Thursday 2 June 2011

BCN Challenge 2011, Part One - Wolverhampton

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

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.


Lesley NB Caxton said...

A great post Chris.

Anonymous said...

Ah, such fond memories - so looking forward to the next installment...

Sue, nb Indigo Dream

Halfie said...

I really, really want to do this!

Andy Tidy said...

You really, really should!

Unknown said...

Hello Captain Ahab
I am contacting you on behalf of Kingston upon Thames U3A (University of the Third Age) I hope maybe you have heard of the organisation? It is registered charity set up and run by older people to provide activities to help keep us from fading away from lack of social, mental or physical activity. We have close to 1,000 members and a range of 100 differing groups.

Now to the point we are updating our website and have been looking for some masthead pictures and came up with your panoramic shot of Kingston Bridge on google images. We would very much like your permission to use this and possibly one or two other of the panoramic shots we have since seen on your website.
if you could agree to this either as a charitable gesture or on the basis of a contribution to one of your watery tales we would be happy to do so.

Sorry if I'm putting this all over the place I'm not used to using blogs!

Andy Tidy said...

I am very familiar with the U3A - my father in law is an enthusiastic member. Feel free to use my images as you will - just credit them to me.

Unknown said...

Hello Captain,

Could you please contact me at as I wish to request permission to use use one of your photos in a "then & now" style on my flickr page.



PaulV said...

Hi Andy. It was good to speak with you at the Canal festival today, and I was fascinated by the idea of lost bits and features of canals. I mentioned a strange little tributary which used to spur off the Wyrley & Essington canal in Pelsall. If you head from Yorks Bridge to Yorks Foundry Bridge, then continue a short distance until the canal bends sharply to the left, on the outer edge of that bend there used to be (around the early 60s) a small brook which ran off from the canal, crossed by a small bridge. This brook then ran parallel to and between the present day Dovedale Avenue and St.John's Road, following the line of the present day Gilpin Crescent, ending at Norton Road. Even back then, this tributary was mostly dried up. This was before the Ryders Hayes estate was built. Within a few years, the small bridge had gone, and the out bank of the bend rebuilt to remove all trace of where the tributary used to run off. Probably because of the planned Ryders Hayes estate. Anyway, I hope this makes sense - it's been surprisingly tricky to describe! Just another piece in the jigsaw of lost bits of waterway! By the way, the chilli jam is delicious - our local councillor (Marco Longhi) will be looking to buy some from you tomorrow!

Andy Tidy said...

I hope you get to read this. Now I read your account your reference to Gilpin Avenue made me realise that you were referring to Gilpins Arm, built in 1794 to serve some collieries.
I have since had a look at the site and concluded that Gilpins Crescent either follows the canal course of lies immediately beside it. It was really great to met you at the Pelsall Festival.

PaulV said...

Thanks, Andy. Armed with the name "Gilpin's Arm" (which explains the name of Gilpin Crescent, where I previously lived), a bit of Googling turned up quite a lot of information about the history of Gilpin's Arm and the associated mine workings. Fascinating stuff, which explains some of the local features in that vicinity, around the early-to-mid 60s, before the Ryders Hayes estate was built over it all. Thanks again for firing my imagination and reactivating some childhood memories! I'll look forward to chatting again at the next Pelsall Canal Festival!

Anonymous said...

Grew up right by end of wombridge branch of canal. Came a cross a couple of photos of possible interest to you lkyriorhere

especially the briefly uncovered tunnel near church in 1965 jerel Whittingham

Jerel Whittingham said...

Grew up right by end of wombridge branch of canal. Came a cross a couple of photos of possible interest to you here:

especially the briefly uncovered tunnel near church in 1965

jerel Whittingham

Anonymous said...

hello great photos of the gravel barge on the trent may l please use the 2 photos for my free website

Anonymous said...

hello captain
could l please use the 2 photos of the gravel barge for my free site l will of course give credit to you and your site
thank you