In an unfortunate turn of events, Trustee, John Dodwell has to hand over the tiller to his son...
Well, that wasn't planned! I'd been looking forward to a gentle five hours or so from Stone to Tixall Wide. And then another five hours on Sunday to Penkridge where I'd leave HELEN and get the train home. Instead, I ended up in hospital with a cracked rib diagnosed (don't ask!). No more boating for me for the next few weeks. Fortunately my son Richard was at a boat yard near Stourbridge (where's he's rebuilding a boat) and so he came to Stone to rescue me and take me home - after he'd moved HELEN off the 24 hours mooring to a 14 days area. He and Martin Brookes (from the boatyard) will move the boat back home (a little way above Stourton Locks on the Stourbridge Canal) - thank goodness.
The pity is that I'd got a good list of Trust staff lined up to go on HELEN down the Staffs and Worcs from Penkridge around the middle of the month - Stuart Mills and Jeremy Harrison from the property side (they like to see where the rents they generate are spent on maintenance; Stuart (he's the Head of property and other investment) came last year)); Paul Fox , one of the dredging managers (who's been very good at publicising where dredging has been taking place) and his wife Trish (who helps out at the Braunston Welcome Station); and Lucy Bowles - she works in our volunteer development side and has been good at bringing in new volunteer groups). Ian Lane, the acting West Midlands waterways manager (who'd been on HELEN earlier in the year going up the Wolverhampton 21) was also due to come. Ah well, there's always next year.
I forgot yesterday to mention two items. When we were passing a couple of boats moored near Barlaston with our engine at tick-over, we got shouted at to slow down. Most people don't know that HELEN - being an icebreaker as well as a tug - has a rounded hull and so swims through the water better than most boats which are a "square box"; and why should they know? But I do wish they'd look at the effect of any passing boat on their own boat. In fact, their mooring lines hardly moved as we went past - which showed me their boats weren't being pulled around. I did try and point this out to them but their danders were up and they weren't having it. Indeed, they said they'd catch up with me at the next lock to have words - puzzling as it was some miles away.
The second matter is more pleasant. Some of you may know KEPPEL, the Admiralty class butty built in the late 50s/early 60s and recently paired with LINDSAY. She's owned by a Stoke-on-Trent based charity and needs major work to the bottom. We passed her moored at the Fullers' yard in Stone on Friday - and that night I heard that with the help of their £10k appeal being on the Trust website, they had reached their target and so the repairs can go ahead. That's good news as I reckon these old working boats are part of the canal heritage.
John Dodwell is one of our 10 volunteer trustees, who carry responsibility for the charity’s policies and strategies. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.
John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!See more blogs from John Dodwell