Dudley Port Basin to Bumble Hole, Dudley No 2, BCN
Our mooring had been a great improvement from last night, so much quieter. With the temperature that little bit higher we hoped for little ice on todays cruise. We pushed off and winded, making note of house numbers should we return and want a supermarket delivery.
Back out onto the Old Main Line we retraced our steps from yesterday, over the top of Netherton Tunnel to Brades Locks on The Gower Branch. On our first ever trip into Birmingham these were our first locks down onto the New Main line on NB Winding Down.
I hopped off to set the staircase for us, filling the top chamber and emptying the bottom one. As the water emptied out four coconuts swirled round below the bottom gates, bumping into each other, two made a break from the bunch and headed on down towards the next lock whilst the others continued round in circles.
This was where we first noticed coconuts in the canal, the Asian community place coconuts in the water as offerings as they would do in the Ganges.
With Oleanna in the top chamber Mick turned the engine off. It was time to check what we’d caught around the prop. Being a Tyler Wilson shell our weed hatch is totally separate to the engine compartment. This means that should the cover not get tightened enough we can’t fill the engine bay with water and sink. Our cover is below the canal surface so is also under the water.
Mick undid the cover, a tight fit so it needs a bit of wellie with a lump hammer.
Once off it was time to see what was around the prop. With use of our Prop Mate a very handy tool he managed to drag up and cut through quite a bit of plastic. But there was more down there, time for the pond gloves!
With a glove on Mick had to lean further over the weed hatch so that he could touch the prop. More plastic, fishing line and some plastic banding came out. A good collection, this won’t be our last whilst on the BCN.
Now the prop was clear we could continue. As I filled one chamber from the other I spied a familiar shape down at the next lock.
A cat sat staring into the friendly cover, it turned towards me flashing white bits. Hang on! Then it walked towards me, white toes! Hang on Hang on. The camera came out to zoom in. Was it? How could she be down there?! I turned to see Tilly sitting in the window, Phew!
Oleanna is in desperate need of a wash. The other day I accused Mick of throwing a very muddy dog at the cabin sides whilst I’d been in Vienna. He denied this and I worked out that it most probably happened when the Fountains contractors were clearing the tree near Wast Hill Tunnel last week. I must get round to washing her, even if it’s just the windows!
Oleanna chased the coconuts down to the New Main Line and turned left to head along the straight before turning onto the Netherton Tunnel Branch. Time to get us ready.
The big torch was brought out the back, life jackets and all the cabin lights put on. I also found some Christmas fudge to give us a sugar boost whilst in the chilly tunnel.
Then a new job was added to tunnel mode, the Escape Pod. About bloo*in time they got my PPE out for going through tunnels, what do they think I’ve been shouting about all this time! Thank Paul for suggesting I might like my pod at the ready should the need arise. They have their life jackets on for when the outside gets stolen, so I should have my Escape Pod.
Netherton Tunnel is 2.776km long, wide with a towpath on both sides. It is straight so even from the junction you can see the light at the other end despite it being just over two miles away.
Two way traffic is possible and pedestrians with suitable footwear for puddles can walk through too. Today we only saw one bike, no boats.
We’d come across a few patches of cat ice this morning, would it be better or worse on the southern side of the tunnel. We bobbed out into the light again, no ice, brilliant.
Windmill End Junction, we turned towards Gosty Hill Tunnel and Hawne Basin. After about 100ft of ice we chose to stop. The ice was surprisingly thick here. Nobody had gone through to break it up to aid its melt. Diesel could wait another day.
Reversing back to the junction took a bit of doing with ice surrounding us. Mick winded and with the bow facing towards Blowers Green we carved our way through broken up ice to the bollards. Extra breaking of ice was required to get us into the side, but this was done with a boat hook.
Health and Safety deemed the ice to be broken up sufficiently for it to be safe for cats to explore. Tilly wasn’t too certain about this and clung to my ankles. Maybe it smelt too much of woofers, but she took some persuading to venture towards the trees.
A quick comfort break was followed by a dash up a tree. Then we spotted our first snowdrops of the year, always a welcome sight. However Tilly soon returned to try to trip me up!
3 locks, 2 a staircase, 4.78 miles, 2 lefts, 1 right, 2.776 km underground, 1 wind, 2 types of ice, 12 coconuts, 2.5 hours not fully used, 1st snowdrops, 2nd helping of stew, 2nd dry day.