Sunday, 4 June 2017

Mooring Woes

Bath - a view of the Pultney Weir
Hello dear readers. Linda has asked me to carry out the task of "doing the jottings" this week, at very short notice. I've got nothing prepared, so will just ramble on, and hope that something worth reading is the result. Maybe it will be a slight diversion from today's news.
Fabulous views of Bath Catherdral

Now, if any of you were paying attention last week, you will recall that we had finally arrived at Bath. You may pronounce this city as "Barth", as I do, being a southerner, or Bath, as in wrath. Isn't the English language simply the best in the world? Anyway, on with the jottings. There's loads of history here, great architecture, Roman baths, Roman pavements; in short a wonderful place to visit. As previously noted, we arrived last Sunday and found good moorings just a short 3/4 mile walk from the City centre. The weather was warm and sunny so we wandered off with Tricky for an afternoon of sight seeing. Very pleasant it was too. We strolled along by the river Avon, saw the Cathedral and also the row of shops built on a bridge over the river by the famous Pultney Weir

Lamb 'Thingy'
What should have been a good walk around the district soon became a bit of a trudge, or plod. Tricky, inexplicably, had decided that great architecture, Roman baths and Roman pavements weren't really on her "to do" list. She started to drag her feet a bit. Then she decided that her function in life was to trip up Japanese tourists and elderly ladies on steps. In order to avoid the possible repercussions from entanglements with said tourists/elderly ladies, we eventually stopped at a beer garden and had a couple of glasses of cider. I was feeling peckish by this time so I ordered a lamb thing. I'm blowed if I can remember what it was called. It wasn't a kebab I know that. It came with flat bread and salad. Very tasty it was too. While I was happily munching my food we spotted a barrel with "dog beer" written on it. It turned out to be a container of fresh water for thirsty dogs. As Tricky was obviously thirsty, not to mention hot and bothered (probably because we wouldn't let her run amok amongst the Japanese tourists and elderly ladies) Linda poured some water into a bowl for her. Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised when Tricky glanced at the water as if it was a collection of old number eight batteries, gazed dolefully at Linda for a second or two, and promptly sat with her back to the said bowl of water.

The next morning we went back to Bath, leaving Tricky behind to mind the boat, and had several hours of sight-seeing. It started raining around mid-morning, so we were back aboard by lunch-time. The rain stopped during the afternoon, so we had a late cruise to Dundas wharf, near Monkton Combe, where we spent a quiet night.

A beautiful morning for a cruise

By Wednesday morning we had reached the bottom of the Caen Hill flight of locks. We set off before 8.00 am and were lucky enough to catch up with another boat to share the 29 locks with, which made the task much easier than it otherwise might have been. As the gates opened at our 27th lock I put the control into forward. Instantly, the engine screeched and stopped. I re-started the engine and tried again, with the same result. As the boat drifted out of the lock and started floating aimlessly away from the bank, one of the crew from the other boat managed to grab my centre line and haul me to the side, where I was able to tie up. Lifting the weed hatch revealed a block of wood jammed across the prop. The blade had become embedded in the offending wood and wouldn't budge. By using a mooring pin as a lever, strategic blows of a hammer and various pitiful wrenches with my bare hands, I achieved absolutely nothing. I tried a bit of random muttered swearing. Even after uttering unprintable expletives, the damn thing wouldn't budge. What was I to do? I'd already tried panicking but I'd only ended up grazing my wrist. Finally, after about five minutes, I tried splitting the wood with a hammer and chisel. The third split was successful and the wood finally came free, to be burnt with relish next time we light the stove. Phew! Close call, folks. After checking the prop for any damage (there didn't seem to be any) I started the engine and we carried on.

On the whole, we've been lucky on the Kennet & Avon with regard to mooring up each day. We've heard many horror stories about having to moor six feet or more from the bank, getting stuck on rocks, having to travel on and on for hour after hour because there's no place to tie up. Well, our luck ran out on Friday. We'd had a long day and were both ready to pull in to the side. We wanted to moor at Great Bedwyn, but as we approached the final bridge we saw boat after boat along the bank. All the spaces were taken. We slowly drifted passed a never ending line of vessels, leaving the designated moorings behind. On we went, passing moored boats that were well away from the bank, moored boats that looked like they'd been there, stuck on rocks, since the early 19th century and moored boats whose owners must have given up all hope of seeing a view that didn't contain green rushes, drippy ducks and smarmy swans ever again. Each vessel had rigged up some sort of link between it and the bank. Some were proper gangplanks, while others were lengths of rickety board, tied up with string and held valiantly at ground level by a steel mooring pin. A variant of the rickety board type was a combined concoction of ex-tree, extreme optimism and/or ignorance and foolhardiness. All of these were orientated at such a steep angle that Edmund Hilary himself would have balked at the thought of climbing them. I don't mind admitting to you that we were a little bit worried at this point.
Quackers - nuff said

Finally, there was a gap. We were following a boat. Like us they were trying to tie up for the night. We hung back, watching to see what they would do, and how they would get on. They pulled in. Their bows touched the bank. They were in. There was a long enough gap behind them for us so we also pulled in. Our bows didn't touch the bank. We ended up mooring six feet from the side. The gangplank was only just long enough to reach from the boat to the bank, but eventually, on a wing and a prayer, we were tied up. Tricky was perplexed by the gangplank, however, but thanks to a quick induction course, a brief lecture on health and safety, and pointing her the right way I'm happy to report that I could carry her on and off the boat as required.

Today we are moored at our favourite spot in Hungerford. We arrived yesterday afternoon and will stay until tomorrow. And that's about the size of it for another week. After reading this Linda will no doubt vow to keep me well away from the jottings. We will have to see. Right then, bye for now, etc.

PS there's always a PS with these jottings, isn't there?

Carl on lock duty

A very leaky lock

Locking down with Black Bart

Unusual crenellations -  Great Bedwyn
Ornate bridges in Bath

Pultney Weir

Great paint job