On Thursday 23rd October we set off from Thorne to complete our ‘delivery’ of grain to Doncaster. We first had to negotiate Thorne lock, which, because it is Sheffield size, meant we had to lock the cog boat through separately.
We also had to negotiate the lowest bridge on this canal.
The wind was not suitable for sailing and unfortunately the towpath above Thorne was very overgrown and unsuitable for towing. However there were some good views, even if the earth movers creating this particular hill had just disappeared over the horizon.
We passed through Stainforth, where ‘Daybreak’s skipper Harry Brackenbury lived and where she was often moored outside his house.
We also passed under Stainforth Bridge, which appears on many old photographs of keels.
We stopped overnight at Barnby Dun and in the morning we were met by Brian Holt, who lives there and joined us for rest of the trip to Doncaster.
Once there we moored up at the top end of the visitors’ moorings, which was close to the site of Hanley’s Mill where ‘Daybreak’ would have delivered her cargo of grain.
While in Doncaster we had a few visitors who had heard that we were in town. The local paper published an article about our visit, which was picked up by the National Historic Ship’s website. We had a visit from a press photographer who was very taken with the ship and I took her out in the cog boat to get some pictures.
We also had a visit from a lady who had kept an old flour bag that her mother had used to keep lavender in. When she read about ‘Daybreak’s link with Hanley’s flour mill she brought it along for us to see.
Although there has been a lot of quite exciting development in Doncaster Sally and I felt it was a shame that they had not made more of the waterside. However Doncaster is not unique in this and hopefully they will get around to recognising the potential of the old canal side buildings.
While ‘Daybreak’ was moored at Thorne, Sally and I drove down to London to attend the presentation of awards by National Historic Ships UK. The event was held on board the HQS Wellington, moored on the embankment in London. As we walked aboard, we were interested to note that she had been built in the same year as ‘Daybreak’, 1934.
The main point of the event was to announce the winners of the annual photographic competition, but they started by awarding Sally and me with a certificate in recognition of ‘Daybreak’ being chosen as flagship for 2014. It was heartening that in his introduction the Director of NHSUK, Martyn Heighton, mentioned the importance of historic vessels being kept in cruising condition and moved around the country for people to see.
It was interesting to see the photographs that the judges had shortlisted, particularly as a number of them featured vessels that we had seen on our trip up the east coast this summer. In fact we are pretty sure that the winning entry was taken during the Heritage Regatta in Brixham in the spring, when I had been lucky enough to be sailing on the coble ‘True Vine’!We also learnt that the Runcorn narrowboat ‘Hazel’ is going to be restored by the Wooden Canal Boat Society. We knew ‘Hazel’ in the 1970s when she was owned by Pete and Claire Stone.
After the event we went to see how our son Tom is getting on with his replica Falmouth Workboat ‘Kensa’.
We had a wonderful weekend in Thorne with a steady stream of visitors, many of whom had either been directly involved with ‘Daybreak’ or had family connections with barges working on the local waterways.
It was a particularly exciting to welcome aboard John, the son of ‘Daybreak’s longest serving skipper Harry Brackenbury. He had with him a photograph of him sitting on ‘Daybreak’s tiller aged 11 years old and we were able to take a similar photograph.
We had a surprise visit from a steam lorry, which was used to offload some of ‘Daybreak’s cargo of grain.
We are very grateful to all the people who came to visit and to share with us their stories of working on the waterways. We also met former employees, and their relatives, of Dunston’s, the yard where ‘Daybreak was built. Thanks to Ian and all his team at the TMCR community radio station . They let people know that we were coming to Thorne and did an interview with us while we were there.
On Friday morning we go the ship ready for the trip to Thorne. Ian joined us and we were all ready to leave when we received word that the Vazon sliding railway bridge had a fault and was not able to open to let boats through. We could see engineers on the bridge so Sally and I walked up to see if we could find out how long the repair was likely to take. By the time we got there they told us it was fixed, but that there was a backlog of trains to move before they would open the bridge for boats. It was around noon before the bridge opened and we passed through in company with three narrowboats that had come up through Keadby lock. We had lowered the mast before leaving our mooring, because we knew there were quite a few low wires and a new fixed road bridge to negotiate before we could sail. We had planned to have a go at bow hauling where we could not sail, but we realised this was going to be impossible for many stretches because of the trees and bushes that had been allowed to grow between the towpath and the canal. Just after the Crowle bridge we raised the mast and then hauled up the sail. As the canal is very shallow at the edges, we had to do this while underway and trying to keep near the middle of the channel. However we had managed to get the bow in close enough for Sally to get down onto the towpath with a bicycle, so that she could take some pictures. Even before it was fully raised, the sail filled with wind and Daybreak was off. As the wind was on the beam this meant she was off to the bank. After a brief pause to remove some of the foliage decorating the starboard deck, we got the sail under control. Once we were back in the channel, we turned the engine off and we were sailing along the canal as keelmen would have done in Daybreak’s early working life. We were still struggling to keep off the lee bank, but we were approaching a bend that should have put the wind a bit more behind us. However, as so often seems to happen, the wind seemed to shift round with us. We managed to continue to sail but, knowing we would have to lower the mast to get under some more wires, we dropped the sail just before Godnow swing bridge. Although we could have sailed more, we realised that, due to our delayed start, we would have to motor on if we were going to get to Thorne before dark. Once again we reflected on how hard it would have been in the days before engines when sailing or hauling, by horse or people, would have been the only options. Negotiating the swing bridges under sail must have been challenging, even if you had a bridge keeper to open them for you. Even with an engine the openings seem very narrow as you approach them, and quite a few are on a bend. We stopped after Godnow swing bridge to get Sally and bike back on board and then set off under motor to Thorne. As we had predicated it was dusk as we arrived in Thorne. As we came past the marina moorings several people popped out to give us a cheery welcome. To make sure we had clearance under the road bridge we lowered the mast fully. Just past the bridge we came alongside the visitors moorings, which are just below where Daybreak was built at Dunston’s. We decided this would be a good place to stay and, even while we were tying up, people came up to ask if this is where we would be in the morning.
Ian planned to use part of the old Barge Inn for the weekend event he had organised in ‘Daybreak’s honour. Unfortunately the pub interior had been seriously vandalised and so a lot of work was needed to get it ready for the weekend. We were pleased to be able to help Ian, his family and some of his staff, together with volunteers from the local community, to get everything ready. Everyone worked really hard to achieve a complete transformation of both the interior and exterior.
Our friends Pamela and Edward arrived on Friday to stay for the weekend and were quickly roped into helping get things ready. ‘Amy Howson’ arrived on Friday evening and her skipper, Alan, treated us to a master class in how to enter the notoriously difficult Keadby lock. She moored up ahead of ‘Daybreak’ and in the morning more crew arrived to help get her ready to open to the public. We just managed to get everything ready by midday on Saturday when people from the local community started to arrive. We were very lucky with the weather, which stayed fine and dry all weekend. We were particularly pleased to see Brian Holt again and showed him the work that we had done on ‘Daybreak’ since we last saw him on the Humber in 2003.
On the Saturday afternoon Sally and I were presented with an engraved plaque by the Chairman of the local Parish Council. We then had a fascinating talk on horse boating by Adrian from the Horse Boating Society. Unfortunately the plans for arranging to have ‘Daybreak’ towed by a horse did not work out, but we did manage to get a couple of horses down to the waterside, one on Saturday and then Merlin on the Sunday.
In the evening on Saturday we all gathered in the revamped pub room for drinks and food. We were treated to music from Sally, Chris, Emily and others.
On Sunday Lawrie repeated his popular demonstrations and taught various knots and splices to those attending. We also had demonstrations of sculling ‘Daybreak’s cog boat and some people, including Ian’s son Jake and daughter Jess, had lessons on how to scull.
All too soon it was time to start clearing up. It was getting dark by the time we had everything cleared away and Amy Howson had been moved across the canal to a more secure mooring. We were then treated to an amazing sunset and we all walked up to the bridge to enjoy the spectacle. Once the sun had gone down Ian and Leesa joined us for a meal aboard ‘Daybreak’.
We enjoyed our stay in Beverley, which is a lovely town. We had been made very welcome by all the people that we met there. Even when we were getting ready to leave, passers-by were saying that they hoped to see ‘Daybreak’ and the other vessels again soon. In order to avoid some of the difficulties we had experienced on the tight bends on the river Hull, I had lowered the mast and then rolled it forward so that it was completely in board. We then had to reverse from the mooring to the only place on the Beck that was wide enough to turn a Sheffield size ship. Reversing is always a tricky process in a keel or sloop but with the aid of a pole we managed to make it to the turning point and get Daybreak facing the right way. We then squeezed past the moored boats and tied up just above the lock. We had managed to fit the cog boat in with us on the way up, but I realised that because of the angle of the gates, this would not work on the way down. With the cog boat moored above the lock we took Daybreak through on her own. It proved very difficult to get out of the lock because there was so much weed that the lock gates would not open fully. There was quite a lot of heaving and shoving before we were able to squeeze out. We then moored below the lock and reset it for the cog boat. We also used this locking to clear the weed out of the lock, so that ‘Amy Howson’ did not have the same problems when she locked through a little later.
The weather was grey and wet for most of our return trip down the River Hull, but at least we were doing the trip in daylight. We kept in regular contact with the Harbour Master and the bridge lifts went very smoothly. It was not long before were motoring out of the Hull and making the turn round into Hull Marina where we planned to spend the night before proceeding to Keadby. As we left the River Hull, the skies brightened and by the time we had moored up in the marina we had blue skies and sunshine. After the obligatory post mortem of the trip in the Green Bricks public house I returned to Daybreak, just as Sally returned from her trip back to Staines. After catching up with each other’s news, we then set to and rolled the mast back and raised it again. By the time we had finished it was almost dark so Sally and I went out for a meal.
The following morning I spent a couple of hours sorting out the tangles in the rigging and tightening up the shrouds and the backstay. We then got ready for the trip up the Humber and the Trent. Unfortunately the wind, which had blown northerly for most of our trip up from the Thames, had now turned southerly. This meant we were not going to be able to sail. We could not get out of Hull Marina until around three hours before high tide and we would need to keep up a good cruising speed in order to arrive at Keadby at high water. This was disappointing as it was the first part of our grain run from Hull to Doncaster. I consoled myself with the thought that by the time ‘Daybreak’ was built, keels would have always been towed by tug up to Keadby or Goole. They would then have set sail for the trip up the canal. On the positive side it was a lovely sunny day; very much in contrast to the previous morning.
The ‘Amy Howson’ was returning to South Ferriby so she locked out with us and we followed her up river and under the magnificent Humber Bridge. They turned off shortly afterwards to lock into the River Ancholme and we continued up the Humber towards Trent Falls. Although Alan had suggested a short cut, we decided to stick to the marked channel. We passed a large number of boats out sailing from Brough Sailing Club. I was pleased to have Ian and Steve on board, as Steve had made several recent trips up to Trent Falls on his way to Goole and Ian was very familiar with the Trent.
We had a delightful trip up the Trent but by the time we reached Keadby, the sun was setting. We were surprised and delighted to see groups of people on the bank waiting to welcome us. Getting off the tidal Trent into Keadby Lock was quite tricky, but we managed to get in without too much bumping. We were soon locked through and greeting family and friends as we tied up to the visitor moorings above the lock.
After his weekend sailing aboard ‘Daybreak’ Tim had returned home to York and contacted Derek and David Nicholson, who very kindly agreed to donate some grain for our reconstruction of ‘Daybreak’s original trading voyage. On Friday afternoon Ian and I drove over to the Nicholson’s farm to collect the grain. I had decorated the sacks with a ‘Hanley’ logo. Unfortunately I had not been able to find what the original sacks would have looked like, but while in Beverley I saw some examples of sacks from other companies and I used these as inspiration. When making these in the well deck I draped the the sacks over the front of Daybreak to dry. I was amused a couple of days later when I was asked by an old barge skipper where on earth I had managed to get hold of original Hanley’s sacks!
Once we arrived back in Beverley Ian and I loaded the sacks onto the well deck and then I sheeted it over to keep the grain dry. By the time we had loaded the sacks on board Ian and I were grateful we only had half a ton or so, rather than a full load of 110 tons. However in the past they would probably have set up a derrick pole on the mast and used this to lift the sacks aboard.