Maximus Bonus Feb 2 - 5th 2003
Route : King's Bromley - Stone - King's Bromley
I had just reconciled myself to a boatless 6 months when our friend and co-owner David Ferguson asked if we could crew for him. After mulling it over for about 3 milliseconds we agreed.
Sunday 2nd Feb Kings Bromley - The Ashtree
The trip to Kings Bromley was complicated by the A5 being shut and the diversions not being signposted you are just turfed off the main road into the lanes and left to you own devices. It seems that just about the whole of the area east of Brum is one big road works.
Once we we at the marina it didn't take long to get underway and Dave did an excellent job of reversing out in the strong wind. We left just as a squall with sleet rushed through, but once that passed we had a pleasant trundle up to the Ashtree taking about 1 1/2 to do the trip. As soon as we started the engine it was apparent that the new soundproofing fitted by David Darvill was very effective, I had to readjust my audible calibration of noise/ engine speed. Just as we arrived at The Ashtree the weather turned bad so we were lucky to have the best weather window. One inside the warm and busy pub we enjoyed good meal and drinks for just over £15 - a bargain.
Monday 3rd Ashtree - Weston
For some reason we were up early and were underway by 8 am it was a crisp but pleasant morning. We made an emergency shopping stop in Rugely as Dave had forgotten the bacon. We moored just south of Br 66 which is really handy for Safeway. Whilst essential comestibles were being sought I set to and changed the tacho and hour meter for the new one kindly sent by Barrus. To my pleasant surprise it was dead easy all done and tested in less than 10 minutes. Once we left Rugely the weather closed in and got decidedly unpleasant going past Cannock Chase with horizontal sleet. Buy the time we got to Great Hayward it had packed in and was quite nice again.
We met Dave's parents there and had a nice lunch at the Lockhouse at Great Haywood. The menu is limited but its a warm pleasant friendly place. After lunch we set off to play on Tixall wide, but as I swung under the bridge onto the S&W we saw that Anglo Welsh had moored all their hire boats with the bows halfway across the cut. Threading my way through the eye of the needle they had left was a challenge in the wind but we managed without hitting anything. At Tixall we did a wide turn and gave the engine some full load running before heading back to the junction to water up. We caused quite a bit of confusion emerging from the S&W as Gailey is still painted on as our home port. People thought the Baswich stoppage had been lifted.
After that we had was a pleasant run up to Weston and were pleased to note that Weston lock had been fixed. We moored in our usual spot just south of bridge 80. Later that evening Captain Beekey paid a visit who despite our best efforts managed not to get baked beans on his shirt. After that we walked through the snow to the Saracens head (for some reason ignored by Nicholsons) for some boat talk and Marstons Pedigree. The captain was last seen heading off into the blizzard in the direction of Kings Bromley (has he been seen since?)
Tuesday 4th Weston - Stone - Weston
There was about an inch of snow on the front deck when I peered out and Dave set off on search of photographs in the dawn light. There was a cold raw wind straight down the cut, this could make winding at Stone tricky and meant we had to d without the tonneau for the return trip. Despite the gale Dave did a good job of turning us round in the winding hole and we backed the boat to moor in "Pole position" close to town.
Whilst Chris and Dave went shopping in Stone I had a "Far Canal" moment. I had noticed we were getting over 15V on the domestic circuit while under way and that the batteries needed a lot of topping up. So suspecting bad connections at started to investigate. As soon as I put a spanner to the negative connection common to both the engine and domestic systems it sheared off. This killed both the started and domestic systems "OH Far Canal !" The bolt that sheared must have been cracked for years as it was rusty almost all the way across the break and had been literally hanging by the thread. Fortunately I was able to make a temporary connection on a second stud. After that I decided to leave well alone until back at base.
At Aston Lock I had another learning experience, we had picked something up on the prop but as we had a gale from astern I decided that the shelter of the lock would be a good place to go down the weed hatch. So once the lock was empty I moved forward a bit, shut down the engine and went down the weed hatch. Whilst engrossed in hauling out a load of weed the boat started to drift back - and the top gate is rather leaky. Dave shouted a warning but I just had to stay under the cold shower while I finished off and reassembled the weedhatch.( No I hadn't taken the precaution of bringing the boat pole aft to fend off) And yes even under those circumstances I double checked it was down properly. Then the engine didn't start first time ever but I couldn't hear a thing and was rushing it. After some swearing it fired up and I got out of there. We couldn't have shipped much water (my head deflected most of it) because the bilge pump didn't lift anything out. After picking up the crew I retired to the cabin to change into dry clothes and thaw. Back at Weston we decided against the walk to the Woolpack as it was still icy under foot and had a very nice meal at the Saracens head.
Wednesday 5th Weston - Kings Bromley
It was a cold night but there was no ice at Weston so we set off early as the sun rose on a quiet and clear day. We started to hit patches of ice as we went south and it got quite thick near Hoo Mill lock and I had trouble getting the crew ashore. By the time we got to Great Haywood I was getting a bit concerned but below the lock there was very little ice.
We made a fast run back to base where Ian from Streethay Wharf sorted out our electrical problems before we set off home.
In the 3 1/2 days we didn't see another moving boat. Were we mad to go
out in that weather - NO !