With our week on the slipway complete, Wand'ring bark was winched back into the murky waters of Hawne Basin, but not before the reinstatement of the weed hatch had been confirmed. That oversight would result in a quick submarine impersonation, and that would never do!
Back into the water
We followed a slow moving Hawne, the Coombswood Trust's workboat, though the Gosty Hill Tunnel. Their progress was hampered were by the Joey they were towing over to Wolverhampton for the BCN clean up weekend. In classic towing style they were trying to keep the unmanned Joey on a straight course using a length of chain dragged from the stern. The other time honored approach is a bucket on a rope.
Free of our own butty we were fairly scooting along and were soon past them and were half way through the Netherton Tunnel before Hawne's very unsubtle Ford Transit engine bellowed into the western portal behind us - sending waves of noise and vibration all down the bore.
With Factory Locks closed till May we scooted round to Brades where I unwisely let myself drift to the offside and promptly picked up a bladeful of poly bags. A quick trip down the weed hatch was enough to clear the problem but it was soon apparent that the water temperature was little above freezing. Hmm, I muttered to myself, I really hope I don't pick up anything nasty today because I don't fancy having my hands in the water for long.
We met Rob from Hawne at Brades. He had jumped on a bus at the Tividale Aqueduct and arrived just in time to set the Staircase pair for us.
New towpath at Deepfields
We pressed on through Tipton to Coseley where extensive towpath improvements were underway, work that went on fairly continuously Wednesfield on the Wyrley and Essington. The works near New Cross Hospital seem to be extensive, needing a double width pontoon which was anchored mid channel and barely left enough deep water to get by. Its the first time I have seen a wide beam on the BCN, even if it is made of is single narrow pontoon hinged in the middle.
Works in the Wyrley and Essington at Wolverhampton
We made good progress till Short Heath where the debris started to get really bad. We weaved in and out of the obstacles but I guess it was inevitable that we would come a cropper in the end. Just as we approached Lane Head Bridge we snagged what we later found out was a double duvet. We poled ourselves to the visitor moorings and made a tentative foray down the weedhatch. Wow the water was cold! A bit of prodding revealed a nasty bundle round the prop and attempts to saw the stuffing off were spectacularly unsuccessful. However, I have never been defeated and have found that with patience most things can be removed. In this case we managed to haul a section through the weedhatch and so started to clear it out of the water. The stuffing was best removed by tearing small bits by hand whilst the cotton cover was best removed with a serrated knife. In the end we cleared in in about 45 mins which left just enough daylight to get to Sneyd Junction where we moored on the offside of a workboat on the water point.
A refurbished Pelsall Works Bridge
Having woken early I was up and away by 7.00am and by the time Dan emerged at 11.00 we were through Aldridge and just 40 minuted from our mooring at Longwood,
It was good to give the boat a pre season shake down and I identified a few issues which need to be addressed before we set of for our 2018 summer cruise in a few weeks.