Thwaite Mills to Clarence Dock, Leeds

IMG_4858On 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.

IMG_4859As 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.

IMG_4863To 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.

IMG_4861We 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.

IMG_4865Immediately 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.

IMG_4869Once 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.

The Junction to Thwaite Mills

IMG_4793After turning off the New Junction Canal onto the Aire and Calder Navigation, we travelled west across the by now familiar flat landscape of this region. After years of cruising along natural rivers it still seems strange to be travelling along a waterway that is actually higher than the surrounding land.


Although the navigation passes through mainly agricultural land the  industry is never far away and we seemed  always to be in sight of one power station or another. In places we passed works that were once served by water transport, sadly now a thing of the past. The remaining infrastructure can still be very striking.


IMG_4811As we proceeded further west, and the navigation joined the River Aire, there was a notable change in the topography. The steel piling of the canal was replaced by softer banks often lined with willow, larch, alder and birch. The once industrial riverscape is clearly now a fantastic wildlife habitat.


After stopping for lunch in Knottingly we moored for the night just below Bulholme Lock on the outskirts of Castleford.


The following day, we made an early start and at the junction in Castleford, we made the sharp turn into the Leeds arm of the Aire and Calder. We hope to be able to explore the other arm to Wakefield on our return trip. We passed through a very deep lock before entering another beautiful winding river section that was full of wildfowl. Sally commented that it was like being back on the Thames.

As we approached the outskirts of Leeds we were surprised by another similarity to the Thames. As we approached a blind bend we saw a small open boat with an outboard sitting in the middle of the river. I assumed they were fishing and moved out to pass them. As we rounded the bend, we were confronted by a rowing eight coming directly towards us. After sounding the horn, we successfully manoeuvred around them, they successfully crossed our bow and Sally laughingly exchanged a few words with the couple in the little dinghy,” Please don’t tell us you’re the safety boat for the rowers!” They looked a bit shame- faced.

IMG_4824As we rounded a later bend, we had a much pleasanter surprise when we came upon the beautifully restored Sheffield size motor barge Sheaf. Sadly it is all too rare to come across the residential conversion of an historic vessel that retains as much as possible of the original.


Sheaf was at one end of the moorings at Thwaite Mills, our destination for the day. It was not until the next day that we met Sheaf’s owner, Richard,  who has clearly worked tirelessly to make her look so beautiful. Meanwhile, we motored slowly past the moored boats until we came to the area allocated for visitors. There seemed to be no space, so we tied up to some wall opposite.  We then went across in the cog boat to introduce ourselves and enquire about the possibility of mooring for the weekend. We were taken to be introduced to the moorings manager, who turned out to be Howard who had stayed with us on Daybreak in Staines when he was working with our daughter Kate on a project with the Community Boat Association!

IMG_4831Luckily the boat on the visitor mooring was only there to be worked on for a  short time and it was arranged that when they moved off we would be able to move across.  We went to speak to people working on the boat and met Trevor, another colleague of Kate’s at the CBA.  We were able to catch up  with what had been happening since we had last seen him and invited him for a cup of tea when we were safely tied up on the visitors’ mooring.

IMG_4830On the Saturday we were able to go around the amazing watermills and see all the old machinery, most of which is still in working condition. On the Sunday, we cycled into Leeds and caught the train to Doncaster, where we were met by Steve and Sue to drive to the Humberside Boat Jumble at Carlton Towers near Goole. All of us found useful boaty things to buy, although Tony got some strange looks coming back on the train.



Stainforth to The Junction

IMG_4759After leaving dry dock we returned to Stainforth and spent a few days helping Steve and Sue work on their keel Evangeline. Steve and I stripped the upper strakes back to bare metal, removing thick layers of bitumastic, while Sue and Sally chipped the bollards fore and aft.



We then set off in convoy with Steve and Sue on their newly acquired narrow boat, The Collier, and Mike on Vulcan. We cruised up  the New Junction Canal , with Sue from Vulcan operating the lift and swing bridges for us.


Vulcan continued to Goole and we moored up close to the junction and raised the mast. The following day I stayed with Daybreak while Sally joined Steve and Sue to continue to Goole. There they joined a small flotilla  that motored from Goole to the junction in memory of the tugmaster Goff Sherburn.




Goff’s family were aboard the Wheldale, the Tom Pudding tug that Goff had worked so hard to restore in his retirement working afloat.



Dry Dock in Thorne


IMG_4689When we arrived at the dry-dock, we were disconcerted to see another barge in the dock with a welder hard at work welding new plates on the bottom. After some discussion with the yard manager and the owner of the barge it was decided he would come out and then go back later to complete the work. Fortunately the welding was being done on the underside of a watertight compartment.

IMG_4690The covered dry dock at Stanilands Marina in Thorne was clearly built for Sheffield size barges, so was the perfect size for Daybreak. Except, of course, the mast stuck out the back. The first job was to pressure wash the hull, in preparation for   the survey and repainting.



We were loaned various useful pieces of equipment by Steve and Sue, Ian Murray and Alan Gardiner. The coal epoxy paint below the waterline was in reasonable condition, but in places above the waterline it was breaking down, mainly as a result of years of flailing tack chains.

IMG_4688This meant it needed to be taken back to bare metal and treated with Vactan before coating with primer and two coats of topcoat. Below the waterline after pressure washing I wire brushed and then applied two coats of the coal tar epoxy paint. Although Stefan the surveyor did not find any problems with the hull plating, he noted that there was some play in the stern bush.


Although it was within tolerances it clearly would need replacing before too long, so we removed the propeller and shafts and took them into A&E Woodward’s, the marine engineers in Hull. Whilst it was all dismantled, we also asked them to refurbish the propeller. They did an excellent job and, after Steve kindly drove me to Hull to get everything back, I reassembled it all.

IMG_4723After several days of hard work by Steve, Sue, me, and Sally when she got back from a few days in Staines, the hull painting was pretty much completed, with only the numbers on the stem and stern posts to be finished.



After two weeks in the dry dock we were ready to be re-floated. Once out of the dock we cruised back up to Stainforth where we were going to help Steve and Sue with painting the upper parts of Evangeline’s hull prior to them going into the same dry-dock at the end of the month.