The Ribble Link Cruise
Eye Bee, the Resurrection
In this issue is a postscript to Ian Bottrill's article From Dee to Sea in which he describes the damage done, by the sea, to his narrow boat Eye Bee and the repairs which were necessary.
There is also an account of last year's Cruise from the perspective of a visiting boater, Brian Rogers, which is reprinted from Wide Views, the magazine of Thrupp Canal Cruising Club.
While in Manchester, shopping for a cordless phone as a Christmas present, I went to the Central Retail Park which is next to the Rochdale Canal and saw the large amount of weed and accumulated rubbish in and above the lock just to the north of Great Ancoats Street.
At the end of February I was in Manchester again and noticed the very muddy water which was flowing down the Rochdale Nine so, while my wife and daughter were shopping, I went to investigate. I found that the lock had been cleaned out and around it was a team of workmen busy with rebuilding operations. Also the tarmac covered infill had been dug out of the canal as far as the next bridge at New Union Street and the brickwork and masonry along the banks repaired and re-pointed.
Last week both new gates were in place looking very smart indeed, stop planks were in position outside the top gates of the lock so that work on replacing the ground paddles could continue after the restored section of canal had been re-filled with water.
I have also been putting together some information on the accessibility of surviving parts of the route of the Walton Summit branch for the author of the Roots and Routes web site. An account of my adventures while doing this may appear in these pages sometime.
I am very sad to report that the events in Clacton I mentioned in my last editorial had an unexpectedly sudden and tragic ending when my sister-in-law died in mid-January and we are still trying, with some difficulty, to come to terms with this event.
Finally, I really do need some more contributors to Ripples - anything remotely on topic, recipes, trip reports, jokes, poems, a quiz or crossword puzzle (with answers!) would be welcome. Don't worry that your presentation might not be correct, the content is more important - I can knock it into shape.
The Environment Agency has finally cleared the way.
At a meeting, held on the 24th March, the Environment Agency announced that due to several factors, one being a new interceptor sewer being installed by North West Water alongside Savick Brook within the next few years, they are now prepared to clear the way to allow the project to be completed. They have agreed that providing all the data, which has been sent to them from Babties, is verified they will write to Lancashire County Council confirming their decision. (This will have taken place by the time that you all read this).
The design of the Link has also been modified to enable the consultants to meet with the Environment Agency's strict water quality regime. This has been achieved by making the channel slightly narrower than was originally planned but, as the Link is effectively for one way traffic, this will neither affect nor detract from it.
The date for work to commence has now had to be put back to June 1999 although the completion date is still before the end of 2000. Further details will be announced as I receive them. We are making provisional plans to have a grand opening, with a rally, which we hope will take place in Haslam Park at the same location as the 1992 Preston Guild celebration. Let's hope for better weather than on that occasion.
This year's Ribble Link Rally, as I am sure you are aware, is being held on the 11th & 12th of September. If anyone wants a motor boat to be trailed round, from the Lancaster, to take part in the cruise please contact me as I am trying to arrange special prices. It is our intention to transfer the boats on the 4th of September with the return on the 17th. If any narrow boaters wish to have a change and join us, or spend some time on a different system, we can arrange for your boat to be craned in or out of the dock and arrange transport.
Thanks to all who have sent in their pledges and donations and especially for allowing them to go via a Landfill operator. We are closing in on our target but, as some of the costs have increased, we are trying to raise more. If anyone else would like to help please contact myself or any committee member or if you wish to take up life membership, with your donation going via Landfill, please contact our membership secretary.
During a four day stop-over in Manchester, a neighbouring boater enquired if we were going on the Ribble Link Campaign Cruise on July 11th. In response to our reply that we hadn't given it any thought he gave us a phone number - just in case. After some deliberation we decided it would make a nice change, only to find no more bookings were being accepted as the number of entries had reached ninety. Very tongue in cheek we explained we had come all the way from Oxford.
"In which case you must come." was the reply.
We arrived at Tarleton with days to spare and found a mooring by Town End swing bridge where boats were moored three abreast, many having been 'weekended'. Frank and Irene Parker were the cruise organisers and they gave a very comprehensive briefing to all first timers. Basically Tarleton lock can only be operated for an hour or so either side of high water and with an average of only two boats per locking the load had to be spread over three days. Being totally flexible we were asked to wait until the Thursday and our help at the lock on Wednesday would be greatly appreciated. The first two boats entered the lock with nine more 'pairs' lined up behind them. As soon as the flood tide rose two feet over the bottom sill they were locked out and the race against time started, whipping boats through as fast as eight lock workers could do it.
At the civilised time of 10.30 am next day we took our place in the queue, in the seventh pair, as other willing hands operated the lock. As instructed we made due allowance for the flood tide passing the bottom gates and set off for Preston as fast as practicable, punching the tide coming up the River Douglas. Our lock companion roared ahead and we soon passed a boat from the previous locking.
An hour later (four and a half miles) we reached the confluence with the river Ribble at Five Mile Perch, an enormous pole sprouting from the river. A safety boat (a powerful launch) was hovering nearby in case of problems. It was very tempting to cut the corner instead of going half way to Blackpool before turning but we had been warned time and time again of the dire consequences of making such a foolhardy decision as there was a submerged wall between the Perch and the bank. Entering the Ribble we ran with the tide but it soon started to ebb and we were punching an increasingly strong flow. By now the flotilla was spread out over a mile, we passed four more boats and were in turn passed.
Some three miles later the object of all the campaigning came into view, the Savick Brook, which in two years time will link the Lancaster Canal to the Ribble through a new three mile navigation with eight locks. Avoiding some unbuoyed sand banks (but marked on the provided charts) we sailed through the tidal basin into Preston lock.
A short wait ensued to allow a few more boats to catch up before entering the dock and settling into our allocated mooring. The ten mile trip had taken two and a quarter hours at 1800 rpm (we use 1200 rpm on the Oxford), the average time is two and a half to three hours so we could have eased the throttle but the engine benefited from a good blow through!
The annual campaign cruise has now turned into the Preston Waterways Festival, this year's main sponsor being Virgin Trains. This meant that our pontoon mooring with water and electricity, three nights excellent entertainment, plaque and bag of goodies including Virgin baseball caps only set us back £10. The event was marred by the weather; not too much rain, but far too much cold wind which played havoc with the boat decorations and illuminations. It was so strong the firework display had to be cancelled.
Preston Dock is vast and the wind whipped up quite a choppy sea, (not where we were moored), as we found out when asked to make a few circuits of the dock. The public like to see boats moving and we did four circuits at a brisk canal speed and it took over an hour!
Some boats had to leave on Sunday and we walked to the end of the tidal basin to watch their departure. Despite loud-hailer pleas to wait, the eager beavers left as soon as the gates opened and entered a very fast flowing Ribble which swept them sideways and backwards; most eventually stemmed the tide but one had to be towed by a safety boat. Those that obeyed the instructions and left twenty minutes later had no such problems.
Our flexibility allowed us to delay departure until Tuesday, so on Monday we high-tailed it by train to Windermere, for a trip on the lake and a steam train ride.
Thirty eight boats (not all bound for Tarleton) joined us in the tidal basin and after waiting for that official 'go' were soon punching the flood tide in a force 5 westerly wind. Being the last to leave, we had a splendid view of the boats ploughing down river, as did the Police helicopter that shadowed us for some distance. After a mile, we opted to cross to the left bank where the current appeared to be less strong and soon found ourselves passing many boats that remained on the right. Before long the tide began to turn and though we now had the benefit of the ebb, it was wind against tide and it became quite choppy and we were thankful to turn into the River Douglas at Five Mile Perch.
At Tarleton the lock operators were working up a sweat to get the boats through before all the water ran away. As there was only a couple of feet difference in the levels initially, passages were quite quick.
As a postscript we entered Trelawny for "the boat travelling the greatest distance from home moorings", fortunately we came second. The winner, from Aylesbury, received a splendid pint tankard - we won two Virgin sweatshirts! Brian Rogers
(Thanks to Brian Rogers and Wide Views, the magazine of Thrupp Canal Cruising Club, for permission to reprint this article. Ed.)
The wind hadn't built up to full strength when I was persuaded, by the lifeboat men, to abandon the boat and it seemed an inconvenient rather than a dangerous situation as the wind was pushing the boat up the beach with the incoming tide. The most unusual feature was the noise of the waves striking the boat and the spray coming over the stern which has a solid steel surround five feet above water.
The anchor rope which later snapped I had tested some months previously by hooking the anchor over a bollard on a landing stage and putting the boat into full reverse.
The front cockpit is three feet above water and with the new canopy fitted I thought it would be secure, however the waves must have been higher as the material was ripped to shreds. the water must have created whirlpool effect as it drained into the cabin as sand was deposited, in a spiral, on the hull sides inside the cockpit.
The exhaust is only ten inches above the water and the water which poured in drained through the flexible exhaust piping without damaging the engine. It was high tide at ten twenty-two and the clocks had both stopped at ten forty when the batteries had shorted out. In the gas locker the sea had forced its way to the level of the vent pipe and an empty gas bottle was floating. Not a window was broken although a bag containing all the spare electric light bulbs was filled with broken glass.
A section of floor which was not screwed down had floated, lifting the carpet. I had put forty pounds under a corner of the carpet as ready cash and whilst a lifeboat man was bailing out I took the carpet up and dumped it on the beach for removal. While searching in the debris I had found thirty pounds and the last tenner turned up two months later blocking a drain hole under the floor. The copper terminals and studs on the starter solenoid were live and had dissolved in the salt water, the brass nuts slipping off the vanishing threads into the sump. The water pump wiring was at a low level and the main terminal block fell to the floor when all the bare ends of the wire dissolved. Although the hull was undamaged the skeg was bent upwards and twisted allowing the rudder pivot to come clear of the bottom bearing. The one-and-a-quarter inch diameter rudder pivot was then bent sideways, with the rudder, making it useless and impossible to turn. To add insult to injury the water pumps were rescued and left in the cockpit whilst I went home for the car. These were stolen.
"Salvage." a lifeboat man said.
I was undecided about what to do with the boat, thinking of the costs involved, but I was told I had to move it off the beach. I found a friendly bank manager who had read a newspaper article about my trip. The boat was taken to Hesford's, near Lymm, where it waited for some weeks for the correct size of steel bar, the boat having been made in feet and inches and not millimetres. For the repairs I had the skeg straightened with bars welded along its length and bars were welded from the bottom of the hull to the skeg. The bottom rudder bearing was re-positioned and with the new rudder welded on the tiller was so easy to turn I have had to make a friction device to damp down the rudder movement so I can leave the tiller whilst popping into the cabin. A three foot high exhaust pipe will be fitted for sea work.
The boat is now back at Marple awaiting a new fridge and carpet, perhaps the only canal boat to have survived a force seven, near gale.
I now realise that, had I got back into deeper water and gone for the Ribble estuary, the sea water in the fuel would have stopped the engine and I wouldn't be writing this. As it is Eye Bee is nearly ready to face the sea again so the final chapters have yet to be written.
Ian Bottrill NB Eye Bee