Since leaving Warwick early last month our two little ships have very slowly meandered their way along the Grand Union Canal to Wigram’s Turn and then south down the Oxford Canal in order to keep a special date with the dry dock at Tooley's Boatyard in Banbury. The weather was extraordinarily fine all the time, which made the passage even more enjoyable.
A beautiful day at Claydon Locks
We arrived on the Tuesday before Easter ready for ‘Roots and Wings’ to enter the dock on Maundy Thursday to have her bottom blacked. Subsequently she remained there for seven days because of the holiday weekend and ‘Futurest’ went in the following Thursday for the same treatment coming out five days later on Monday last.
My wife’s grave
In her six years as my special companion ‘Futurest’ has always been ‘blacked at Tooley’s. Because Banbury used to be my home town this yard was my natural first choice and because I have always had such good service there I am so glad I didn’t take ‘Futurest’ anywhere else instead.
As well as the blacking I have always received from the company afterwards, at no extra cost, a printed report complete with photographs informing me of the condition of the hull, rudder, propeller, anodes and weed box. This is very useful on later dockings to note whether there has been any deterioration in the meantime and indicates too whether any remedial action is required this time. It’s not quite a full blown hull survey but my goodness I have found it so helpful. The dry dock is also classed as an Ancient Monument having been built in 1790 so this too has made it all the more special for me to use; by being blacked here I feel I am helping to keep this piece of ancient heritage alive.
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
However when it was first built the dock was designed to service the wooden shallow draft horse drawn narrow boats of the time and not hulking great steel ones with a heavy Russell Newbery Engine aboard like ‘Futurest’ drawing two feet nine inches at the stern. But I had never realised before quite how shallow the dock was as I had never encountered any trouble getting the little ship in or out. Purely by chance on previous occasions I had very little fuel aboard in the after tank when I docked her, but this time on our way south, without applying much thought to the consequences, I had refuelled at Wigram’s Turn Marina thereby increasing the draft considerably.
So imagine my surprise when last Thursday, after I had carefully lined ‘Futurest’ up and began entering, only two thirds of her length had entered the dock before she stopped dead and no matter how much I increased the revs she didn’t budge an inch. With Matt, the director of the firm and employees Graham, Linda and also Janis who had come along to help too perched precariously as far forward as possible, ‘Futurest’ still wouldn’t move. In the end they had to drag the old girl forward with a winch till her rudder was just clear inside the dock doors.
On Monday with a sparkling black hull and with the propeller rotating astern bringing extra water into the filled dock, I thought there would be a distinct possibility that ‘Futurest’ would float out with little difficulty. But no chance. She had to be winched out again to float clear into the canal.
She really stuck her claws in this dry docking, bless her and I must remember in future to have just a small amount of fuel in the tank when having her dry docked.
I have added a few photos of Spring to the page, which though not at all relevant to dry docking in any way, may help to brighten things up a bit.