Thursday, 21 June 2012

Jubilee in Birmingham

A day aboard Jubilee
June 2012

I was offered a last boating hurrah before my operation, and I accepted like shot.

Camp Hill Locks

Halfie has been moving his new narrowboat Jubilee around the Midlands for several weeks and Saturday night found him at the top of Camp Hill Locks looking for a bit of help to get it to the top of the North Stratford.

So Sunday morning found me walking up the Camp Hill flight and into the BW compound to join Halfie for the day. 

Jubilee in Camp Hill Locks

After a good look at Halfie's new acquisition we set off, making light of the top few locks but then a problem - a boat which had started down an hour and a half ahead of us was stationary above the bottom lock. It transpired that the pound between Garrison, Camp Hill and Ashted has been drained overnight and was now impassable with boats stuck at the bottom of the Camp Hill and Ashted flights.


The crew of the boat ahead had informed BW and then settled in for the duration establishing a base camp on the lockside complete with camping chairs and a table. I was advised that the Garrison back pump was working and no doubt BW were, at that very moment, opening the paddles at the top of the Camp Hill flight. Fat chance - I tend to lean towards the maxim that "Heaven helps those that help themselves" so borrowed Halfie's bike and set off to open the paddles from the Catherine De Barnes pound myself.

The pound to be filled is long, maybe a mile or so when you allow for Typhoo Basin, so filling it would be no small job. In the end we ran the paddles for about 50 mins, which raised the level by about two feet and provided enough water to float the boats. Now here is the thing - with all the paddles raised to flood the bottom pound the last thing I expected was for the boat at the bottom lock to try and lock themselves down till the flow had been brought to a stop. But that's exactly what they did and surprise, surprise, when the top paddles were closed the water level rose rapidly and poured over and round the lock, threatening to swamp them. Halfie tried to assist by closing his paddles but promptly found himself in the same predicament and I made a mad dash down the hill dropping all the paddles as fast as I could. By the time I reached him the towpath was awash with about six inches of water! Thank goodness we had mobile phones.

Traffic jam at the foot of the Ashted flight

By the time we left the Camp Hill flight I would like to say that BW was on site having responded to the call for help. Sadly that wasn't the case and left to their own devices the hapless crew would probably be there still!

 Halfie sucking canal juice at Ashted Locks

But that wasn't the end of the tale. Having had a quick tour of Typhoo Basin we approached the Ashted flight and found an Alvechurch boat tied up with its engine cover raised. We were told that they had tried to leave the lock and became stuck on the silt scour. To try and free themselves they flushed a lock of water through but didn't realise that the engine hole has an air vent on each side. The water swirling out of the bottom gate paddles poured in from both sides and before they knew what was happening the engine bay way filled to the brim - covering batteries and the engine right up to the air filter on the top.

Having pumped the bay dry the hirers were trying to get the water out of the air intake with a rag. Halfie rustled up a bit of plastic pipe and siphoned out a fair bit but to no avail. Water had entered some or all the cylinders and there was no way it was going to turn over, let alone fire up. Time for them to call the engineer.

Mural on the Farmers Bridge flight Birmingham

With the trauma's of Digbeth behind us we made good progress up the Ashted flight, the paths lined with yellow flowers. Then it was the historic Farmers Bridge locks, which are always interesting and easy to use, before refuelling at the Service Boat moored at Old Turn Junction.

 Farmers Bridge Locks, Birmingham

There followed a very pleasant three hours as we cruised the Birmingham Worcester Canal to Kings Norton Junction and then down the North Stratford Canal through Brandwood Tunnel and on past Lyons Boatyard to bridge five, where the Jubilee will start its journey to its new home in Milton Keynes. The time flew by as we discussed everything under the sun, and then some. I steered and Halfie provides a steady stream of refreshment. All in all a very pleasant way to end what started as a somewhat fraught trip.

Jubilee is a lovely boat, fitted out by her previous owner who was clearly an accomplished carpenter and achieved an end result which eclipses many professionals. Nice boat Halfie!

1 comment:

Halfie said...

You tell the story much better than I. Thanks for all your help.