Victor: The last lap

Published: Tuesday, 16 May 2017

WITHOUT any doubt, there were very few hire boats about during our cruise to Bugsworth Basin and back, particularly the first week of May when there were days we saw none—an occurrence unheard of in the past.

It was only into the second week that more appeared with our noticing that from a full yard of hire boats on the way to Bugsworth at Sherbourne Wharf at Congleton on May Day week, there was just one left on the way back, the following week—similar to the Stone boats.  There were the odds and sods of course, but of no great number as in the past.

'She' reckons that hirers are more discerning these days as there plenty of the luxury Aqua boats from Mercia Marina on the waterways.

New logoCanaltime

Getting nearer home the Canaltime boats appeared, with yet another change of livery and a new logo, but I expect as they were all manufactured around 15 years ago a bit of brighting-up is in order.

As usual we spent time instructing Canaltime hirers, with a good example at Stenson when we had the lock nearly full, ready to enter, when a couple from a Canaltime boat came up and proceeded to wind the bottom gate paddles to empty the lock!  They told us it was only their second day and had not got used to what to do, and had met none coming down a lock before.

Obviously not, for though the steerer could see us eventually coming out of the lcok, she brought their boat forward to come into the lock, then reversed, then came forward again as we took the stern in at the lock entrance to pick up our crew, having to quickly pull out into the stream to avoid a collision, obviously being used to going straight in when the lock gates opened.

deserted StensonAs I have said so many times before, it is not the hirers fault, but those at Canaltime's Sawley base, who just will not show their customers the workings of an actual lock, using instead a silly model that does not even contain water.  Of course there is the 'health and safety' video, but I ask, who takes it in when all they are bothered about is getting on with their holiday?

They told us they were disappointed with their cruise so far it being very hard and difficult and had decided to go to Willington and turn back, but 'She' told them not to, as they had done the hard work and there were narrow locks coming up that were much easier to operate.

No volunteers again

Although led to believe that Stenson Lock was always manned by volunteers these days, I'm afraid this is not so, as it was just 10am when we arrived at the lock, and the place was completely deserted as can be seen from the picture. (This was before the Canaltime hirers arrived on the scene.)

New schoolSo for the second time for us, ner a volunteer in sight, at a very awkward lock indeed. Needless to say it does not bother us, but I'm sure those Canaltime people would have appreciated a bit of help and advice.

It's a school

For any of you wondering what the rather large building is way in the distance opposite Branston Water Park, it is not another distribution centre of warehouses but a new school!

And I am afraid that delightful vista between Branston Lock and the moorings is soon to be spoilt by a vast development of houses, shops and everything to go with it, including the school for, I was told, 1,500 pupils.  So make the most of it whilst you can...

Fallen treeThe tree

For any of you wondering about the stoppage below Stenson that closed the navigation for a couple of days, here's a picture of the remains of the tree that caused it.

The problem of course is that along this stretch are many willow trees, that get too large and then crack down the trunk, as this one had, then break off, falling across the waterway.

It is not the first, and most certainly will not be the last, for there are many, blown by the westerly wind that are leaning precariously over the canal, ready to split and fall.  Then another stoppage.

'Terrible six'

I understood that work had been done of the 'terrible six' broad locks from Derwent Mouth to Stenson, but all it was was some of the white bits on the lock gates had been painted.

I stated I was not going to complain of the difficult operation of these locks, but I see now that opening one gate to enter from above, the other gate swings open as the boat passed through, even though not touched.  As they are obviously not going to be properly balanced, perhaps a strut to hold then closed would be in order.  But alas, that will help boaters, so it will never happen.

No dieselAnother loss

Back to Sawley Marina and diesel.  Or so we thought, but pulling in were met by the small notice 'Closed on Tuesdays', that could only be seen when you actually moor at the pump.  Even a call at the office had no luck, so another regular service lost.  We moored on the Cut opposite, and four boats arrived within half an hour wanting diesel, but getting none—here's a picture of two of them. God knows how many during the day.

Surely a rather large notice stating 'No diesel today' that could be easily seen when passing would be the answer, but alas they don't have that much sense. 

There are very few services for boaters at Sawley Marina compared to such as Mercia, so little wonder there was a mass exodus of boats when Mercia opened, and that even now, years later, Sawley is only around two thirds full.

Victor Swift