Broken bits and boats in queues
Cruising along the Shropshire Union: 10½ miles, 25 locks
No, Cleddau isn’t broken, nor any of the crew. But somehow broken things seemed to dominate activities these last few days.
There was broken sleep to start with: at midnight on the Cheshire One’s first night her alarm clock sprang into life, waking all on board – and there followed some to-ings and fro-ings between front and rear cabin until a couple of hours later sleep returned…
Moored at Market Drayton on Tuesday evening the Captain, Boatwif and the Cheshire One were eating a meal when there was a polite tap on the cabin roof. A boater moored in front worked himself up to ask an enormous favour: could he possibly borrow the pink fishing net … Now over the years this net has caught leaves, apples, the odd shoe, several footballs but never any fish. The reason for the request was novel: the boater had been checking his fuel level and had dropped the diesel cap into the water. It was brass and therefore not likely to be found via a sea magnet. Off the boater went – he was gone a long while – and then he returned the net with an extra layer of reinforcing tape around the handle. Sadly there had been no luck with his fishing and dredging. The Captain, meanwhile, had found a spare diesel cap on board, offered it to the boater, who in turn insisted on giving “your granddaughter” (the Cheshire One) £5 spending money…
Wednesday is Market Day in Market Drayton. Boatwif and the Cheshire One set off for the market, calling first at the boat in front to thank the man for his generous money gift. His face was long, and he waved about a small piece of white plastic, a vital catch on the cassette mechanism of his boat toilet. The nearest supplier was at least a couple of days’ cruising away – and the plastic part wasn’t something Cleddau held on board as a spare. “If things come in threes,” he moaned, “what will be next?”
Up to town. Market stalls covered the square, were laid out under the historic Buttercross market shelter and stretched right down the whole length of Cheshire Street. Meat, vegetables, cheeses, brooms, socks, flowers, handbags – whatever! The £5 note was burning a hole in the Cheshire One’s purse and at the far end of Cheshire Street a small but perfect toy shop was found. There was musing and browsing, price enquiries and then a decision made: “a hand-painted horse to remind me of being on the boat, Granny.”
Time to move on, towards Audlem. Water tank filled at the services it was onwards… The canal was quiet, with few if any approaching boats. There was steering practice, some in-cabin dancing practice and then a speedy lunch as the Adderley Flight (5 locks) hove into view. “Something’s broken at Lock 4,” called another boater from what turned out to be a bit of a queue, “there are boats backed up all the way down.”
The collar at the base of the Lock 4 top gate had split. This feature allows the gate to swing when the water is level. The replacement was too large and the C&RT emergency repair team had strapped up the gate to prevent it dislodging, wedged the offside and sent one of the team off with the broken collar to get it repaired at a forge in Market Drayton. If the gate had fallen a gantry, block and tackle would be needed to retrieve it, explained the duty C&RT personnel.
Every lock in the flight had a boat in it; every pound (stretch of water between the locks) had two boats in it. Time passed, two hours, nearly three. The Captain, desperate for a job to do, located the broken on-board hand-held dust collector and proceeded to work away at it, refitting the two major sections together and starting on a plan to improve the dust filtration system.
In due course, mid-afternoon, boats began to move. A single-hander ahead was grateful for any help – valiantly Cleddau’s extra crew member worked her passage, cranking paddles and pushing gates eight times (over the flight of five).
“Were you held up long?” Boatwif asked a couple of upcoming crews.
“For about three hours,” came back the replies.
The lock flight finally completed Cleddau was moored up on a rural mooring a couple of miles from Audlem. There was not a roof top in sight – and the wind blew.
It was action stations on Thursday morning to prepare for a 15 lock day and a liaison with Techno Son-in-Law.
There were hens and pigs beside the top lock –and boats on the move. By about lock 4 the boats were spacing out – and the arrival of another crew member brought extra muscle. In sunshine and showers the descent continued. Narrow bridge holes, fierce by-washes. Then suddenly it was Audlem. The impressive Mill stands tall and solid. Just beyond is The Shroppie Fly, surely recognisable from many a postcard or waterway feature. Two more locks down, with boats still queuing to come up, there were several visual rewards:
(Moored now at Overwater Marina, near Nantwich, Cheshire)