Thursday and Friday 28th and 29th September; Dunhampstead to Droitwich Spa Marina
After all that rain on Wednesday night it was a beautiful morning. We had failed to notice any noise from the railway during the night, so everything was good apart from the rush-hour M5 grumbling away in the background.
We only have to go the short distance to the marina today, so Dave took the opportunity to touch up the blacking on the starboard side. I pottered around inside cleaning and deciding what to leave in the galley cupboards and what to take home, as we will probably only be back for a short cruise before we winterise.
It was well after 10.30 before we tootled up to Hanbury junction, enjoying the sunshine and the start of the autumn colours. Kingfishers were flashing up and down the canal too.
We turned at the junction and reversed back to moor for lunch. Now with the port side by the towpath Dave could finish touching up the blacking. Strangely the port side always seems to need less work than the starboard side. I got the bike out and cycled into Droitwich for some shopping in Waitrose. Then we waited a while with a cup of tea – there were volunteers on the Hanbury locks but a boat had been coming up the staircase locks when I cycled by, so we judged when they should be coming into the top lock before we rounded the junction.
We had judged it well! They were half-way up the lock as we arrived. We were soon on our way down. The top two locks have side ponds in operation, which are used to conserve water. You start by emptying the lock into the side pond, and when that is full you close those paddles and then finish emptying the lock as normal. The half lock-full that is sent into the side pond is used to start filling the lock for the next boat up, rather than being lost to the lower level.
The volunteer operated the top side paddles; when the side pond was full he closed the paddles, then we opened the gate paddles to finish emptying the lock. I did the side paddles for the second lock while the other volunteer did the gates. At the bottom lock, the volunteers always suggest the crew gets on board so the steerer doesn’t need to pull in to pick them up.
We pulled into the wharf at the marina to refuel and settle up for the winter mooring fees. As it was already late afternoon they suggested we moor next to the wharf for the night; there is an electric hook-up, the elsan point is conveniently close, and you can bring your car almost alongside to load up your bags – a real bonus as the forecast is poor for the morning. The view from the side hatch is better than on the pontoons too.
I switched on the Mikuni for some hot water, but it failed. Dave discovered that one of the batteries in the controller had leaked, but after replacing them it still didn’t work; it is likely that the leakage caused damage. We walked up to the Eagle and Sun for a carvery. The man in front of me made a bit of a scene because the Yorkshire puds were cold, but that didn’t stop me having one. It was tepid, but gravy soon sorted that out. The meal was OK, but nothing special. 2 miles and 3 locks today.
The following morning we loaded the car – luckily the rain had stopped – and sorted the cassette, rubbish and recycling before moving to our pontoon. Oh yes, about the title for this post; it was not the rain that got me wet. With the slight breeze pushing us towards the wharf, and us needing to get out past moored boats, I elected to get off and use my short pole to push the bow out. There is a nice little spot below the gunwale where the pole fits snugly. But …. in the micro-second I started to step back the pole slipped and in I went. Right down – my feet didn’t touch bottom. There was no danger of being crushed by the boat and I got to the side unaided but by golly wet clothes are heavy! Now I know why we always use lifejackets on rivers. Within seconds Dave and the chap from the office were there to haul me out so we didn’t need to find an alternative rescue method. Luckily the water was almost warm and I didn’t get at all cold – though I would have done if I’d gone all the way up to the marina showers. So it was tepid water in our shower for me! After a sit down and a cup of tea I was fine but still I did the sensible thing and let Dave move the boat on his own.
Unfortunately all my clothes were packed apart from the trousers and top I intended to travel in. So it was flying commando all the way home … or is that too much information?
95 miles 2¾ furlongs (82m 3½f narrow canals, 1¼ furlongs broad canal, 12m 6¼ f large river)
130 narrow locks, 2 broad locks, 3 large (river) locks
9 tunnels (Curdworth, Factory, Curzon St, Ashted, Summit, Netherton, Dunsley, Cookley, Dunhampstead).
1 swing bridge
20 nights on board
Waterways (new waters in bold); Coventry canal, Birmingham and Fazeley, B&F Digbeth branch, Grand Union (Birmingham and Warwick junction canal), BCN Main Line, Gower Branch, BCN Old Main line, Engine Arm, Tipton Canal, Dudley canal no 2, Stourbridge canals (main line), Staffs and Worcester, River Severn, Worcester and Birmingham, Droitwich Junction canal.