Friday 26 August 2022

Bridge 27

It's a typical Coventry Canal Bridge, looking very pleasant and idyllic in the evening light.

We'd been moored up for a day about 150 yards the far side of the bridge. I'd been wanting to paint under the left-hand bedroom window frame. The towpath being on that side made this an ideal spot to take the window out and get on with this job that is about 6 years overdue.

The problem was how the painting (numerous coats, a day between each) and its requirement for a left-side towpath would fit with other demands for travelling, such as the need to fill the water tank – knowing what we do about the availability of water on the next stretch of our journey. We decided that, before moving on, we should reverse back through the bridge and fill the tank at Springwood Haven Marina (in the right in the picture). No time like the present, especially as the wind was more gentle than was promised for the following morning.

Now narrowboats are not made for going backwards – they need a certain amount of cajoling. But I have to say that Erin Mae and I get on pretty well with this manoeuvre when necessary. I brought her back round the bend, avoiding the other moored boats, and lined up everything to come through the bridge hole.

Ah, the perils of reversing under a bridge! That's where all the rubbish tends to accumulate, and a reversing propellor just sucks it up. Suddenly there were horrendous noises, and the exhaust started to belch black smoke under the strain. I put the gear into neutral, experimented with what control I still had, and managed to moor up on the marina wharf. No one was around – it was about 7 p.m.

Ever since our first trip through Manchester I've become accustomed to clearing the prop of collected rubbish, so I lifted one of the boards at the stern to access the weed hatch.

It's straightforward – you release the restraining bar, lift off the lid, and prepare yourself mentally for whatever your fingers will encounter as you reach down into the murky depths towards the propellor. I've done it many times.

But this time the lid wouldn't budge. I pushed and pulled, hammered and banged – all to no avail. I think that Rose Narrowboats, doing an excellent engine service last year, had replaced the seal, and it was firmly stuck. In the end we tied up for the night and set the alarm to get us up before the marina staff arrived in the morning.

Springwood Haven people are some of the most helpful you could encounter. I explained our predicament and, much sooner than expected, George came down to see what he could do. He's more beefy than I, but not even he could get the lid off without some serious help from a cold chisel, a screwdriver (ouch!) and a club hammer. Then, at last, I could untangle the offending mixture of bungee, fishing line, weeds, plastic bags and unmentionables. 

Note to self: when reversing under a bridge, line it up and then go into neutral while actually traversing it.