On Monday morning I lowered the mast and prepared for the trip into the centre of Leeds. Before leaving we were pleased to welcome aboard Sara, who lives aboard a wide-beam boat at the Mills. As she was planning to go into Leeds we invited her to go with us. She very helpfully not only told us a lot of interesting information, but also went off to set the first lock for us. Then we put her bike aboard so she could cycle back. As we came into the centre of Leeds we stopped at the service pontoon, and Sara left us.
As we pulled away from the pontoon, there was a loud noise and the engine stopped. I restarted the engine in neutral and then I looked over the stern and saw we had something large caught in the propeller. It was obviously not worth trying to put the engine in gear so we drifted gently over to the other side of the canal, where we eventually came to a stop in shallow mud, a few feet from the stone embankment. I got into the cog boat and got some lines ashore before going down to investigate what was round the prop.
To my horror, I found it was the front half of a bicycle which had somehow managed to get the handlebars on one side, and the rest of the forks and remains of the front wheel on the other. For added measure, the bicycle’s front tyre was wrapped tightly around the propshaft. Shortly after discovering this, I was hailed from the opposite bank by a CRT employee. I thought this was going to be an offer of assistance and a wonderful example of the CRT’s new customer focus. It turned out he just wanted to check that we had got a licence and after confirming we had, he quickly disappeared! After several hours work leaning over the side of the cog boat, I managed to remove the remains of the bike, tyre and all.
To be fair this is the first major prop fouling that we have had since leaving the Thames last year. However the timing was not good, coming so soon after we have had the propeller restored and balanced. Once everything was back together there did not seem to be any permanent damage, although I suspect the propeller may not be as true as when we got it back from Woodward’s in Hull.
We took the remains of the bike by cog boat back to the service point we had just left, so I could dispose of them in the rubbish bin. I was not going to take Daybreak back there in case we found the rest of the bike! We were so close to the lock that while I was there I dropped Sally off to open the gates. I then sculled back, retrieved our mooring lines and took Daybreak into the lock. Once in there we realised that we were too large for the upper part of the two part lock and we would have to fill the whole of the double chamber. This involved operating the lower gates manually. They clearly don’t get used very often and the windlass mechanism used to operate one of the gates had to be untangled before we could get it to work. Fortunately, some local boat owners pitched in to help, along with Trevor and his colleague, Alan. They had heard we were on our way and were probably hoping for another cup of tea, rather than the heaving and winding they ended up doing. Trevor even ended up having to stay to retrieve our BW key, which refused to come out of the operating mechanism until after it had completed another cycle.
Immediately after leaving the lock we made a very sharp left hand turn to go under the bridge into Clarence Dock. Once in there we decided to turn around so we were facing the right way to leave. As I started the turn I noticed one of the bright yellow water taxis waiting under the bridge. Not wanting to get in his way I stopped the turn and waved him through. He stepped out of his wheelhouse to say I should carry on and take my time as he did not have any passengers, and was just enjoying watching us manoeuvre.
Once in the dock we raised the mast again, having decided to stay an extra night there and that it was well worth it. Trevor and Alan came aboard with our BW key and were persuaded to accept a beer as a reward for their efforts.
Clarence dock is a wonderful mooring, right next to the Royal Armouries Museum and a short walk from the bustling city centre of Leeds. Electricity is available and two nights’ free mooring. Trevor and his colleagues kindly took us out to supper, so we had a delightful welcome to Leeds.