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Day: 19 February 2024

Floodwater sweeps Bonnie away!

Floodwater sweeps Bonnie away!

Swept away

Went to get some water on Sunday, this involves moving the boat to the water point rather than the other way around.

Which ever way the boat is facing, I go in that direction until I reach one.

North is Thrupp 1hr 20m. South is Wolvercote 1hr 20m.

They’re both a similar distance, both have 2 locks.


Overflowing overflow - Kidlington
Overflowing overflow – Kidlington

Lots of it over the last few days, to add to that which was already on the land from the previous few weeks.

It rained quite heavily the night before, and when I set out the canal was flowing quite fast down toward Oxford.

This made things a bit more tricky. Firstly because the level of mud was quite high and moving around on the towpath was quite slippery. Then the overflows were taking on a lot of water from an over full canal, which dragged the boat in a little. Where the overflow re-joined the canal below the lock, the flow was very strong from the one side and would blow the boat into the opposite bank.

I got to Oxford and filled the water tank up, took about 40 mins. Had some lunch and a glass of wine.

When the tank was full, I turned the boat around at duke’s cut and went up through dukes cut lock back up north toward home.

The overflow to duke’s cut lock was like a mountain stream! When I got off the boat to close the lock, Bonnie drifted into it’s flow and blocked parallel across the intake, so the water had to flow underneath the boat to get down the weir.

This is very dangerous because it means you have several tons of pressure on the side of your boat. It’s very difficult to move.

I decided to put the boat into reverse and pull it back into the mouth of the lock. I got it so far and it wouldn’t go any further. It was stuck.

The front of the boat was far enough from the front of the inlet that water could flow around the front of it, so I grabbed the front rope from the towpath bank and tried to pull it out.

It was very heavy. On my own, I couldn’t do anything with it. Luckily Wolvercote is close in to Oxford so you get many people using the towpath at this time of day for running, walking and doing those kind of activities by the water.

After a while, a jogger, youth from university, came past and saw that I was in trouble.

“Need a hand” he says, “yeah” says I, and explains I was trying to pull the front of the boat out so I could get going again.

With two, I thought we might be able to get the end away haha, as it were, but it wasn’t moving. “Might take 4 more people to pull that” says I. He agreed.

I explained I’d been able to pull it back away from being right across the overflow to back slightly. At the front of the boat there was now some space between the opposite bank and the front of the boat.

“Why don’t you move it forward into that space, and I’ll try and pull it over as you’re moving it forward, with the inertia”.

“Ok”. Says I. Sounds like a good idea.

Jumped on, took it out of reverse, and started moving forward.

Bonnie wasn’t particularly keen on moving, but slowly pulled away from the concrete of the lock mouth, across the front of the overflow, and up under some bushes on the opposite bank.

I didn’t think this would be enough to do it. The boat came to a halt, with no-where to go apart from to wedge further into the bank. I let the engine off… Lo and behold, the athletic student youth pulled hard, and like the arm of a clock, Bonnie’s bow began to move slowly around. As the propeller and steerage turned away from the overflow and started facing out into the canal, the boat started flowing backwards over the little weir! I had to put the engine on full blast and a large pulse of water flew up in the air and into the overflow and the boat shot forward out of harms way. A close run thing! It was being dragged down the overflow like a pooh-stick!

Although it wouldn’t have actually gone down the overflow, it would have been enough for it to get stuck again. Maybe have damaged the steering gear.

Overflowing overflow - Wolvercote - Dukes cut
Overflowing overflow – Wolvercote – Dukes cut

After a few more seconds, the student had pulled Bonnie fully round, I had blasted her out into the middle of the channel, and I was able to grab the centre rope and pull her into the towpath. We pulled her over to the bollards and tied her up. I thanked the student and after a few seconds taking this picture, set off on my merry way again back home.

No damage was done to Bonnie. It set me back about 10 minutes. It could have been worse. Not a mistake I’m going to make in the future. On the canals, we get used to not taking the water too seriously. It just goes to show, when there’s a lot of it after the heavy rains we’ve been having, even the canal can be dangerous.

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