Thursday 12 May 2016

Tagging onto a BCNS Explorer Cruise

Rushall to Moorcroft
May 2016

I think its fair to say that we are seeing more boating traffic on the Northern BCN than ever before, a sate of affairs which is in no small part due to the BCNS Explorer Cruises which offer a guided tour to the lesser visited parts of the BCN. That said, you will still probably travel for days on end and never see a moving boat.

Joining the Explorer Cruise at Longwood Boat Club

Anyway, these tours are led by Stuart and Marie Sherratt and they try to offer a good mix of cruising and visits to sites of local interest, For several years I have led a guided "lost canal" walk and after a few experimental routes we seem to have settled on the Bradley Locks and the Gospel Oak Branch. This route works well because there is lots to see and at the end we are treated to a visit the the CRT lock gate factory in Bradley followed by a stroll to The Gospel Oak Pub for a pint and then a wander back along the moorings at the bottom.

I normally squeeze the walk into a working day classing it as "community activity" but with my new found freedom coupled with a frustrating dearth of boating I linked into the Explorer convoy as it passed our home moorings in Aldridge. With Helen unwell I pressed an enthusiastic friend from Church to serve as crew and just for the hell of it we took he Jam Butty along for a spin.

The day was glorious and the Moshies 2 and Ganzies 7 (AKA the Rushall Locks) passed in no time helped on our way by a contingent of lock wheelers from the Society. It was a case of meeting a friend at each lock! Progress slowed on the Tame Valley where the limited depth slows the tow and we let a couple of Explorer boats past. 

Lock wheelers on the Rushall Flight

We rocked into the moorings at Moorcroft at about 3.30, after something over 4 hours on the move - a typical Explorer cruising day. All the boats rafted up and one by one the visitors came along to have a look at the butty and wanted to know if we had any preserves on board. Now I had kind of expected this, so I had loaded on a good selection and to add a bit of interest I cracked open the tasters, got out the crackers and everyone had an opportinity to taste a slice of the hedgerow before they bought. There was much enthusiasm for the preserves and in no time there were "Another Jammy Treat" bags all over the place - and the WildSide coffers were up by about £140! Nice.

As the evening approached everyone gathered for the legendary Explorer raffle which had a disturbing bias to give allocate the most inappropriate gifts. Fred came away with a very satisfactory bottle of pink Preseco and I had a combined teapot and cup for one so we did ok. I was grateful that I avoided the many cross stitch kits which abounded! The sun started to set and we all made for our boats. Fred had the main boat cabin and I decided to give the cross bed in the Butty a try. 

Mooring up at Moorcroft 

We had cushions made for the butty last year with the plan to use it as an overflow bed when visitors occupy the main boat. However, to date we havn't had cause to use it so this was the first time. It was surprisingly cosy in the tiny back cabin - with plenty of length for my 6ft 2" frame but the less than five foot headroom brought some challenges when trying to get dressed. For light I have a leisure battery which I think I have killed, backed up by a gas camping tilley lamp which offered a companionable hiss, some mellow light and also heated the small area quite quickly. The one snag was the lack of bolts on the inside of the doors - I never thought about them so spent the night wondering if they would blow open.

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