Shadows in the Darkness
9th April 2011
Halfie and Jan are on a tour of the BCN, and this offered a perfect opportunity to meet up.
The Shadows are gathering
We settled on the Wolverhampton 21 as a suitable site for a rendezvous, with Shadow emerging from the dark bowels of the North Birmingham remaindered canals, and me making a dash across the Black Country after work. As it turned out Shadow was delayed by the inevitable crud round the prop, so Halfie and Jan entered the top lock at 6.00pm, just as I was driving round Wolverhampton's ring road.
The plan was to assist Shadow down the flight so I parked 2/3 of the way down near the railway viaduct, a 15 minute walk back from the junction with the Staffs and Worcester Canal.
I strode up the towpath, opening all the top gates I could and finally spying Shadow emerging from lock four. After some quick greetings I grabbed a windlass and off we went, hoping for a 2.5 hour descent and clearing the flight before the spring sun set beneath the western horizon.
All went well till we reached the incinerator, when Jan smelled smoke. But it wasn't smoke from the huge canalside chimney, it was coming from Shadow. Jan repeatedly commented about the increased smoke in the locks and we finally lifted the deck only to be greeted by clouds of smoke and steam - the engine was cooking! The rocker cover was leaking oil and the level had dropped way down and the engine must have been getting tight.
One hot engine
We grabbed a mug of tea whilst the smoke dissipated and then Halfie undid the coolant cap. How he managed to avoid the column of steam is beyond me - the guy has fast reactions as he dropped the cap and avoided a bad scalding. We replaced the water, topped up the oil and when the engine finally stopped bubbling and popping it was restarted and all was fine. Diesel engines ability to take punishment always amazes me.
Halfie and Jam - with The Capt at the helm
We restarted after about 40 mins but by then all the safety margin of time had gone. There was no way we could get to the bottom even by using every last ray of dying sunlight. There was nothing for it - on with the tunnel light. But it wasn't to be - the light wasn't working to we ran the last three locks in almost total darkness, finally emerging onto the Staffs and Worcester at 9.15.
Out of light - doh!
The evening was rounded off with a huge plate of sausages, bacon mushroom and mash, all washed down with a bottle of beer. Evenings don't get much better than this - boating, BCN, bangers and beer - all in the very best of company.