On January 11th 2016 the Beer Boat was finally ready for its sea trials or quite simply, test to see if it all works as it should without sinking!!
Apologies for the basic video editing, we will endeavour to improve these when we can access some decent editing software.
,This was an exciting day, we had waited a long time just to experience moving the boat under its own power.
The sea trial was taken along the North Oxford Canal as far as Rugby then back to Hillmorton. The engine performed well, and as the late Steve Hudson had said, the boat glided as smooth as a fish through the water even in neutral, although the rudder being so large was quite stiff to move with the temporary scaffold pole I had attached. It was also very cold, I had to put a sock on the end of the scaffold so my hand wouldn't go numb on the wet freezing steel.
Our first destination would be Braunston, once we arrived we secured the boat as best possible to prevent any possible break in, as the main security devices and locks were not fitted at this stage. There was nothing to take inside anyway except the Russell Newbery engine, and I couldn't envisage anyone doing that overnight and lifting it out of the roof.
,The next stage of the journey was to take the boat up the Braunston flight of six locks, hoping to share with another boat, however we were in the midst of winter so there were few boats moving so we journeyed alone through each lock slowly till we reached Braunston tunnel.
Around Braunston and especially the last 200 yards or so before, the towpath was in a poor state with quite deep mud, some of the side bank was collapsed and really messy to walk through. In addition the towpath at the Welton Wharf side of the tunnel was also in poor condition as far as Bridge 10 - thereafter it was in fair condition for walking and cycling. If walking the canal's towpath you have to go across the top of Braunston's Tunnel as only boats can go through ( the tunnel has no inner towpath - before motorised barges the boatmen had to "leg" their craft through the tunnel - legging is where they lay on their backs and push against the roof with their feet and legs). Braunston Tunnel is 2042 yads long, 15.75 feet wide and 12.3 feet high and was constructed by engineers William Jessop and James Barnes in 1793. The 2060 yard long walk across the top of the tunnel is on a nice track passing through open countryside and easy to follow.
The tunnel is not as straight as you would like it, our worry was meeting another boat coming the other way. We had a portable light which Helen shone on the roof of the tunnel so we could at least hold the boat on a steady course. Luckily and to Helens delight we didn't meet another boat.
Unfortunately for me I forgot to get a temporary exhaust chimney for the engine, the exhaust blasting out of the short pipe passing through the roof of the boat was hitting the years of accumulated soot on the tunnel roof, by the time we reached the other end I looked like a chimney sweep and the roof of the boat had lots of black wet soot to remove, as with most tunnels they leak quite badly at times after rainfall.
We reached Norton junction quite quickly then turned left towards Leicester, within 10mins we had arrived at Bridge no 3, Welton Haven Marina was just on the other side.
We arrived at Welton at around 1.00pm, the journey from Braunston was only about 3 hours, but once I had tied the mooring ropes and went to retire on Miss Ellie no1 our old boat, I sat on the sofa and became very emotional, It felt like I had been on the longest journey in my life and it was now over. Guess what? it wasn't, the next stage would see us fitting out the rest of the boat, add yet more brass and lots more. We had to try and finish by April, we needed to concentrate on getting the business side organised, we were at least 6 months behind schedule and I'd never built a hand-made kitchen before, or attempted any form of joinery.
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