Monday, 20 April 2015

Smells Like Team Spirit

What better way to spend a sunny spring Saturday than wielding a windlass and crewing boats up the Wigan Flight? Well, sharing the work with 10 other volunteers, that's what! A few months ago we joined a Facebook Group called 'Wigan Flight Crew' set up by Chris Gladwin, who had the idea to create a network for people to team up going up and down the flight of 21 locks, or to request volunteer crew from local boaters and enthusiasts. Earlier in the week a request had popped up on my newsfeed but due to our own travels and work commitments it can be hard for us to guarantee our availability. We had so far been unable to assist, however, we found ourselves with a free afternoon so we decided that we would join the team. 

The two boats were going up the flight and they were both single handers, so crew would be very much appreciated but initially there hadn't been many definite offers of help. We hadn't offered to help online in case we couldn't make it at the last minute and let people down, so we just turned up unannounced to be greeted by another nine crew, bringing the total to eleven  - the biggest number to date. There were so many of us that we could have a team ahead to prepare not just the next lock but also the one after that.

We were delighted to find that the boats, Marquis and Millbury, were both beautiful examples with vintage engines and that Marquis is an historic narrowboat currently with a Lister engine, We didn't have time to ask the current owners much about them on the day so we went online and found loads of information about Marquis on the website I have linked to below, including that not only was she once steam powered but that she also sunk another boat in Braunston tunnel! 

Below is a photo taken of Marquis as she once was c1910 courtesy of Steamers Historical.

The owner of Millbury, below, gave me the following information via the Facebook page -He had the shell built in 1980 by a guy called Norman Walley and did all the rest himself. She is 60ft long and the engine is a Bolinder 1052 that came out of an FMC boat called the Quail.

Once we all got into a rhythm we flew up the locks

One or two of the volunteers hitched a ride for some of the way

The boats were an impressive sight cutting through the water with Wigan in the distance

You can't beat the sound of two vintage engine thumping away

Crew up ahead preparing the lock ready for them to sail straight in

Charlie Dog overseeing proceedings...

New lock gates fitted this year, see our blog 'At the Bottom of a Lock' from February

Charlie Dog giving us some vocal encouragement

Nearing the top

Celebrating with a beer, kindly donated by the owners of a widebeam who benefited from our helpers As we were catching them up our frontline team went ahead of them to speed up getting them through the locks. It really was a great team effort. 
Hopefully we will have some help when we venture up the flight!

Team photo (including Charlie Dog) Say 'windlass!'

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