Victor is incensed!

Published: Friday, 18 September 2020

INCENSED doesn't even begin to cover it!

AnotherEnjoySignFor Canal & River Trust is spending more of our money—amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds, littering the canals with even more, and very expensive, signsflogging the towpaths of course.

On our short cruise one morning down to Bratch we counted four, then later they were appearing everywhereon fences, gates, buildings and anywhere it would take one, looking very much like an endless supply.  Gone are those small short messages as CaRT is now thinking big, after all, it's only money.

All this cash to forward its 'Linear Park' that are our canals, and as to them...

Not helping new boaters

But no real notices helping the many boaters, especially hire boaters here for the first time, of which there are many, due to coronavirus. CaRT allowing the poor sods to misunderstand the ambiguous 'Keep boat forward of cill marker',  sign allowing so many with their boats with the stern on the cill and the boat sunk. 

And have no intention of a notice telling to always stand away from the tiller when reversing, for should the rudder strike a projection—the tiller will violently swing and over the side the steerer will go.

There have been hundreds of boats so sunk by boaters neither understanding nor realising the danger of the cill, and boaters even killed by standing by the side of the tiller when reversing.

Boater killed

There was a Canaltime hirer reversing at Alrewas on the Trent & Mersey when the rudder hit an obstruction that violently swung the tiller, it throwing him over the side and killed.  I remember helping to pull a boater out of Sawley Marina one winter whose tiller hit ice when reversing, as he stood by its side, so over he went, but luckily missed the prop.

GU tillerInjuryJames Christie suffered horrific injuries when reversing on the Grand Union in August standing by the side of the tiller when the rudder stuck an object swinging the tiller over and James into the canal where his body caught the revolving propeller.

He managed to get out of the canal then collapsed with his stomach mangled, was attended to by paramedics and quickly removed to hospital, and now suffers life changing injuries.

Together with his wife he was celebrating 33 years of marriage and had just taken over the boat, but knew nothing of the danger of standing by the tiller when reversing, with CaRT not bothering to warn such newcomers with a simple notice or perhaps not caring...

At The Bratch

DeepDownHereA real CaRT manof many, many years standing, actually recognised Thomas at The Bratch resulting in a long discussion of things gone past, both enjoying the tales of yore and of fellow lockie Crystal who ruled Foxton with a rod of iron, her mantra remembered by both as 'red before white you'll be alright.  White before red you'll wish to were dead!'  And meant it!

He told Thomas that many boaters had remarked that the Staffs & Worcs was the best kept waterway on the system, something I tend to agree with.  Every single towpath had its edge cut right to the edge of the waterno waterside forests here.

There were of course the usual difficult paddles, but that is hardly the fault of the local people, but lack of maintenance on the whole.

He mentioned that some boaters 'get' the unusual workings of the Bratch immediately whilst it remains a mystery to others. 

Which makes me wonder why it is that Jan always works those locks with Thomas only coming to light at the top lock when working up...  Where he met that fella.

The difference to any other lock flight on the system is that it has a short one of just a couple of yards in the middle that has to be worked correctly in unison with the others, and which causes problems to many.

Those of you who do not care for deep locks had better beware of the Bratch, as the picture shows.

BiffaRubbishChange of plan

Our original plan was to head up the Wolverhampton '21' and through Birmingham meeting Keith Gudgin on the way back, but the news that Birmingham was in lockdown, followed then by the further news that Wolverhampton had joined the lockdown prompted a change of plan as when Leicester suffered the same fate, CaRT was very quick to stop all boating. 

But this time what is baffling is nothing!  It is open as usual!

That to my mind clearly shows that CaRT picks and chooses, a law unto itself methinks, with too many hire boats around Brum to dare to close it.  The Leicester Section, was closed it seems at a whim, as not all that important.

BiffaBeenNeed new contractors

With rubbish facilities at the junction and time for disposal we called at the Biffa regulated rubbish facility, and the picture above shows what we met.  Plus the stink and flies.

Luckily it was emptying time with a Biffa lorry seen working, so we called to see the nice new clean facility on our way for our evening walk, with the next picture showing what we met. 

As this is by no means the only time the lack of this company's endeavors has been remarked upon, it shows it really is time for a change of contractor.

Or perhaps it's the cheapest!  And as we all know you get what you pay for.

Good service

It was exactly four years ago that we last called at Orph's Oxley Marine on the Staffs & Worcs and told of our local chandlery batteries giving up the ghost after just three and half years years and had to risk upsetting people by running the engine to get some charge into them in the evening, at which he even sent out one of his men to get us three new ones.

BlackPricePinchedSo we now had the pleasure of telling him they they were still going strong after the four years running everything, though we stop before noon every day.

He and Thomas discussed the many hire boats that had appeared, comparing notes, with both agreeing that on the whole most are well behaved, with such as slowing down past moored boats, with the exception of the 'Yellow Peril'Viking Afloat and agreeing they seem to be just turned out without any instruction whatsoever, usually flying past everything.

Mind you we had a contretemps with Black Prince, with Jan telling one crew off for taking our water and filling the lock even though we were about 60 yards from the lock gates!

We were actually passing the other Black Prince shown in the picture preparing to enter the lock when they started filling itcaring not, or possibly not told of the etiquette of boating, as was the other Black Prince overnight on the lock mooring bollard.

FunAtJuctionJPGBedlam at the junction

We moored for the night just below the junction with the Shroppiejust off the main Four Counties Ring, and with Orph mentioning that a hirer came past telling he managed to get the last hire boat in the country(!) you can imagine the bedlam at this junction with every hire boat out.

It was all fun and games as so many were tackling the Four Counties and perhaps the Llangollen for the first time.

The Aqua steerer did not seem to know which way to turn and caused some confusion. Later walking up to the six inch lock we put quite a few right as to which set of paddles to wind.  All great fun.

SlowBoatCouldn't care less

Then we joined another boat who was struggling to go slow behind another who was crawling along the waterway, that went on for four miles! 

Being behind the one held up we did not like to pass so crawled along behind the two, with  the slow boat obviously having trouble with its engine as the lady on board kept pouring canal water into it.

To my mind the steerer should have pulled over as it was obvious the two boats behind were having problems going so slowwe were having to knock our engine out of gear, but he was not concerned, but luckily for us stopped at Gailey so we both escaped.  The picture shows the uncaring fella on 'Gallanthus'. 
Not too 'Gallant' would you agree?

Unhappy bunnies

Everyone was spoke to on the Staffs & Worcs agree it was the busiest ever seen.  One boater at Tixall Lock coming out of the Wide told us he had never seen so many boats moored in his 20 years at Stafford Boat Club.  Another boater deciding on an Oxford Canal cruise was told it was chaotic, so took to the Staffs & Worcs instead.

StaffordLinkNot only does it seem every hire boat in the country was out, but there were many like ourselves for whom it was the first chance this year of a cruise.  All in all it made for 'interesting' boating!

A couple of fellas certainly didn't care for it as were looking downright miserable and even refused to acknowledge a greeting.  One lady laughed when Thomas remarked he's not speaking!


Afraid I was completely baffled by the a basin being constructed by the mooring site at Bridge 101 at Baswich that told of a river link to Stafford.  But expect someone must know what they are doing, eh?

One thing, the land beyond the basin is a flood plain for the small rivers with miles of footpaths for walking, for those few of you who do such a thing.

Victor Swift