and stuffed full of wildlife.

We rang the Selby Boat Centre to find out what time they closed and arrived with about 15 minutes to spare. To get a pump out was a relief in more ways than one. We also filled up self declared diesel 55 litres at a cost of £51.00 this works out (with the duty included on the propulsion element) at 92.7p per litre. We moored up on the visitor moorings in the Selby basin where we had a very quiet night.
Distance today 11 miles, 3 Locks and 1 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Tuesday. Day ten. Selby Basin – Beal Lock
We had a leisurely morning and spent some time considering a tide assisted trip up river to York or to return back home via Goole. However, the tides were not at a suitable time for going down river to Goole. It would have meant arriving in Goole in the dark, so we passed up on that as an option. I did a bit of a spring clean round the boat whilst the Memsahib went to visit the supermarket. We decided to return back the way that we came.

At about 11am we were ready to set off. I turned the key to start the engine and the key snapped off in the lock. Our problems had come back to haunt us yet again. A quick rummage in the cupboard and we knew that the spare key was at home. A telephone call to friends John and Tracy who nipped over to ch√Ęteau "Wits End" to check if the spare was there. In the meantime I stripped the ignition switch and managed to retrieve the broken part of the key from the lock. After consulting the manual I was able to hot wire the ignition and get the engine running. We set off for Haddlesey Flood lock at the junction of River Aire and Selby Canal. Whilst at the same time John and Tracy made their way to us with the spare key. Its a good feeling to have an ignition key in your hand rather than a hot wire cable.

Later, we set off along the River Aire at a leisurely pace. The wind had dropped and the weather was glorious. We were making easy progress due to the reduced flow of the river. However, when we reached the twisty tight bends about a mile below Beal Lock. We discovered (on a blind bend) that the inside bank had collapsed into the river creating a large mud bar.

I over steered the tiller, the front end missed the mud bank, but I managed to stem up the back end. First we pumped out our water tank almost dry to remove some weight from the boat. We were about eight inches higher in the water than normal. Then leaving the engine ticking over in reverse, working from the stern to the bow. I managed to break up the mud round the sides of the boat using the pole. I cleared the mud down below the level of the base plate. This created a moat with Rosie perched on top.

By waggling the bow end from side to side we slowly squeezed out the mud from under the base plate. From initially being able to only move a few inches from side to side. By repeating the moat digging exercise and letting the prop wash move the freed up mud clear. We improved the bow swing up to about a hundred and twenty degrees side to side.

We managed to eventually extract ourselves. Rosie did this by sliding sideways off the mud bank when we were diagonal across the river. This was however, some three and a half hours later. I now have a long handled post hole spade for mud clearing in my boating armoury. I also have a set of waders in the top-box as the water was just to deep for my Wellingtons. The water I found was much to cold to spend long periods paddling in it.

We passed through Beal Lock by which time it was turning dark. So we moored up for the night on the upstream pontoon. It was a clear night, and I was overjoyed to watch a Little Owl on a nearby tree preparing for his night time activities. I've never suffered from insomnia as I don't think it's anything to lose sleep over. But that night I slept like a log.
Distance today 8miles, 2 Locks and 1 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Wednesday. Day eleven. Beal Lock River Aire – Long Sandal Lock
I awoke early, to take the dogs for a walk. I thought it had snowed in the night, everywhere was covered in a heavy frosty rime especially on the bank side vegetation and the grass. We took up the opportunity to fill up water tank again. Talking to other boaters, everyone thought the level was a couple of feet below normal. We set off about nine wanting to be clear of the pontoon in case any other boats arrived. Our trip to Long Sandal was very quiet and uneventful. The Memsahib had me searching the Internet when she spotted a property for sale in the area. Unfortunately it would have meant me having to sell my kidneys to the highest bidder as well as the chateau. So that was a none starter. The dogs met up with Jess a brilliant and very friendly Staffordshire Bull Terrier off Nb Sorrel. We have another quiet night wondering what trials and tribulations tomorrow might bring.
Distance today 21 miles, 5 Locks and 7 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Thursday. Day twelve. Long Sandal – Sprotborough Lock.
Another early start saw us on our way to Doncaster Town moorings. We tied up and went shopping in the nearby Frenchgate Centre. We were passed by a hire boat from "Shire Cruisers of Sowerby Bridge" Nb Westmorland with six "senior" men on board. This was to become something of an ill omen as they dogged our heels all the way home.

It all started an hour after they passed us. When we set off to cover the short distance to Doncaster Town Lock. On arrival, we were surprised to see that the Westmorland was still in the lock. The Memsahib went ashore. She called me up on the radio to say that there was a 10 inch log caught in the bottom lock gates. Both of the sluices were open on the top gates but the Westmorland crew could not understand why the lock would not fill.

The Memsahib pointed out the log stuck in the bottom gates. Then one of the more sober crew members brought the pole off the boat. He then tried to pry the lock gates open to release the log. The Memsahib and myself watched the performance with astonishment for a while.

Eventually the Memsahib gave him a bit of advice in the form of an edict. It involved a string of expletives and directions on opening the lock gates to release the log. She said "just open the (fill in the missing words) gates to release the (fill in the missing words) log and we will also pass through the (fill in the missing words) lock at the same time." The Memsahib has such a command of special words that carry the emphasis she wishes to impart. However, as the Westmorland crew had a key in each control panel it was fraught with a number of disagreements that broke out between themselves. Eventually the lock gates opened about two feet. The log floated free. The gates closed. So now we had to wait for the crew of the Westmorland to complete locking.

I could clearly see that the Memsahib looked a little bit tense, this is not a good thing to happen. Eventually they cleared the lock and we moved inside. We next encountered the Westmorland on the lock exit pontoon. The boat was tied up and the crew were on their way into Doncaster to visit a pub. If you make the Memsahib tense - she tends to do the same to you. They received short shrift from SWMBO. However, they still refused to clear the pontoon and went off in the direction of the nearest pub. I had to restrain her from opening the sea cocks on the Westmorland.

The rest of our cruise to Sprotborough proved uneventful. We arrived to find the moorings empty and we tied up to settle down for the evening. Some time later another boat arrived and also moored up. It was getting close to dusk when the Westmorland arrived. There was the usual disagreement between the occupants going off. However, they decided to moor for the night on the wharf. We tried to offer them advice about the Wyre Lady and the booze cruise. However, in the typical drunks macho attitude they chose to ignore the advice.

Lets just say - they had spent an interesting evening and for some reason cleared off very early the next morning. All of them looking like they had missed out on a lot of sleep. A noisy lot those kiddies who party on the Wyre Lady especially when they have a load of other inebriates to torment.

But I digress.

The Memsahib was enjoying the late afternoon sun, and dozing off surrounded by the dogs. I was talking to a business colleague on the phone when - screech, bang, tinkle happened on the road bridge. I knew in an instant that there had been a road traffic accident. On arrival I could see a Ford car with a crushed front end. Also involved was a new style Mini with a few bumps and scrapes on the back. However, the lady driver in the mini was not in a good way. She had suffered whiplash, I went into first-aider mode. I kept her relaxed in her seat and engaged her in conversation. I found out that she had neck pain and a numb feeling on the side of her face. In the meantime I found out that the lady had recently had surgery to remove a brain tumour. She was feeling sleepy and wanted to close her eyes. This is not a good sign, so I knew it was time for the Paramedic to attend, pronto! I summoned the ambulance service and a paramedic was on site soon afterwards.

By this time the Memsahib had arrived on the scene after discovering that I was missing. (the Memsahib had heard the bang and tinkle and assumed it was the crew of the Westmoreland throwing a sack of empties on to the wharf) I got the Memsahib to climb in beside the lady who I now knew was called Pat and told her not to let her go to sleep. I asked the Memsahib to interrogate her for any other health conditions that she might have. I turned my attention to the other car. The Ford driver was shaken up and was in the throws of the adrenalin rush. Cold and clammy and a bit incoherent. But I could see he carried no outward sign of injury. At this point I started to direct traffic to clear the road for the paramedic who's twos and blues I could hear coming. I appraised the paramedic of what I knew and he said an ambulance was also on its way. I returned to directing traffic and cleared the road in front of the on coming ambulance. There were now two ambulances and two cars on the narrow bridge. So I kept directing traffic until the police arrived.

There is a lot more to this story, but I will save it for another time.

Then we wandered back to the boat for a cup of tea. I thought I might get myself a job doing 24 hour days in air traffic control - I am prepared to do anything for a quiet life.
Distance today 6 miles, 3 Locks and 0 Swing/Lift Bridges.

Click here for Week 3


1 comment:

  1. First time the booze cruise boat passed by our narrowboat, I thought why the hell do you have to spoil the lovely quiet of Sprotbrough by pumping out 80s music so loud? Fortunately it doesn't stay moored for long with the music on.

    Sprotbrough's a great place to stop, loved the Boat Inn opposite. Good for walking too, with the wildlife reserve nearby.


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