Boat Sinking at Stoke Bruerne

Boat on the cill, Lock 15 Grand Union

Over the weekend I was involved in helping with the Over and Under the Hill event at Stoke Bruerne which is run by the local canal partnership and we took Albert along so we could stay overnight. On late Saturday afternoon the weather was wet, and we only had four paying customers, but it led us to witness part of the events that led to a boat sinking in Lock 15 and stoppage lasting most of Sunday.

Over and Under the Hill (NB Charlie)

The Over and Under the Hill event involves passage through the tunnel on trip boat Charlie and then  a return guided walk over the hill. I was involved in helping lead the walking section. As we reached the tunnel northern portal around 6:15 PM on the Saturday we saw a boat travelling south on an erratic course towards us - it ran aground a few times and was across the navigation when I first saw it. Because NB Charlie had a return trip through the tunnel with paying customers they asked the steerer of the boat in difficulties if they could go ahead. He agreed and then did a very professional job of reversing his traditional-engined boat away from the tunnel portal - a process which often causes embarrassment, particularly when there is an audience. Unfortunately, when he then tried to go forward he ran straight aground on the off-side. At this point we left him to his devices because we couldn't help and had a walk to lead.

On reaching Stoke Bruerne we began to hear that the boat in difficulties, which was unnamed, had struggled to get through the tunnel. The crew had also had great difficulties getting it into the top lock. At one time I gather it was broadside across the navigation.

On Sunday, just before we led our second walk, we found out that the boat had got into the second lock down the flight (Lock 15) and was sunk - caught on the cill. The lock flight was therefore closed and CRT were involved in trying to recover the boat. On the hatch of the boat was a partially full bottle of whisky and a half-full bottle of white wine; both had miraculously stayed upright as the boat sank.

Upright bottles and glasses on the hatch

CRT staff locked the whole flight first thing on Sunday morning and then drained the Long Pound (pound below lock 15). After a few hours of pumping out they managed to get the boat afloat and eventually, around 3:00 PM when the Long Pound was full again, boats began moving again. The whole process was handled very efficiently. Being Sunday there were numerous onlookers for the whole operation and lots of discussion about the causes of the incident.

On the cill

Afloat and filling the pounds

As you can imagine, once the stoppage was lifted by CRT the lock flight suddenly became very busy. One aspect was the difficulty in working out which boat had moored up for the stoppage (and wanted to move on) and which was just moored up for the night.

Because we need to turn Albert to go south, our return down the flight was not helped by boater thinking that because there was a stoppage he could moor anywhere and leave his boat unattended. This included right opposite the winding hole by the tunnel where there are very clear no mooring signs  Luckily the crew eventually returned but only after we had two futile attempts to wind. I think the owners realised that we were were far from happy with their actions.

We were accompanied going down the flight towards Yardley Gobion by a boat named Komet. The owner was an enthusiast for the German (Me 163) Komet WWII rocket plane. I am lucky enough to have seen one of these midget planes close up when I worked at what was then Cranfield Institute of Technology. In  the 1970s Cranfield also had a V1 flying bomb engine and a complete V2 rocket which now appears to be in the Imperial War Museum.