BCN Challenge 2011
Part One - The start at Wolverhampton
Sat 28th May 8.00 am till 10.30 am
Day One - 34 miles - 84 locks - 16.5 hours
Day One - 34 miles - 84 locks - 16.5 hours
There is far too much material from the 2011 BCN Challenge to cover it off in a couple of days cruising logs. I am therefore indulging myself in an on line wallow on the subject, covering it in bite sized chunks, and including plenty of photo's as I go.
Mr Truth bow hauls WB to the start
You can start the BCN Marathon Challenge wherever you like, so for us that meant an entry via the Wolverhampton 21 - out local entry point to the BCN system. We were already aware that at least one other competitor, Indigo Dream, was starting at this point and we spent ages wondering how to ensure we would be first up in the morning without being ungentlemanly.
Sue and Richard - Indigo Dream (sorry Graham, I seem to have missed you!)
We did consider sneaking two locks up the night before to gain a jump, but were not sure if that would invalidate the whole section, and cost us 27 points. Discretion proved the better part of valour and instead we cruised down to Alderley Junction in the gathering gloom. We moored up on the lock moorings at 8.30 to the surprise of nb Victoria opposite, who thought they had the place to themselves. 30 mins later Indigo Dream arrived from the west and suddenly this quiet junction had turned into Paddys market.
Waiting for the off - note the still unopened envelope!
Belle delivered Jeff to Wolverhampton Racecourse at 10.00pm and we were up to our full fighting weight - Mr Truth - my trusty BCN mucker, Jeff - just back from College in Bournemouth and myself - skipper aka Captain Ahab. It was good to see Sue and Richard from Indigo Dream again, supported by Graham from nb Matilda Rose - three bloggers together, but we were to meet many more as the days unfolded. Bloggers seem to be attracted by the BCN Challenge.
We were awake and making preparations at 6.00am on the Sataurday, ready to a prompt 8.00 am start as it said on the instructions. Bunting was applied and a huge orange flag added to the tiller depicting a house band who's name has more than a passing similarity to my own. Indigo Dream were up and about as well and over mugs of their rather good coffee (who else has a Nespresso machine on board!) it was conceded that as we had arrived first, we would lead the charge up the hill. For our part, we agreed to draw a bottom paddle to pull them up behind us.
Jeff and Mr Truth - the crew
In the event this gentlemanly behaviour didn't really matter because we hit a snag half way up - no water. I had noticed that the pound four locks up was low the night before, but that was nothing to the section between locks 14 and 16. It happened that Wolverhampton Boat Club were out on a collective trip to Pelsall Common and far from being the first boat up that morning , two early risers had gone ahead, Ashted at 6.00am and Sarah Jane at 7.45 - not that they caused the problem I would hasten to add!. They knew all about the Marathon and were happy to let us pass at lock 14, except that the canal was a mere trickle beyond that.
Beached nb Sarah Jane waves us through
Wand'ring Bark has a diminutive draft of just under 24 inches so I work on the principle that if I can get over the cill I can probably manage the pounds. I therefore crept out of the lock and past the now beached Sarah Jane, struggling over the mud and debris whilst Mr Truth let down water - emptying the pound above. It turned into a group endeavour with Indigo Dream haring up to the top and running water off the Wolverhampton Level way above and the skipper of Sarah Jane watering the lower pounds. Of course, the prop fouled debris several times and we struggled over the bottom cill of a couple of locks, but finally we reached pounds where water was plentiful - only 18 inches down!
WB's war flag
We cracked on and emerged triumphant from the top lock No 21 at 10.16 am - a record time of 2 hours 16 mins, beating out previous two hand record by 9 minutes. Not bad with all the time lost in the middle section. Indigo Dream were hard on our tails, powering in two locks behind bolstered by their additional crew.
Ok, 1st objective complete.
We leave Indigo Dream at Horsleyfields as they head out on the Wyrley and Essington, while we make for Tipton and a lock fest beyond. More of that in my next post.