THE STEALTH BOAT RESCUE
23rd - 28th July 2007
Monday 23rd July
(Cloudy with occasional showers)
- The crew anxiously gathered at Alan's house at 8-30am
in eager anticipation of the mission ahead of them. Quantities of
provisions were loaded into Colin's Galaxy, who had kindly volunteered to
ferry the lads down to the narrowboat, which had been abandoned at the
Brinklow Marina some two weeks earlier. The journey, through much
rain, was accomplished in good time and the crew quickly located the boat,
which appeared to be in good condition. The provisions including
adequate supplies of "Smoked Mackerel Fillets" were transferred onto the
narrowboat and the crew quickly felt at home in the familiar surroundings. The engine started promptly and the usual engine
maintenance procedures completed. Before leaving, a visit was made to
Tesco in Rugby where the fresh provisions were procured.
- Before departing, Neil telephoned the mobile phone
for the owner of the Marina, only to find that he was on holiday !!
After Ron accurately navigated the narrowboat across the Marina, a man in
the JCB digger was located and the Marina key left with him, as requested.
Closer inspection of the narrowboat by the crew revealed some deformation to
the superstructure at the front of the boat that was not present during
their last trip and a number of extra grazes down the sides.
Leaving the new Brinklow Marina
- The narrowboat handled very well on the short journey
down to Streeton Stop, where the very helpful staff at Rose Narrowboats,
filled the fuel tank with 35½ litres of diesel, pumped out the toilets and
installed a new 19Kg cylinder of Gas, at a total cost of some £52.
Shortly afterwards Neil prepared a healthy lunch of Salad and Smoked
Mackerel Fillets, which was consumed in relays, due to the torturous schedule
ahead of the crew.
- As the necessary servicing of the boat had been
completed sooner than originally expected, the crew decided to go ahead of
their published plan by taking the boat on past Ansty, through Bedworth and
Nuneaton to aim for a night-time stop at the Anchor Inn at Hartshill, which
had pleasant memories for the crew, from previous visits. Arrival was
estimated for 7pm.
- Whilst the crew were travelling past Bedworth, their
curiosity was fuelled by seeing if the beer barrel and pumping system,
installed by Cran, could be recommissioned. Alan was chosen to test
this possibility due to his pub cellar experience some 39 years earlier.
He quickly had the system connected with the help of written instructions prepared
by Neil earlier.
the newly installed beer dispensing facilities
- Alan negotiated the dangerously sharp turn at Hawkesbury
Junction without incident and the journey continued towards Nuneaton
and their destination for the evening at The Anchor Inn, well ahead of Plan.
- Dinners of Rogan Josh with rice and poppadom
(except Neil) for only £2-50 was enjoyed by Alan & Ron, washed down with 3 pints of Mordue's ale (4.6%). Neil chose an alternative of Beef Stew, with crusty
bread and roast potatoes at a mere £1-99. The tired crew returned to
the narrowboat at 10pm for small portions of cheese and biscuits with
coffee. They retired at 11pm ready for an early start the following
Tuesday 24th July
(Sunny and hot all day)
- The crew rose at an early hour apprehensive about the
long day ahead. Neil prepared porridge for the crew and they cast off
at 7-45am. They were soon at Atherton top lock, aware
that a further 10 locks lay ahead of them in the Atherton Flight.
Although this was the first lock on the mission, the crew swiftly negotiated
the locks, passing several craft heading upwards.
- Ron prepared an excellent breakfast of bacon, sausage
and egg, with toast, which was consumed with gusto, after mooring just south
of Polesworth. It was noted that the fresh orange juice had been forgotten,
but it remained safely in the fridge!!
- This section of the canal was busy with a constant
stream of boats being passed, many of whom were unable to reach their planned
destinations due to the Warwick and Banbury sections of the canal being closed
through flooding. The Braunston tunnel had also been closed due to a
landslip, although the crew heard that boats were now passing through.
- A significant queue of boats waiting to go up the two
Glascote Locks was witnessed, but the narrowboat suffered minimal delays
passing down the locks. Progress was assisted by several children who
Alan press-ganged into operating the locks, with the approval of their
Waiting to enter the Glascote
- Shortly afterwards Neil prepared a healthy lunch of
Smoked Mackerel rolls with salad, with freshly squeezed orange juice, which
was enjoyed on the move as the boat approached Fazeley Junction, near
Tamworth. Progress remained slower than hoped due to a number boats
ahead with inexperienced crews. A passing skipper endorsed this view,
by passing comment on the boat ahead of us as "Having No Fxxxing Clue".
However, significant progress was made by two daring overtaking
manoeuvres achieved by Ron and Neil.
- The crew's spirits were much lifted by the thought of
reconnecting the beer barrel again during the long hot afternoon. This
was later accomplished and proved most popular with the weary crew.
Arriving at Fradley Junction
The crew's view whilst passing "The Swan"
enjoying their Bitburgers
- After Alan consulted with a work colleague who lived
in Handsacre, the Ash Tree at Armitage was selected for an evening stop
although due to the distance a late arrival was anticipated. The Ash
Tree allegedly offer a "2 for 1" meal deal which greatly intrigued the crew. Alan's colleague Steve, checked out the pubs in
advance of the arrival, but suggested the Spode Cottage as being
the most appropriate for their needs, due to the Ash Tree being full and
lack of mooring facilities. He guided them past the sights of the Armitage Shanks toilet factory to a noisy
mooring spot, where the crew enjoyed steak dinners and 3 pints of Pedigree
ale. Afterwards returning to the boat at 10-30 to update their
accounts and consume coffee without cheese or biscuits. The
exhausted crew calculated that they had travelled 27½ miles with 16 locks in the 12½ hour
day, making them considerably ahead of their published plan.
- As the forecast for tomorrow is poor, the plan to
reach Stone by the evening may prove to be ambitious and they retired at
11-30 to ponder the day's exertions.
- Revised instructions had been telegraphically
received from Cran during the day, requesting a change of plan due to the
lack of suitable mooring places on the Bridgewater Canal. Alternatives
included possible destinations on the Macclesfield or Peak Forest Canals.
Further instructions were awaited.
Wednesday 25th July
(Cloudy with showers in the morning turning hot and sunny in the afternoon)
- The crew awoke during the night to hear rain beating on
the roof of the narrowboat, although it had stopped by the time they arose
shortly after 7am. Neil prepared statutory porridge and they slipped
their moorings at 7-40am, to negotiate the perilous "Plum Pudding Rocky
The narrowboat being carefully
through the "Plum Pudding Rocky Cutting" by Alan
- Although it soon started to rain, this did not last
long and good progress was made past the sights of Rugeley Power Station to
stop for a superb breakfast (with Baked Beans) just before Weston-on-Trent. After breakfast the crew studied the maps of the
Macclesfield Canal and although new ground to the crew, calculated that a
final mooring location towards the end of the picturesque Peak Forest Canal
would be achievable. Details were telegraphed to Cran (at the shore
investigate the options.
|Disaster was averted by the quick
thinking actions of Ron when a narrowboat (with inexperienced crew)
emerged at high speed out of Hayward Junction
- Showers continued during the morning, but at 2-30pm
the sun appeared with noticeable heat. The final location for the
evening still remained open with options of Stone (excellent Star Inn, by the
lock), Barlaston or possibly Hem Heath which boasts a Toby Inn.
- The narrowboat arrived at Stone at 3-30pm and moored
adjacent to the Stone Chandlery to fill with water. Neil and Alan
visited the chandlery and purchased a new door catch for the front door and a
replacement "Traditional Narrowboat Fender (Donkey's Dick) required due to
an unfortunate incident with a protruding bolt on a lock gate. The new
catch was fitted together with the fender, before departing to continue up
through several locks towards Burlaston.
- The continuing warm weather made it essential that
the crew again connected the beer barrel and enjoyed a number of glasses of
Bitburger, before arriving at "The Plume of Feathers" in Burlaston. Having
inspected the pub and menu, advice was taken from a young lady and the crew
decided to continue towards Hem Heath. One further lock was
expertly negotiated before the crew tied up adjacent to Bridge No 106 at
7-40pm ready for a visit to the Toby Inn. The crew enjoyed a splendid
Gammon & Turkey carvery with lashings of vegetables, washed down with 3 pints
of Banks Bitter.
- The crew returned to the narrowboat at 10-30pm for
desirable cheese with coffee, during which the accounts were updated.
The crew reflected on their days exertions and concluded that it was a less
pressured and more relaxed and enjoyable day. They retired to their
bunks for a well deserved rest, pondering their revised target destination
for Thursday of Congleton, passing Jodrell Bank.
Thursday 26th July
(Overcast with rain around lunchtime, but sun in the afternoon)
- The crew awoke during the night to the sound of rain on the
roof of the narrowboat, although again this had stopped by the time they arose
shortly after 7am. Ron divided the porridge rations, although final
preparation and serving was left to the porridge expert. They left
their moorings to continue on their mission northward, soon reaching the
outskirts of Stoke. Before reaching the first of the five Stoke
locks, the crew were able to gaze at the sights of the Stoke incinerator.
The very deep locks were swiftly negotiated by the experienced crew, who
noted a significant queue of narrowboats at top lock waiting to head
- The trip through Stoke was uneventful passing
further exciting sights such as the Civic Hall and then the Black Prince
boatyard at Etruria, with whom the crew were very familiar, including the
adjacent Toby Inn. The narrowboat then entered new territory for two
members of the crew, with only Ron having previous knowledge of this section
of the Trent & Mersey canal. The boat continued past the site of the
old Shelton Steel works and into the pottery area where many young female
workers in the factories took great delight in waving and blowing kisses to
the experienced crew.
- Another near disaster was avoided when the narrowboat
travelled over a submerged object beneath a bridge which tilted and lifted
the boat on the left side. The experienced crew took the necessary
actions and were unperturbed by the event.
- The boat soon arrived at the south portal of the
Harecastle Tunnel, where they joined a number of other boats for the next
northbound convoy, which was departing in about 45 minutes. The crew
felt that this was a good opportunity to prepare a healthy breakfast of
bacon, 2 sausages, with scrambled egg and beans, prepared mainly by Alan.
Afterwards the crew felt they had to decline a second round of toast.
Waiting for the convoy to depart through
Entering the Tunnel
- The convoy through the tunnel left just before 11-30am,
taking 45 minutes to traverse the very wet and low roofed tunnel.
Washing up and other ablutions were undertaken by Neil and Alan, whilst Ron
navigated the tunnel to a high standard. The tunnel is fitted with
doors and large fans, due to the absence of natural ventilation shafts.
- The tunnel was exited in heavy rain where Neil
expertly made the very sharp and hazardous turn (without need for reverse gears) into the
start of the Macclesfield canal on the journey to their planned stopping
point for the evening at Congleton. The other crew were astounded by
the accuracy and skill of this manoeuvre and awarded him a score of 10 out
- The crew found the initial section of the
Macclesfield Canal very picturesque, but due to the continuing heavy rain,
extremely wet !!!! However, after a mere 2 hours the rain stopped and
the sun started to break through. The crew's thoughts were immediately
drawn to the beer barrel which was expertly and rapidly deployed. Neil
prepared the final rations of Smoked Mackerel Fillets, which were enjoyed
with granary bread and salad.
- The narrowboat arrived in Congleton earlier than
expected at 2-30pm. The location, in a cutting, appeared unattractive
and therefore as the weather had improved, the crew decided to continue
through to stop at one of several canalside pubs before Macclesfield for the
The views of the countryside lifted the spirits of the crew greatly as they
continued to drink the draft Bitburger.
- The flight of twelve Bosley locks was soon before the
crew, but the co-operation and team work with the crew of a slower boat
ahead (with inexperienced crew), made short work of the task. However, Ron managed to misjudge a
sharp turn into Lock No 2 and travelled a very long and unusual route to
eventually enter the lock.
- After exiting the last lock the crew eagerly
awaited sight of the giant Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope. However,
after travelling several miles no sighting was made and the crew felt that
it must have been moved. After a further glass of Bitburger, the crew
prepared to stop for the evening at "The Fools Nook" at Oakgrove, where a table was
booked by Alan for 8pm. After showers the hungry and exhausted crew
hurried for their dinner and 4 pints of Thwaites and HSB Best Bitter.
The pub provided a splendid fare of Gammon and Salmon, with ample
accompaniments, which was considered the best so far.
- After dinner the crew thought it beneficial to take a
half hour walk to aid their digestion and as recommended by a local, took
the hilly route to the local reservoir where many ducks were observed.
Afterwards on returning to the pub, a boating couple suggested a possible
final mooring for the narrowboat at Furness Vale Marina on the Peak Forest
- The crew returned to the narrowboat for coffee
without cheese or biscuits and a well earned rest.
Friday 27th July
(Cloudy, but with occasional sunny intervals)
- As has become custom the eager crew rose at an early
hour to enjoy compulsory porridge prepared by the porridge king, Neil.
After untying the boat Alan walked to the nearby electrically operated swing
bridge, proceeding to stop all the traffic with flashing lights and barriers
allowing passage of the narrowboat onwards towards Macclesfield.
Although the drivers disapproved of this delay, they obviously were unaware
of the importance of the rescue mission facing the brave and intrepid crew.
|The narrowboat soon arrived into the
picturesque town of Macclesfield, where the splendid "Hovis Mill"
appeared before them.
Alan inspecting the water filling progress during the
stop at Macclesfield
- A further electronic communication was received from Cran during the
morning advising that mooring facilities had been confirmed by British
Waterways at Whaley Bridge. The crew were much relieved by this
important information from the shore base and continued their mission with
- The narrowboat was moored briefly at Higher Poynton
where the crew enjoyed their penultimate breakfast prepared by Ron.
The crew took a relaxing cruise down the remainder of the Macclesfield Canal
in the sunshine, past several vast and historic Mill buildings. They
turned into the Peak Forest Canal at Marple and further enjoyed the
beautiful scenery as they headed for their final destination at Whaley
Bridge. The crew took an opportunity to have a late lunch of soup
and bread with a few pickled onions whilst stopped
for a pumpout at The New Mills Marina in Newtown.
Entering the Peak Forest Canal.
The Goyt Mill at Marple
- With the crew's relaxed state a catastrophe occurred
shortly afterwards, when Neil sailed past the Furness Vale boatyard
where they had intended to fill with fuel !!! Options of pulling the
boat backward for half a mile were dismissed as they considered their
options. However, Neil redeemed himself when he asked the owner of a
large moored barge where fuel was available, only to discover that it was in
floating shop and fuel station. The crew happily pulled alongside
while the tank was filled with £36-00 of diesel and to their delight found
that they also sold replacement "Traditional Narrowboat Fenders" (Donkey's
Dick), as it had been noticed that the boat had lost yet another.
Filling with fuel from a floating Barge Shop
- After the excitement of the above events and with a
full fuel tank and empty toilets the crew continued to their destination at
the Whaley Arm of the Canal at Whaley Bridge and started looking for the
proposed mooring location. The crew selected a suitable place adjacent
to the access bridge for the all night Tesco Extra store, turning the boat
at the end of the Arm ready for an easy departure on its next trip. After the
exertion and tension of the rescue mission the crew immediately setup the
beer barrel and commenced drinking quantities of Bitburger. Alan took
a 6 figure grid reference of the boat location to radio through to Colin in order
that the crew can be collected on Saturday morning around 11am.
When the Bitburger barrel was finally disconnected Alan advised that it felt
extremely light and must be almost empty.
- The crew felt relaxed on a successful conclusion to the
dangerous and daring mission and considered it necessary to investigate the
local drinking establishments for the evening. "The Navigation" at Bugsworth
Basins was selected as the starting place. After a long and difficult walk
along the towpath the crew found themselves in the surroundings of the
historical Basin and accurately located The Navigation pub, where
quantities of Pedigree and "Slap & Tipple" were purchased. Dinners of
Fish & Chips and healthy Fish Pie and vegetables were secured. In view
of the vast quantities of Bitburger previously consumed only 2 pints of bitter
were enjoyed whereafter the tired and competent crew returned to the
narrowboat for the final portions of cheese and biscuits, with some coffee.
- The exhausted crew retired to their beds content with
achieving their exacting tasks over the last week, aware that their
next narrowboating adventure starts in a mere 5 weeks time.
Saturday 28th July
(Sunny with a few clouds)
- Although Colin was not scheduled to arrive to collect
the crew until 11am, as had become habit the crew rose at 7-15am for final
porridge. They packed their belongings and commenced the task of
cleaning and tidying the boat inside and out. Although they had saved
sufficient food for a final cooked breakfast, the crew felt unable to face a
large meal, which may also have undone some of their strenuous cleaning
tasks. Once this was completed the crew took a walk around Whaley
Bridge locating evidence of the tracks from old Incline railways that used
to bring limestone down to Bugsworth basin, which was once Britain's largest
- After returning to the narrowboat, the final greasing
of the prop shaft was undertaken, the electricity and gas isolated, and the
boat closed to await its next outing by its owner Cran (see
transfer into Colin's Galaxy was swiftly accomplished and the journey to
their homes started, stopping only for a quick visit to the Furness Vale
Marina, where a replacement piling hook was purchased to replace one
inadvertently left at the Oakgrove moorings, due to their eager departure.
- The intrepid crew relaxed on their journey home
through picturesque areas the Peak District and Yorkshire reflecting on the
success of their mission to rescue the stranded Stealth narrowboat.
The Original Plan"
Leisurely depart from Brinklow Marina, service at Rose
Narrowboats, Stretton Stop (4pm latest)
4.5mls to moor at Ansty for Monday Night (Rose & Castle)
TUESDAY: (Long Day)
Early Start, through Nuneaton, Atherstone, Polesworth,
Tamworth, Fazeley Junction to Whittington (Choice of 3 pubs)
26mls, 14Lks, 12 Pearsons Hours
Fradley Junction onto the Trent & Mersey, through Handsacre, Rugeley, Haywood Junction, Weston-on Trent, Sandon to Stone for
Tuesday Night (Star Inn by the Lock)
28mls, 9Lks, 10 Pearsons Hours
THURSDAY: (Another Long Day)
Head towards Stoke, Etruria and on the Harecastle Tunnel
by about lunchtime. Through tunnel, Kidsgrove to arrive at either Hassall
Green or Wheelock (Pubs at Each)
20mls, 28Lks, 12 Pearsons Hours
Middlewich, Rudheath, past the Anderton Lift to Acton
Bridge (Black Prince). 2 nearby Pubs
21mls, 21Lks, 11 Pearsons Hours
5 Miles to Preston Brook and the start of the Bridgewater
Canal. We are then close to Runcorn and the south side of the Mersey!!
This will be a shortish day and will allow us spare time (if necessary) to
get the proposed moorings and time to tidy out the narrowboat.
5mls, 1Lock, 2 Pearsons Hours
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