Bosley Lock 12 – MIlton – Etruria: 24½ miles, 9 locks, 1 tunnel
Two boats were breasted up at the tap so the Captain held the boat beside the towpath until the boats moved off. Then Cleddau slid across to the water point and prepared to fill the tank. As usual the hose pipe needed for delivering the water supply to the water tank was fished out of the gas locker at the bow. The first of two planned wash loads was churning in the washing machine when the tell-tale gurgles from the front deck indicated that the tank was full. The hose pipe was being tidied away when a small cruiser pulled in behind to fill up a large water cylinder. In an effort to move away from the water point quickly the Captain flicked the bow rope from off the bollard – and in so doing flicked the gas locker lid off the bow down into the canal’s murky water…
Some items vital to navigation, a windlass for example, can be purchased relatively easily from a chandlery. Not so a gas locker lid. A replacement would have to be manufactured to fit the space. So much for recently greasing the hinges to make lifting the heavy lid easier. The only way forward was to mount a rescue and retrieval mission.
The Captain located the sea magnet from a shelf in the engine room – and began to fish. After several attempts there was a catch – but the magnetic force was too weak to haul the metal lid through the water back to the surface.
Next boat hooks were deployed to try to turn the lid onto its side, with no success.
Then the ladder (the base of the gangplank) was brought from the roof, lowered into the water and secured by its retaining rope to the boat’s anchor which is stored on the front deck. Then came the decision: “I’ll have to go in,” said the Captain. “Find my painting gear.”
Changed into (very) old trainers, shirt and trousers, over the side the Captain went, one hand on the ladder rungs, the other on the boat hook. The ladder sank down into the mud before stabilising.
“I know where it is, but I can’t reach it. I’ll have to go under.” (Surely this was not on the day’s plan…?) Eyes closed, mouth closed the Captain dunked under the water and scrabbled around. He resurfaced, empty handed, no metal treasure recovered…
Sea magnet marker line checked, deep breath taken, eyes and mouth closed, and down he went again. The water swirled above his head – and then up he came, heavy gas locker lid successfully recovered from the deep!
An immediate hot shower and a hosing down of implements brought the episode to a close. The ‘swimming togs’ went into the washing machine, the water tank was topped up – and Cleddau and crew continued their morning (now afternoon) cruise none the worse for wear, though somewhat shocked that a good thing (greasing locker hinges) and a quick thing (a flick of a rope) had led to an underwater adventure…
“I can’t believe you didn’t photograph every moment of that,” was a complaint addressed to Boatwif. Apologies, readers, for the absence of pictorial record. Reassuringly the Captain has suffered no ill effects.
Onwards on Tuesday, being passed by a man walking six (or was it seven?) skinny dogs, past an unperturbed heron, steered by a guest boater, past Flirty Gertie and onward at Hardings Wood Junction to the north portal of Harecastle Tunnel.
Stoke-on-Trent. It’s about five miles from the southern portal of Harecastle Tunnel to Etruria, where the Caldon Canal bears off, heading eastwards towards Leek and ultimately (no longer) to Uttoxeter.
Onwards on Wednesday along the Caldon, destination the Emma Bridgewater factory in Hanley. The Cheshire One, a keen lock operator, tackled the Bedford Street Staircase Locks with gusto. Her recent HALOUS participation had proved useful training. Up the Planet Lock (why the name?) and into Hanley. After the pottery excursion (more on that next time) the plan was to wind (turn around) and head back to Etruria for an overnight mooring. Simple – but not quite…
The Captain, a keen planner, had spotted on an electronic map a winding hole just past Bridge 12. And there it was, a widening in the canal and a distinct indentation in the foliage, just after Bridge 12. First attempt at winding proved futile as the bow was too far beyond the bay. The Captain reversed and neatly positioned the bow in the widest section of the turning area. Slowly the boat began to turn – then to go no further. Stubbornly bow and stern refused to budge.
“Come to the back deck,” the Captain ordered. (So this was a weight distribution issue then…)
Next the Cheshire One was summonsed to the back too.
The engine revving and tiller waggling continued – to no avail. “We’re stuck,” announced the Captain (obviously!) “Turn on the taps to get rid of the water!”
The boat might have been getting lighter but stubbornly stuck broadside across the canal she remained.
There was pushing and shoving on the boat poles, there was draining of water from the galley and bathroom taps, but without apparent benefit…
Panic thoughts crowded through the mind: would the crew die of thirst before release from the shallows?! Would no help ever arrive…?
Then, round the corner, westbound, came the first of three boats.
Boatwif signalled widely (even wildly) to STOP. Slowly the convoy pulled in and one crew member sauntered along to see what the problem was. “Could you take a rope?” the Captain called. One slender man and a sixteen and a half ton boat stuck in the mud … one man was not going to make any impact.
A second man arrived.
Then a lady – and the boat began to shift.
“It’s all geometry now,” muttered the Captain, organising the tug o’ war teams, three on the stern, three on the mid-rope.
“Your best bet is after Bridge 16A, at The Foxley Pub,” advised the skipper of the third boat in the waiting convoy.
Moral: never assume that boating the canals is a guarantee of trouble-free cruising!
Stats since Higher Poynton: 96¼ miles, 1 tunnel and 89 locks
Monkton Moments*: 2 (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)