All in a Days Work

Sorry there are no pictures with this. I was too busy all day to take any. We were booked for a "giving back" trip for which we have some funding. The idea is to take local young people for a trip and give them each a go at steering, working locks etc (under close supervision). The trip is from Portland Basin, up 3 locks to Staley Wharf, wind and return. This should take about 4 hours.

The level on the Ashton pound was well down so we stemmed alongside Cavendish Mill (possibly on microwaves thrown from the flat windows). I had a phone call from Christine, our shop manager to say that someone had 'phoned to complain that they were bringing a boat down and it would be difficult to get past sunken "Southam" at Knowl st. The words bus, through and get spring to mind!

Working up the 3 locks was straightforward and our guests were enjoying getting involved. Above lock 3 is a long pound (well, long for the HNC) and I was dismayed to find this the best part of a foot down. It's tricky to get through even when full.

We removed a log and a huge plastic pallet from the paddle recess.

I asked Tony to go ahead and "find some water". A difficult task as the only source is the short, though relatively deep, pounds through Stalybridge. I warned him that there was a boat coming down, so he would need to make sure he left enough water for them to get through.

Right outside the lock "Forget me Not" stopped in mid channel. She would go neither forwards nor backwards (nor sideways for that matter. Tony rang to say that he'd let as much water as he dare out of 4-5 pound. Of course, its effect on the long pound was minimal. A lot of thrashing about and pulling on lines achieved a few yards progress, then we stuck fast again. Tony rang again to say that he couldn't get any water from the next pound up as it was already completely empty. I noticed it was like that earlier in the week, though it was getting a feed from above. He would have to top it up from the Armentierres Square pound.

I started emptying the ballast tanks and our guests decided to consume the buffet lunch that we had provided. Tony rang again very angry to say that the downhill boat had arrived and the people were very rude to him and accused him of stealing their water, oblivious of the fact that he was filling a pound that they needed to fill anyway. I think perhaps they imagined that he had emptied the pound, which he had not.

With lunch eaten and the ballast tanks completely empty I decided to have another go. I attached a long line to the back end rail and got all the young lads out of "Hazel" to join Aaron and Kim in pulling on it. When we finally got a co-ordinated pull the boat moved, initially for a short distance, but another effort got her moving properly. (just here the bottom is strewn with boulders from a section of washwall that collapsed and was rebuilt, leaving the original material in the cut).

Aaron carried on pulling on the line, which was fine as I didn't know when I might need more assistance. As we approached the Tame aqueduct Aaron was having trouble with his line catching in vegetation. I became pre-occupied with a couple of our young (and generally well behaved) guests who had climbed on to "Hazel"s roof. This is not allowed anyway, but I was particularly keen to coax them down before the aqueduct as a fall into the river would be very serious (and my fault). What I didn't notice, until the engine stopped, was that Aaron had let go of his line and it was trailing in the water. Aaron has often badgered me to let him jump in to get rubbish off the blade. This time I let him, as the only alternative was me getting in.

With the rope successfully untangled and Aaron in the engine 'ole drying out we carried on, only to stick fast in the narrows, a favourite place for dumping as it's close to a secluded dead end road. Our tug o war team was deployed again and we were soon moving well, though bouncing over submerged bikes and trolleys.

We winded at Staley Wharf with some difficulty and immediately headed back. We stuck again at the narrows and just above lock 4 but, with the routine now established, were soon moving again.

Our guests had to leave as their time had run out. Despite (or perhaps because of) the difficulties it seemed they had enjoyed the trip

When the two arrogant men with windlasses appeared, strangely from the nearby road, "Forget me Not" was down lock 2, which was refilling for "Hazel", just being bowhauled out of No3. They complained that we had held them up for 2 hours, though I'm not sure how. I think they had some exchange with Tony, who was fuming. He has a short fuse. They asked me to stop and let them past, even though their boat wasn't even in sight yet. They headed off up the cut to join their boat.

It's not unusual to be asked to pass by speedy pleasure boaters. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to pass a deep draughted boat, especially one towing a butty. I usually  try to help, sometimes at the cost of a stemming up, because I don't like being tailed by a floating sulk,  but this request was ridiculous even if I had been well disposed towards these particular gentlemen.

We were soon through Whitelands Tunnel and working through lock 1. One of the aggrieved men arrived as we were hauling the butty into the lock. He sat down and started using his 'phone. When the lock was nearly empty he came over to me and asked me to talk to CRT. He had clearly given his distorted tale of woe about us terrible boaters to the duty manager, who was now telling me, via the 'phone, to let them past. So, presumably, we were being expected to wait below the lock for this boat to work through after us then go speeding ahead. Grrrr.

As we were closing the gates after the butty the fabled boat appeared at the far end of the tunnel. Despite getting stemmed on a shopping trolley behind Asda and making a pigs ear of breasting up, it was another 5 minutes after we were tied up and the engine stopped before the other boat arrived. On board was a well known local sourpuss.

We all know that the Huddersfield Narrow is a difficult and shallow canal. We also know that it is maintained on a shoestring. Wouldn't it be nice if boaters co-operated to help each other through such difficulties, listened to each other even, rather than jumping to conclusions and telling tales to CRT. I once got the cane in school because of that sort of behaviour. I still haven't forgiven Mandy Hough for telling those lies.