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The Ups & Downs of Going to Saul, 2008Friday 20th June
When you’ve not been boating for a VERY long time and you’re now going on somebody else’s boat which you’ve only seen very briefly, you have to do a lot of thinking. Not only do you want the food (tinned, of course, ‘coz the boat doesn’t have a freezer), but other “domestic” essentials like the tin opener, matches and the thingie-that-goes-on-a-gas-ring-to-do-the-toast, as well as “boaty” stuff - locking gloves, Susan’s Dunton Double windlass, spare anti-vandal key and BW Watermate key (Gawd knows what all the other keys on the ring were!) maps, guides, something to write the Trip Report in longhand in and of course the IWA burgee!
All this lot (apart from the guides, newly-bought from Fradley Junction earlier in the week) was found in a couple of boxes in the garage roof (apart from the BCN map which had hidden itself away somewhere where it had no right to be) and are now packed in a special “boating box” alongside the food box. Beer (sufficient cans for the week) and wine (a dozen bottles) are all ready to go, but no corkscrew - the wine bottles are all screw top!
Saturday 21st June
Boating on a new boat is always interesting - the learning curve (to start with) is a vertical line as you find out where everything is and how everything (including the toilet) works. Eventually, having arrived at Sherbourne Wharf on Oozells Street Loop, loaded all the food, drink (and there was a LOT of that!) clothes and other clobber, we said our goodbyes and set off at 1715-ish. Very soon, the shiny, new, very expensive Birmingham was left behind and we were on the BCN of yore - wide, deep and deserted.
..........the BCN of yore - wide, deep and deserted.
The railway anorak in me noticed the new London Midland franchise to the fore amongst the Virgin and Cross Country services on the line to Wolverhampton. I even managed to see one of the very rare Wrexham & Shropshire services to north Wales.
The 3 Smethwick locks introduced me to the BCN style of anti-vandal lock. (For those who are not waterways-orientated, it’s necessary to lock the paddle gear at some locks to stop the local yokels interfering with it and either draining the canal (at the upper level) or flooding the level(s) below, or both). The BCN version is ridiculously easy to operate - a flick of the key unlocks it as the locking pin springs back and when you’ve done, a push on the other end of the locking pin locks it in again. British Waterways would do well to introduce this across the whole system. The summit level was quiet and at times crystal clear, so we could see all the weed right down to the bottom! Summit Tunnel, once raw and brutal when it was built (how many years ago? 30?) now looks weathered and overgrown and there are parts of the M5 viaduct (under which the canal runs) which are showing signs of the extensive repairs that have been needed.
We eventually arrived at the Black Country Living Museum at around 2115 after a fairly damp evening’s boating.
Digi TV - BBC only.
Tiller Pin of the Day - Thistle.
Totals: 9 miles, 6¼ furlongs, 3 locks
A nice, small, cast bridge on the BCN.