Saturday 14 October 2006

Jeffs birthday bash - to Tixall Wide

14th October 2006
Calf Heath to Tixall Wide
Staffs and Worcester Canal

14 Miles
12 Locks
6 Hours

To celebrate Jeff's 13th birthday we decided on a sleepover with a twist. This year the celebration would be afloat, taking in a boat trip with plenty of locks, a spot of fishing, pizza and monopoly, mooring overnight on Tixall Wide, just before Haywood Junction.

After an early collection of two friends we set sail at 10.00am, making our way first to Gailey and then down to Penkridge. Whilst descending Penkridge lock I unwisely engaged in conversation with a very drunk Water Gypsy who proceeded to tell me his life story in the time it took the water to empty. He told me of how his girlfriend had deserted him, leaving him in favour of her supplier of illicit substances and also taking his boat with them, thus leaving him with an unpowered fibreglass vessel as home. Having told his sorry take he ended with a shrug and observer that "s**t happens". Oh how true he was.

During the next hour or so I had occasional complaints from the lads that it was smelly in the boat, but put that down to over sensitive city boys not being able to cope with the slightly fragrant holding tank system. But no, one of my passengers had managed to turn the flush mechanism of the loo on, and not turned it off after completing his ablutions. Needless to say, the fresh water supply is considerably greater than the capacity of the holding tank and I was suddenly faced with three ashen faced lads telling me that the toilet was overflowing! I dived below and sure enough, a steady stream of water was welling up from the toilet basin - like something from a second rate horror movie. With me frantically bailing out the cascading toilet, Jeff and his friends took command of the boat and brought us into land just short of the aqueduct over the river Sow. The boys laughter was stifled when I pointed out that we had to reduce the level in the tank to below the inspection hatch and proceeded to implement a chain of buckets, discharging a large quantity of "toxic waste" into the hedgerow. Not a nice job. Whilst we emptied about a third of the tank, many gallons found their way into the bilge, necessitating the cutting of an access hatch the next weekend and much unpleasant mopping out. Not a task I wish to repeat!

After the enforced delay we finally made it to Tixall just before sunset, and dropped out rods into the water. Result - one small perch. Not much but better than nothing.

Apart from a rather soggy floor and damp atmosphere the remainder of the day passed uneventfully.

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