Tuesday, 31 May 2011

BCN 24 hour Marathon Challenge 2011 Part 1

Gas Street - Farmer's Bridge - Digbeth Basin - Salford Junction - Rushall Junction - Ogley Basin - Brownhills - Cannock Extenstion - Birchills - Walsall Town Arm - Pudding Green Junction - New Main Line - Smethwick Junction ( and back to Gas Street via the loops)

58 locks, 47 miles

Birmingham Canal Navigations
24 hours (8am - 9pm and 3am - 2pm)

We spent the weekend competing in the BCN 24 hour Marathon Challenge. It was a fantastic if tiring weekend of boating, with some great people, on a wonderful old boat, the Large Northwich Yeoford, operated as a camping boat by Birmingham and Midland Canal Carrying Company. The company is now trading as the nondescript Bespoke Executive Solutions. Yeoford has a draft of 2'10", probably nearer 3' once it's going, is 71' 6" long, 7'2" wide, and built in 1937 by Yarwoods. It has an Armstrong and Siddeley AS2 air-cooled engine, which is certainly loud!


The object of the challenge is to complete as much of Birmingham's network of canals in 24 hours as possible. The event starts at 8am on Saturday morning, and finishes at 2pm on Sunday, leaving boaters to take a 6-hour rest period however they wish. Many opt to spend it in the pub... Points are given for each mile travelled and for each lock, with bonus points given for answering questions correctly, having a deeper-draughted boat (which we did) and for doing the more weed-and-rubbish strewn, more challenging shallow canals.

If this all seems a little last minute, that's because it was! We had hoped to compete in the challenge with the Young Working Boaters Society, and had spent a long time plotting and scheming over which boat to use. Plan A, to use Sarah E's Josher motor Ling, didn't work because Ling was in paint dock, 5 days cruise away. Dan's steam narrowboat Emily Anne was too far away too, Ariel was just out of the paint dock and delivering coal, and Rebekah's plan to "borrow" Roger Fuller's tug Growler (with a Lister HA6...) didn't work out.

We considered hiring a boat for the weekend, and a quote for a 40' semi-trad came out at £600 for the weekend. OK when sharing between several people, but not a working boat...

And then Amy and I had a simualtaneous brainwave. We came home from work, and both said "What about Collingwood and Ash?" These ex-working boats are for hire to parties as camping boats, and we'd seen them at Gas Street several times before, and coming down the Wolverhampton 21. Amy got in touch, and arranged to hire Yeoford for a very reasonable sum- and the challenge was on!
Surprisingly comfortable bunks- from Winson Green prison!


All mod cons on board!

Friday saw us heading out from work to catch the 4pm train to Birmingham. Unfortunately, having got on and secured seats, the train was cancelled, so we had to get off and wait for the next one. However, we were soon in Birmingham, and met up with the rest of the crew for the weekend- Rebekah and Theresa (who run Ibex and Ilford), Tim (Fulbourne), Mike (Victoria), Sarah (Ling), Pippa, and Dan.

We dropped off our luggage on the boat, moored at Gas Street basin. We were perhaps the best equipped party of hirers they'd ever had! We'd all bought our own windlasses, BW keys and handcuff keys, and lots of useful stuff. I bought a 12v floodlight (useful for night boating- and we were planning on doing a lot of that!) and my klaxon. Dan stole the show by bringing a very heavy suitcase containing a Tirfor winch- a very powerful hand winch which is just the thing for pulling deep-draughted working boats out of bridge holes or locks that they've jammed in, or off of shopping trolleys, safes, and the other detritus on the canal bed. Unfortunately the £13 suitcase had lost one of the wheels and he was dragging it behind- clearly the designers didn't have 50kg of winch, chain and cable in mind when making it!

As we were all hungry, we headed over to the Nandos restaurant in the Mailbox, and had a very good time over some good, substantial food. A quick trip to Tesco bought the supplies- including 8 packs of bacon and a LOT of biscuits, fortuitously on Buy One Get One Free!- before heading back to the boat.

Unfortunately, Gas Street is very, very noisy on a Friday night. The local nightclubs blasted sounds until 2am or so, and we were all woken at 5am by several hundred glass bottles being tipped into a skip.

But, despite having had not a great deal of sleep, we were all up and ready to go at 6am on Saturday. There was boating to be done!

Will the YWBS get Yeoford jammed in a bridgehole? Will it run horribly aground on many shopping trolleys? Will they eat all those biscuits? Tune in for the next exciting installment....

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1 comment:

  1. So sorry not to meet you. Andy (Capt Ahab) was looking out for your for the duration and I had hoped to say hi at the end. I had shortbread ... (see my blog!) Another time.

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