Tuesday, 27 July 2021

The end of our very short 'summer cruise' 2nd - 4th July 2021

 Friday 2nd July 2021
The Commandery

A rather belated post!

We woke to sun with every intention of going down one lock to the sanitary station, emptying and filling as required and then heading down the two Diglis locks on to the River Severn and mooring up on the Racecourse moorings.

However.... it was not to be.  Before we set off I wanted to put some washing up to dry on our lines in the bow.  As I stepped up into the bow, my left leg 'cracked' and I was left in a lot of pain.  It is exactly what happened to my right knee 2.5 years ago.  Chris heard my cries for help and somehow I made it to the saloon and the dinette.  It was obvious that we were going nowhere.  What to do and how to get back to the marina?  Our first course of action was to email C&RT and let them know that we might have to overstay (we were on a 48 hour mooring).  As usual, the response was swift and positive - we could stay until the following Wednesday if necessary and if we needed more time we were to get back to them.

We could manage another day without visiting the sanitary station, so we decided to stay put where we were.  I did get out of the boat and stagger using a walking pole to the Commandery all of about 30 feet away.  We enjoyed some time in the fresh air and a toasted sandwich for our lunch.

Saturday 3rd July 2021
The Commandery to above Bridge 2 via the sanitary station and the winding hole
A few hundred yards and 1 lock

We woke to rain and then a lot of activity outside

The first of the competitors in the Droitwich ring paddle - 21 miles in total.

The rain stopped.  The competitors kept coming.

We had to move - both urine containers were full!  I hobbled to the lock, filled it, Chris moved the boat in.  I took over at the helm. There was only one bottom paddle working which Chris struggled to operate - he just does not have enough puff.  He managed, I moved the boat out, picked Chris up and we headed to the sanitary station.  This one lock was enough to show us we would never get back to the marina without assistance.
I am not sure why Chris' face is blurred, but it is him!

The competitors kept coming

We made it to the sanitary station, emptied and filled as required with plenty of action to look at whilst we were there.

It took us back to 1993 and 1994 the years that our son and then our daughter took part in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race that takes place every Easter - well Covid, foot and mouth and weather permitting.  I am sure some of you are aware of this event, particularly if you have ever been on the K & A over the Easter weekend, but for those that aren't here are a few details.  

The start is on Good Friday.  First off are 19 to 35 year olds in K2s (seniors).  They race straight through. The current (non-stop) course record stands at 15 hours 34 minutes.  The course is 125 miles with 77 locks to portage round.  Those under 19 (juniors), over 35 (veterans) and K1 crews take four days.  Devizes to Newbury, then Marlow, then Teddington and finally from Teddington along the tidal Thames to Westminster.  When we did the route from Teddington to Westminster on Tentatrice we felt very small, so to do so in a canoe takes guts.  Each team needs supporters to feed and water them at the various locks en route.  With two in a canoe that meant two sets of parents and siblings to support, so we could leap frog locks.  Supporters were not allowed to help portage canoes.  If there was a break down, the crew had to lift the canoe out of the water and place it on the ground.  The support crew were then allowed to assist.  It is a really hard event which we enjoyed as support crew and took our hats off to all those who competed.  The interesting thing was that a lot of the younger siblings who supported their older siblings, then decided to give it a go themselves.  They were not put off by the sheer hard graft required to finish the event.  When our daughter took part she and her friend 'hit a brick wall' on the tidal part of the Thames.  All padding is taken out of the canoes for this last stretch to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.  They were both in a lot of discomfort/pain, both were in tears of exhaustion and pain when a crew of two lads from another school came alongside, chivvied them along and stayed with them giving them encouragement all the way to the finish.  Real sportsmanship to put the girls needs before their own time.  The PE master/canoe coach at their school did the event as seniors with his wife one year (and never again!).  He said you needed the speed of a race horse, the stamina of a cart horse and the brains of a rocking horse!

I have just done a search on Mark and Sarah's results:
Av TimePlaceRaces1st

Gash M R21.22810
Gash Sarah Margaret25.63810

The more I dig into DW, the more fascinating it becomes.  The very first race of senior doubles took place in 1948 with 4 boats and the average time was 79 hours (surely they must have stopped a few times?). The first race for junior had 2 entries back in 1952 and the average time was 73 hours.  In 1993 there were 48 entries and the average time was 21 hours.  In 1994 there were 44 entries and the average time was 21.8 hours.  For some reason there was only 1 junior entry in 2000.    In 2000 there were only 6 boats in the senior race.  In 1987 176 boats took part in the senior doubles.  I have now discovered why the numbers were so low in 2000 and other years were missed all together:

In 2000 heavy rainfall had brought the River Thames up to flood levels with fast flowing water. A number of crews found the conditions on the Thames challenging, especially during the darkness of night-time for the non-stop crews. After an incident at Old Windsor wier the race committee took the decision to abandon the race. As some teams had already reached Teddington (and were waiting to access the tidal stretch) when the decision was made, they decided (against the race organisers instructions) to remove their race numbers and carry on unofficially to Westminster.

In 2001, along with a large number of events in the UK, the race could not take place due to a nationwide outbreak of Foot-and-mouth disease restricting unnecessary access to the countryside (and thus large parts of the course).

In 2016 Storm Katie brought storm force winds to London on Easter Monday meant that a decision was made to cancel the last day of the staged race and the results were based on the times taken to reach Thames Young Mariners. Finishers medals were awarded to those that reached this point and certificates issued marked "shortened course". This decision didn't impact the non-stop race, which had already finished on Easter Sunday

In 2018 heavy rainfall prior to the Easter weekend and throughout Good Friday once again brought the River Thames up to flood levels with fast flowing water. The race committee initially made a decision that no night-time paddling should occur on the Thames, but with conditions worsening then decided that all classes would finish at Reading (Wokingham Canoe Club at Dreadnaught Reach).[8] No finishers medals were issued and certificates were marked with "shortened course".

In 2020 & 2021 the event was cancelled because of the Covid Pandemic

Tragically in 1991 a canoeist from Worcester died on the last leg between Richmond Bridge and Westminster - the only fatality in its 71 year history.  They say it is one of the hardest endurance races - much harder than the London Marathon.  I gather that Sir Steve Redgrave pulled out after 87 miles back in 2012 when he was 50.

Anyway I digress.  We managed to find a lull and safely winded (turned round) without impeding any of the competitors.  We moored up just past B2 below the lock we had come down that morning to await rescue.  That evening we heard something moving around on the roof.  I hobbled out to have a look to find two ducks plodding around.  The male kept his distance, but the female was a lot braver (or hungrier) and came right up to me, eventually taking food from my hand.

Sunday 4th July 2021
Bridge 2, Worcester Birmingham Canal to Droitwich Spa Marina
9.14 miles, 17 locks

Rescue came in the form of our daughter with transport provided by our son in law.  Sarah arrived at 09:50 and we headed off straight away - we had a long day ahead of us.

There is not a lot to say about the journey apart from it being painful and we would never have made it without Sarah.  I managed to hobble about and could work one side of the bottom gates, so at least she did not have to keep walking round.  We were following other boats up all the way, but we all went at the same speed, so no hold ups.  

It was below this lock on the way down that we spent four hours with Chris down the weed hatch.  This time we got though without incident.

Some pounds were still down, so a bit of scraping along the bottom again.

A few hold ups with boats ahead, but no massive queues.

The occasional boat coming down

The horse and the sheep were still in their field, but today the horse had no coat and the sheep were sheltering from the sun under the tree.

Sarah hard at work as we exited the top lock and before we went under the M5.

Fun and games at Hanbury Junction when the boat ahead of us made the left turn towards the Hanbury locks.  It took a few goes and the use of the barge pole,  

but they made it through the very narrow junction without a single touch. We had the feeling that they might have borrowed the boat, but whoever they were they did everything slowly, but absolutely correctly.

It was all made more interesting when another boat came along from the Astwood direction.  They wanted to go straight on, so we had to make the turn into Hanbury before they could continue.  Chris was pleased that he made it round the turn in one, but then he has done it many times.

The Hanbury locks came next with VLKs on duty, so it was an easy ride down.  The hole I reported on on our first day has got bigger.

Just as we exited the bottom lock the heavens opened - literally 10 minutes from our mooring!  The VLKs at Hanbury have helped us more times than I can count.  I am always delighted to see VLKs wherever we are, so a big thank you to the ones who helped us today and all the others on all our previous journeys all over the country.  Will we ever pass through here again?

Not just a bit of rain! Note the coot....

A welcoming committee of the rest of the coot family at the entrance to the marina

Our son in law and one of their sons came to collect Sarah.  It had been a 7 hour trip.  One we would never have managed on our own, so a really big thank you to Sarah for giving up her Sunday and the rest of the family for lending her to us.

Typically the rain did not last long. We did not linger.  Once safely tied up we headed for home - things could be sorted out another day.

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