Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Breasting up for a backwards "tow"

On Sunday at The Taft on the T&M the day started with a service in the marquee in the garden. This was led by Boaters' Christian Fellowship member Martin Oram, a retired vicar.

This was followed by a "boat blessing", where Tim and Tracey - with guide dog Oakley - and their newly refitted boat Sola Gratia were dedicated to God's work on the waterways.

As part of this, Martin sprinkled the boat with water.

Yesterday, Monday, it was time to leave. Now we wanted to head back towards Fradley so we could return to Milton Keynes via the Coventry and Oxford Canals. But we were facing the wrong way; the nearest winding opportunity in our direction was Great Hayward Junction, three miles and two locks away. So that would be six miles and four locks - with queues at the locks judging from the number of boats passing us - just to get back to our starting point. I was considering reversing half-a-mile or so to the winding hole by Bridge 68 when Terry on Grace offered to assist.

We breasted up, Jubilee facing backwards, and Terry and Chris pulled us along. This sounds simple, and it was, but we waited a long, long time before we made the move. There was a seemingly endless procession of boats, in each direction, which we let past before pulling Jubilee alongside Grace.

The first obstacle was Taft Bridge 69 and a collection of moored boats the other side, with a fuel boat tied up opposite. The "tow" was released and I reversed through the bridge, waited for boats to pass, and then breasted up to Grace again for the next bit. The canal was incredibly busy. One oncoming boat decided he couldn't pass on the right, so he made us move over so he could squeeze through on the "wrong" side. Just beyond the winding hole we were released again; we turned into the hole and let a following boat past; then completed the turn.

We followed Grace to Rugeley, where we stopped for shopping (I found Aldi near Bridge 67) and lunch. Terry and Chris joined us on Jubilee for our usual salad. Can you believe it? I forgot to take a photo!

At Handsacre we stopped again, this time for a barbecue in the last of the sunshine. We repaired to Grace after the meat course for some delicious cake and ice cream. Thanks, Terry and Chris!

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