Thursday, 8 July 2010

Another Unusual Day On The Grand Union!

OK, I'm a sucker for old working boats, (even in ones or twos). I'm a real sucker for old loaded working boats, (even in ones or twos). So when seven are known to be working through my home turf loaded, one day of being a spectator, or even a lock wheeler, was never going to be enough, was it ?

Charlie the dog, after all, needed a walk, and Marsworth reservoirs are one of his favourite spots. He'd not mind being "moored" by the odd lock, while I wound a paddle or two, would he ?

So I set off to Marsworth by car, hoping the fun was not over. Luckily for me, if not the steerers, low pounds around Berkhamsted, and general slow down on Tring summit meant even the lead boat had only made it less than half way down the flight.

So some more pictures, that represent the different order the boats were in on this part of the trip.

Mike is on the lead boat, the massive Royalty class Victoria. He is carrying a similar load to the others, and needs as much depth of water, but the Royalty boats were built with much deeper hull sides, giving the untrained eye an impression they are carrying less.

Mike waits whilst a BW man is trying to clear an obstruction behind a gate that would mean the later boats breasted together would get stuck.

Archimedes and Ara are the next boats down. The steerers of this pair switch fairly freely between motor and butty, so you never quite know who to expect to be on the tiller.

As I spent lots of time with this pair yesterday, I let them go, to get some pictures of the single motors following.

Next down were Callisto and Themis. Although both motor boats, Callisto had been having fuel issues with it's Russell Newbery engine, so they were breasted together, and being powered by Themis' National, (I hope I have that the right way about!).

Here they are in the second lock down at "Maffers"

Moving on between locks - all but the bottom the pounds at Marsworth are short, but few of the locks are in any alignment, as the canal twists and turns.

Third lock down - The BW man has cleared the gate with an obstruction, so they can stay breasted.

The white former lock-keepers cottage is a useful marker in this flight for those who have lost track of where they are, as being beside the fourth lock, whichever way you are travelling, it marks mid-way through the locks.

Some of the 'S' bends between locks need some nifty tiller and speed wheel work to first miss the bank as you leave one lock, and then to have to get right across to the other side of the cut to get a good line into the next lock.

Most of the work of the flight over, there is a much longer pound to reach the bottom lock. Always popular with moorers, they may have been surprised by the time 7 loaded boats had all made their way past in not much over an hour.

Themis pulls Callisto into the bottom of 7 locks of the main Marsworth flight. Congratulations to their crew for making me a hot mug of tea, that kept me as a captive audience for a few locks, and so guaranteed my presence as a lock wheeler.

By now Charlie the dog was finding it all a bit much. Being tethered up quite a bit, and with Marsworth being so popular with dog walkers, he was getting a bit bored by having other dogs sniffing his bottom! I decided to not wait for Arundel and Joe, who were slightly separated from the 5 boats ahead of them.

I went on up to Chalice's mooring, giving me the opportunity to see the whole fleet pass in the period from about 11:20 to 12:30








And, all too soon, sadly, the last one had gone, and life on this stretch of the Grand Union reverted to the more normal mix of private leisure boaters, interspersed with hire boats, day boats and wide-beam trip boats.

Thanks to the crews/owners for bringing this spectacle to our canal!


Sue said...

Alan - slap on wrist to you! You should have pm'd me this morning! I could have been at Marsworth within an hour and been Charlie's buddy for a few hours. I can never work out if I prefer Marsworth or Braunston the best, and Maffers is so much nearer.
are the boats coming back next week? Even empty, I'd bet you'll go lock-wheeling again?
Sue L

Starcross said...

And thanks again to you, Alan for sharing it with us!

Alan said...


Sorry I assumed that anyone regularly on Canal World knew about this, and would turn out if they wanted to. in fact although others had said they would be at Maffers, unless they came down with the final two boats, I don't think anyone else but me was there.

I think 5 of the 7 boats will ultimately travel back, but whether as a group, I have no idea. Some of the guys have day jobs, so have to fit boat moves between.

Anonymous said...

I've been lucky enough to capture Victoria on the way up to Braunston , catching Mike going back down last week towards London, and then after following Baldocks posts all day, realising as my train came past TopSide Lock, that I could again get the camera out for this historic run, (and end up lock wheeling and taking part for two hours after dark.)
Fantastic experience and great photo's Alan.

Mike and Chrissie said...

Superb shots of the boats! We too are suckers for the traditional working boats. Hope to navigate down to the GU some time soon and see all of the historic towns. That's if the rain ever stops pouring down here in 'Hose pipe ban' Scarisbrick on the L&L.

Carol said...

I loved all the images of boats! Some of my friends really love having journey by narrowboat. I would love to share your shots with them.

Carol@ Thames boat hire