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Old 23rd May 2012
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SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

As many of you will already know, I'm obsessed with our wonderful canals and waterways, and work for a local narrowboat hire company.

A couple of weeks ago we had what was a near disaster...some Canadian guests, who had booked our boat Grace for a three week trip had to abandon the boat in the wilds of Yorkshire and head home after only a week due to a family crisis.



How on earth they managed to get as far as they did in less than a week is anyone's guess, but the challenge was then on....to get the boat back to the base as quickly as possible, ready for handover to the next guests.

On the face of it, it sounds like a simple job, but in reality it was a logistical nightmare. The company is very small - it's a husband and wife team who rely on people like myself for their back-up - cleaning, handovers etc. Most of us work full time during the week, doing the boat related stuff at weekends. Normally it works very well, but at times like this it's all hands on deck and everyone has to pull together.

If we'd had a couple of people free during the week, then we could have got the boat back in a week, but as it was we had to do a lot of car shuffling and ferrying around, finally getting the boat back in stages, a few days at a time.

The owner and his wife had managed, over the course of a long weekend and hampered/helped by their two young children to get the boat back as far as Leeds...we went over last Friday night to try and get it the rest of the way home.

After arriving at the hire base, we left our car and the boat company owner drove us over to Leeds to pick up the boat. It was after nine in the evening when we arrived, so there was no chance of moving anywhere....nothing for it except to settle down for a nice dinner and a bottle of wine...



...there's a story behind the flowers in the coke can, a fun reminder of a boating holiday several years ago, but I doubt it would make sense to anyone except us! Having to set alarms for 6.30am, we didn't actually drink both bottles of wine...

We really were up against it the next day...some of the locks in the area are closed and locked up after a certain time...if we didn't get there before this, then we'd simply have to moor up overnight and wait for them to be reopened the next morning.

Our mission was to get from Office Lock in Leeds through to the famous 3 and 5 Rise Locks at Bingley and to try and get up them before nightfall....we knew it was a real challenge and it was touch and go, but in the end, despite our best efforts, we just didn't quite make it in time, so had to moor up early and wait until the following morning to proceed. We'd spoken to the lock keepers at Field Lock who had done their level best to speed us through, but it just wasn't to be.

Once we finally got going, we found the locks to be a real challenge...the boat only just managed to fit in, and the leakage from the lock gates was simply appalling...



This lock pictured is a doddle compared to some we came across. In the end we had a major problem with a huge flood as the water cascading from the lock at Dobson's staircase lock simply swamped the boat when one of the front doors came open accidentally as we were working through one of the locks. It's impossible to describe how scary it was to be in that lock, on the stern, looking down and seeing water flooding the interior of the boat! We've worked these locks on several occasions, but always in a much smaller boat, meaning that we can stay at the back of the lock and avoid the water pouring through. It's not an experience I'd like to repeat....there aren't any photos of this, needless to say...we were too busy trying to stay afloat!

We were waiting at the bottom of Bingley 3 Rise early on the Sunday morning, waiting for the lock keeper to arrive...we'd been told that he would open up at 8.00am....in the end it was approaching 8.30 before the gates were opened and we could proceed. You know what it's like? You wait for someone to arrive and they're late, so you put the kettle on...sure enough, they arrive before it's boiled. We tried our own version....bacon! I had only just smelt the tantalising smell of sizzling bacon wafting through the boat before it was time to cast off and head off up the locks....no matter...when I finally got my bacon butty, several hours later, it was a real treat!

This is the view as we waited to ascend Bingley 5 Rise locks....



...and the view from the top...



...and the view from one of the lock chambers...



This renowned heritage site is simply superb...the staircase locks raise the canal 59ft 2in (18.03m) in about 320 feet. It's a fabulous feat of engineering.

Once we were through Bingley then we were faced with the dreaded Leeds and Liverpool Canal swing bridges...



It's a hard life, but someone has to do it....



I am simply SO envious of people who are able to live in a house like this...



We had lots of help at the top of Bingley 5 Rise.



...and lots of what we call "gongoozlers"....

This guy spent a lot of time trying to explain how the locks worked...I do hope she took it all in!



In the end we didn't quite manage to fulfill our mission...we managed to make it to the bottom of the locks at Gargrave on Sunday night and another willing volunteer moved her the rest of the way back to her home base on Monday.

It was interesting, to say the least!

Janet
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Old 23rd May 2012
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Thumbs up Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

This is an excellent article. Thanks for sharing the story of the adventure.
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Old 23rd May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Loved that Janet

Keep them coming please

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Old 23rd May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Another thumbs up from me Janet, a great read and excellent series of images.
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Hi Janet,
It is pouring with rain here and I am reposing in bed, not wanting to get moving at all, and enjoying your wonderful story and photos.
The locks and countryside are gorgeous and that Bingley 5 Rise is amazing!
Keep the stories coming!
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Interesting post with nice photos -thanks
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Regardless of the challenge in recovering your boat, this is a beautiful piece of photo-journalism, Janet. Your narrative and pictures deftly portray the saga. Yet I am left wondering how / why you weren't simply able to detail the boat and rehire it from where it lay abandoned in the wilds of Yorkshire. Hopefully you were compensated by the hirers for all the inconvenience.

And what a marvellous asset England has in its legacy of canals and waterways, I can certainly understand your passion to be a working part of them. And would you happen to know what that large building seen from the top of Bingly 5 Locks is -a factory or perhaps an institution ?
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Great little saga and very nicely illustrated. The Leeds Liverpool is definitely on my to do list, hope I don't have to wait till I retire though. Grace looks like a lovely boat too.
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

What a great story.
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

What an excellent narrative and shots! I enjoyed reading that
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Janet, Thank You . What a terrific time you have "working" Now you have given me an idea for a "spare time job".

Superb narrative

I too have a wonderful love of canals and Locks - Caen Hill 22 are our local and we take the children first, to see the old Brewery Wadsworths in Devizes as the horses pull the Dray out for deliveries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caen_Hill_Locks
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Mark,

Unfortunately it wasn't possible to rehire the boat from where she was abandoned. She was actually left on the very busy Aire and Calder Navigation, which was almost on red boards (flood warning) and needed a skilled and competent crew to get her back safely, certainly not something we could leave to inexperienced hirers.

The logistics of "turning" the boat also meant she had to be brought home ready for the couple who have hired her this weekend. There's the water and diesel tanks to be filled, the toilet tank to be pumped out and the boat cleaned from top to bottom then replenished with clean bedding and towels for our incoming guests.

One day I'll write a photo story detailing the trials and tribulations of trying to change a double duvet cover in the confines of a narrowboat - it's interesting, to say the least!

The large building seen in the distance from the top of the Bingley 5 is the Damart factory.

Here's Grace moored next to it, waiting to go up the Bingley 3. Unfortunately we were just too close for me to get any decent pictures of the actual building. It's really more impressive when seen from a distance.



After a long week working 9-5 in a busy call centre, this Saturday job is a breath of fresh air...




Chevvy, the Caen Hill flight is on our to-do list!

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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Saving Grace............AMAZING GRACE! I bet you enjoyed the trip, Janet. I would have as the stretch of the canal in Yorkshire is wonderful although I've only seen it from the road. Great storyline.
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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

Quote:
Originally Posted by Janet View Post
Mark,

Unfortunately it wasn't possible to rehire the boat from where she was abandoned. She was actually left on the very busy Aire and Calder Navigation, which was almost on red boards (flood warning) and needed a skilled and competent crew to get her back safely, certainly not something we could leave to inexperienced hirers.

The logistics of "turning" the boat also meant she had to be brought home ready for the couple who have hired her this weekend. There's the water and diesel tanks to be filled, the toilet tank to be pumped out and the boat cleaned from top to bottom then replenished with clean bedding and towels for our incoming guests.

One day I'll write a photo story detailing the trials and tribulations of trying to change a double duvet cover in the confines of a narrowboat - it's interesting, to say the least!

Chevvy, the Caen Hill flight is on our to-do list!

Janet
There is a lot "TO DO" for Incoming Guests ! Sad that the Canada People had to miss out on so much ! It is bad enough here, converting the Playroom into a Guest Bedroom (moving ALL the Toys out) and pulling the bed down from the wall - let alone cleaning every Nook and CRANNY of our little guests (who luckily, do not have chewing gum )

We must meet at Caen Hill Friends of ours are just selling up land home and bought "The Old Guys" currently moored near our Ian on here ! WQhich they are sailing ? down to Newbury for 10th June !

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Old 24th May 2012
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Re: SAVING GRACE...a rescue mission

What a fantastic story - and very nice pics.
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