Friday 27 June 2014

The long haul

To Birmingham Floating Market
June 2014

After all that effort this was the first proper trip out with the butty - Calf Heath to central Birmingham for the Summer Floating Market.

Leaving the marina

Having crept into Cover and dusk we were off again at 6.30am for a rendezvous with Martin, one of our regular relief crew, at the bottom of the Wolverhampton 21. He arrived at 8.15 just as we were rising in lock 21 and was straight in the business of keeping the boats moving.

Good going on the Staffs and Worcs

As it happened all the locks were for us and in spite of some slow progress between the locks we still made it up in a very creditable 2hrs 15 mins.

Towing in Wolverhampton

Towing  from Wolverhampton to Tipton was a bit challenging, with a narrow weedy channel waiting to catch us is we strayed off the limited navigation channel. After one of two incidents where The Jam Butty decided to try and declare UDI we dropped the butty onto a 40 foot line and Martin steered. This was we made strong progress abd Wand'ring dark was better able to bight into the water and pull both boats along as at a good pace.

Jam Butty being towed through Coseley Tunnel

At Factory Locks we were caught by a hire boat who decided to but some jam - over £30 worth! A lovely bonus and a great family group. Down on the New Main Line we reverted to the cross straps and the hire boat passed us at the Gower Branch. A bit further along we came upon The Tea Junction which had broken down and was being inched to the city by another trade and we effected what was probably our only ever overtaking maneuver when towing the butty!

Catching and passing The Tea Junction (ex Hatherton Belle)

And so we arrived in central Birmingham at 6.00pm, winded at Old Turn Junction and took our spot by Sheepcote Bridge and prepared for the weekend's trading activity. Foreast for Friday is poor but picking up.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Jam Butty reporting for service

Ready to Birmingham's Floating Market (just)
June 2014

Its hard to believe that its just a month ago that we took delivery of the Montgomery - so much has changed!

I do have a bad habit of setting myself overly stretching targets and the preparation of The Jam Butty is a prime example. Originally we were thinking about the Black Country Boating Festival in September as a probably launch event but then along cane the Floating Market and the schedule was advanced. 

I figured I could get it done but has no idea how close it would be. I have spent most of my spare time working on the butty and crucially we managed to arrange for the sign writing this week.

This week I spent Friday and Saturday on the task and progressed to the point that the butty is fit for purpose, albeit with quite a lot of bits and bobs to be finished off later on

Most of Friday was spent constructing an adjustable floor which allows the trading platform to operate at 6", 12" and 18" above the waterline, depending on the height of the adjacent towpath. The floor rests on two side rails held up with cut down lock gate bolts rescued from the skip at the Bradley works and the middle rests on the top plank. This top planj rests on a ladder like contraption at the front end and Dan came up with the idea of an extendable box within a box to offer a stable and sturdy adjustable rear support.

The raised floor at max height

Saturday was then a day devoted to painting and the manufacture of some sheeting to cover the hold. I recycled the heavy duty tarp used to protect the paint from the rain and fashioned side cloths which look rather stylish when raised. Then there is the main tarp which goes over the top and provides most of the protection.

I also fixed the security bolts to the cabin and the attachments for the front fender.

The paint on the bow flashes is a bit of a nod to Ernie Thomas, who ran a huge fleet of day boats and was the founder of the basin there we moor. He used two yellow crescent moons and a squashed diamond shape in the middle but in his case the background was red, not green as I have used. I dont suppose anyone will ever notice this but its a nice touch I think.

The Jam Butty, coming to a canal near you!

The elum (tiller) defeated me. It came painted Raddle Red and I simply ran out of time to get it completed. This aspect will have to be a work in progress for a few weeks.

So there we have it - The Jam Butty all ready for its first outing on Thursday when we head into Birmingham via the Wolverhampton 21. I have every expectation that it will be the head turner we plan as several of the moorers at Calf Heath have come over to me to show me their photos of Montgomery, almost as if its a new grandchild!

Thursday 19 June 2014

Sign Writing Montgomery

Sign Writing
June 2014

Sign writing, like plastering, is one of those activities which is generally best left to the experts.

I know my limitations and I can't sign write to the standard needed to make the most of The Jam Butty so I called on the services of Jim McCormack ( Jim applied the lettering to Wand'ring Bark seven years ago and I have always been delighted with the work he produces so I had no hesitation about using him again.

Jim worked like a Trojan for over six hours today and this was the end result:

 A retro Cratch Plate

 Jim McCormack in action

Stern Bends and cabin sides

What do you think?

Sunday 15 June 2014

Just in case you were wondering...

We have been a bit busy
June 2014

Sorry for the lack of posts recently.  Its all been a bit frantic this week with no time for blogging.

Its now less than two weeks till the official launch of The Jam Butty and we have been pressing on with its preparation. Friday was spend in an orgy of sawdust as the cratch was fitted, the false cratch constructed and the adjustable floor installed.

Saturday was a day to recover at home, but still included a visit to Montgomery and then Sunday was spent on detailed painting making good for Jim the sign writer in Thursday.

So this is a last glimpse of the pre sign written boat. By the time I post again it will be resplendent with Montgomery on the stern bends, The Jam Butty on the cabin sides and Jams, Chutneys and Marmalades on the Cratch.

Watch this space.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Moving on from Etruria

Moving on from Etruria
June 2014

After a frantic weekend at the Etruria Festival we took our leave on Monday morning, saying goodbye to Barry and Sandra who will be heading north and out of our radius for a couple of months till me meet up again in September at the Black Country Boating Festival.

Goodbye for a couple of months! (selfie)

I always find it odd when a festival dissipates. One minute its all there and the next everyone has dribbled away and suddenly you find yourself the only boat / tent on the ground.

And so we set off north, returning to base "the long way round" via Middlewich and Nantwich. No matter how many times we pass through the Harecastle Tunnel its always a bit of an event. This time the tunnel keeper handed us the usual instruction sheet and given the tragedy last week I made sure Helen was aware of the alarm code should anything go wrong. Of course, all went well and we were soon passing through Red Bull Junction and into the top end of Wheelock Hill.

Rode Heath

Steady progress was made and we ended up in Rode Heath where we met something of a Roving Traders convention - The Justina and Mark (Rosette Boat) who are a victim of their own success, Vapours and another boat selling canal craft nick nacks. Whilst we didnt open for business we did have some jam on the roof which was purchased by a boat following us down - all seven jars of it!

Justina, Mark and their dog just before my windlass hit him! Sorry.....

The second day of our travels took us to Wheelock for lunch where the horesboat Maria was moored and we paused in the Cheshire Cheese where we had a pub lunch washed down with a pint of Hydes Ale. Not a bad little waterside watering hole if you are in the area.

Jacqueline - Ducks 2 Water

Then its was on to Middlewich and into the Middlewich Branch via the diminutive Wardle Canal. Having looked at the weather forecast we ditched the plan to visit the Weaver and settled on a more relaxed trip back so stopped early mooring just in front of Jacqueline on Ducks 2 Water.

Monday 2 June 2014

The sun shines on Etruria

Etruria Historic Boat Gathering
May / June 2014

After last weeks endless rain the weekend emerged like an oasis in the desert, a brief pocket of sunshine in succession of North Altantic Lows. As if my magic the clouds rolled away and we were treated to glorious two days without so much as a spot of rain - and the locals descended on the Etruria site in their thousands. And wow, did they like their Jam!

We were besieged on both days and sold most of our stocks - there was certainly little in reserve when we packed away at the end on Sunday.

This event is rather different to the normal event as the canal boats are the stars. All the old historic boats were there, some gleaming and others live Victoria, battered from their ongoing life as commercial fuel boats. In fact Victoria made the trip up from London in an amazing five days.

Our mooring for the weekend was immediately beside the junction so we had a grandstand view of all the old boats winding into and out of the Caldon Canal. 

This morning we were woken to the crack of ancient Listers and Nationals, their engines shaking us awake accompanied my a deafening bellow, chimneys belching clouds of diesel smoke. Heady stuff.

And so we bade our host and neighbours goodbye and set off for Rode Heath as we journey back to Calf Heath the "long way round".

There were also some "odd" craft around - a pedallo heading for Oxford:

And there there was the hireboat heading to the Caldon complete with multiple masts which can be raised and lowered by sliding the hatch - both genius and bonkers at the same time....

This is sort of time lapse:

I stand in awe - almost as barking as me!