A Day at Knowl St Heritage Boatyard

Yesterday I was working at Knowl St along with Dave, Kim  and Stewart. I was mostly tidying up after the gales. Dave was welding various items for "Hazel" and "Forget me Not". Kim was renovating "Southam"s big ex army range and Stewart was making replacement sections for "Forget me Not"s temporary deck. There was a bitter cold East wind but we enjoyed our work in spite of this.

Dave welding "Forget me Not"s exhaust pipe.

Stewart with the deck sections he's made.

"Southam"s range.

A Winters Night on "Hazel"

A winter's night on “Hazel”.

It's the time of year when we don't get much sunlight and so “Hazel”s batteries need to be topped up from the mains every now and then. She has a huge bank of batteries that need a special charger and can't all be charged at once. Someone, normally me, has to stay to switch from one set of batteries to the other sometime in the night. I don't mind as I get to stay in “Hazel”s wonderful back cabin.

To charge up I have to shaft the boat the short distance across the aqueduct to Dukinfield and tie up beside the premises of Dixon & Smith, Motor Engineers. Pat and John are kind enough to let us plug in whenever we need power. Tying up is easier said than done because of all the rubbish in the canal. To get the bow close enough to get on and off the boat, the stern has to be pretty much in the middle of the cut as there is something big that catches the middle of the boat and causes her to pivot. There was nothing to tie the stern end to as the boat lies along the end wall of a factory. Between the factory and the water there is a small bank of rubble so, some time ago, I drove a pin into this and attached an old ratchet strap to it. In order to tie up I have to hook the ratchet strap with the cabin shaft and pull it to me. I then pass the stern line of the boat through the ratchet strap and tie the line to the timberhead. At the fore end there is a chain with a hook on the end secured to a post on the bank. All I have to do is put the fore end line into the hook and tie back to the T stud.

When tied like this, the back cabin is facing the railway bridge and I enjoy hearing Trans Pennine Expresses growling by, interspersed with the occasional freight. If I open the doors I can watch them and wonder if the passengers notice my cabin light below them on the canal.

For ages the weather has been rainy. I've been fed up of the rain, especially as I'm trying to work on “Forget me Not” on dock. Now, all of a sudden the wind has turned to the North and we're getting those cold clear winters nights that I love. Tonight the mopstick was frozen to crunchiness by 8PM.

I've been writing all evening, or rather talking to my computer, my friend Jackie will type up what I've recorded. Now it's bed time. The cabin is so warm I keep falling asleep. I tried opening the doors to let the heat out, with the range roaring away it gets extremely toasty in here.

Whilst writing the above paragraph I fell asleep. I woke again in a cooling cabin a couple of hours later, so I turned out the light and snuggled into my sleeping bag. In the morning it was cold. I had a flask to make coffee so I decided not to light the range. All I had to do was to shaft the boat back over the aqueduct to Portland Basin. I quickly dressed and put on all the gloves I could find, then climbed out into the crisp cold still dark morning. After disconnecting the charging cables I untied the lines, stiff with frost, and threw the ratchet strap back on to the bank. I then grasped the icy shaft with my gloved hands and, taking care not to slip on the frosty roof, pushed the fore end out into the channel, cat ice chinkling as the boat pushed it aside.

The stern end was stuck on something and, as I couldn't exert as much effort as usual because I was standing on a slippery surface, it took a while to get it free. By this time my hands were becoming very painful in spite of the 3 pairs of gloves that I was wearing. I decided that I would have to go inside to warm up. I went into the main cabin and lit a fire, enjoying its heat while I drank a cup of coffee.

When I had thawed sufficiently I climbed back on to the roof in the now bright and shiny but still cold morning, and started to move the boat towards the aqueduct, jumping down on to the towpath to give her a good tug with the fore end line before climbing back aboard to swing her round with the shaft and tie up abreast of “Lilith”. With everything secure I headed for home to get ready for another day working on “Forget me Not”.