Saturday, 24 September 2011

At Stretton Wharf on the Shropshire Union

At the moment we are quiet, peaceful and relaxed after a most hectic week or more.
I am amazed; I never thought I had it in me to travel around a hundred and thirty miles from one side of the country to the other in five days. Though in tow and travelling at an overall average of less than two miles per hour, Sue on tug ‘Thea’ and myself burnt up all the daylight hours available to accomplish this feat. However I slept so well when I crashed into my bunk every night that I was more than ready at the beginning of the next day for whatever it had in store.
It was a great experience and the weather stayed mostly very fine for us. Only on the last day did the cloud level dismally descend to the ground and thoroughly drench us for most of the time. But apart from the stop lock at Autherley Junction, by then we had passed through all of the forty plus locks that had barred our way from Newark to Stretton Wharf, so there was no threat to us slipping on wet steel surfaces as we unhooked and then hooked up again while passing through them.
Locking on the River Trent was relatively easy. Early on our first day we had decided that we improved our speed by travelling in tandem or line ahead rather than abreast. However at the locks we still breasted up before entering as it made it easier for just the two of us to control the pair whilst locking.
At the double locks through Nottingham and the similar ones on the early Trent and Mersey Canal, Sue and I soon became very practiced at breasting up before arriving at the lock. She would let go the towing strops and as ‘Futurest’ ranged up along ‘Thea’s starboard side I would work my way forward and lash the two bows together while she would cleverly lasso my mooring dolly on the stern and heave us both together before making fast.
Dallow Lock at Burton upon Trent was our first single and we needed here to adopt yet another routine that we would need to keep for the rest of our journey.
If no boat was waiting above the lock to come down then ‘Thea’ would tow ‘Futurest’ right into the lock entrance before Sue let go the strops and entered the lock herself. I would make fast 'Futurest's bow line while ‘Thea’ was locked upwards. Then I would empty the lock and bow haul ‘Futurest’ into position before filling the lock again and finally moving out and re-stropping to ‘Thea’.
If there was somebody waiting to come down, then Sue would cast off ‘Futurest’ allowing me to secure her to the lock landing. Then when the waiting boat had passed, I would have to bow haul ‘Futurest’ a bit further up into the lock before continuing the locking process. On occasions where the lock approach was badly silted other than in the centre channel, getting the ‘lady’ into the lock could prove to be hard work. With her deep after draft of two feet nine, we would have to pole her off into the centre before she would move forward. As we had to pull from the accessible towpath side ‘Futurest’ would always tend to move towards us and hence back onto the mud ....  Could be difficult and lengthy hard work!
But having left Newark a week ago last Thursday, the 15th, we finally arrived at our destination last Tuesday afternoon. It had been raining doggedly all day only just letting up at the last moment for me to tie up against the towpath, right opposite Industry Narrowboats, the yard that was to lift out ‘JP2’.
The yard is situated just to the north of the remarkable Thomas Telford cast iron aqueduct, which carries the canal about forty feet over the busy A5. It is midway between the pretty villages of Wheaton Aston to the north and Brewood (pronounced ‘Brood’ by the locals) to the south.
On Wednesday morning after moving ‘Futurest’ over to the other side of the canal, chief engineer John with me as the apprentice began to strip the big Lister engine down to its lightest essentials so that it could be removed more easily from the ship and this took us all day. With hands and boiler suit like a black grease monkey, I was glad when I was able finally to strip down and have a good shower.
I wasn’t long in going to bed that night.
On Thursday back in my boiler suit I took all day to strip the tongue and groove sheathing from the engine room deck head. This was as tricky as a jigsaw puzzle since, in order to keep the timber intact, I had to find the key bit to remove first. But in the end all was successful though it was depressing to see the engine room in such a sad state  ... I shall be so glad to see it all put back together again.
Unfortunately ‘Futurest’ had been built thirteen years ago around the ‘JP2’ engine; there was no hatch in the roof for easy removal should it ever be required. So yesterday morning the yard steelworker Dave cut out a trap in the roof large enough to get the engine through with ease and by the afternoon we were able to lift, very slowly and gently the great bulk up through the opening and onto John’s trailer, ready for taking to his workshop.
I have taken many photographs but unfortunately my poor internet signal will not allow me to download them at this time. But they are so sensational (in my terms anyway!) that I shall certainly be inserting them as soon as possible.
Today I have spent a lazy day not even wanting to see the after end of the ship; the dirty carborundum dust inches thick over everything, the black greasy oil in the bilge below the depressingly empty spot which quite recently was so proudly occupied by ‘JP2’. I think to myself desperately:      Will I ever get it all back to its lovely pristine condition?
On Monday I shall face it all again and begin the fight back to normal.


Sarah said...

You made it! Well done you and Sue. If you're still at Stretton in early November we'll see you there.

Sarah on Chertsey

Anonymous said...

Well done both of you. Do hope you get boat fixed up and back together soon. phil and sally