An excerpt from Wind in the Willows

Nice? It's the ONLY thing, said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING - absolute nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing, he went on dreamily: messing - about - in - boats; messing----'
From 'Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Old dog - New tricks

David Blagrove on the
counter of Sculptor before
leaving for the A508
winding hole
I have always wanted to learn the art of handling a former working boat.  I had a little try with the Canal and River Trust's small (Star class Northwich) GUCC boat Sculptor just before the Stoke Bruerne Illuminated Boats evening but had a greater chance yesterday as there was a need to wind Sculptor in order that it was facing towards Blisworth Tunnel.  It is kept this way round so that, in fine weather, the rear doors can be left open, for the public to look inside, but still be seen from the Canal Museum.  So it was down four locks to the pound above the A508 bridge (first place you can wind a 71' boat) in the company of Rob Westlake with our lock wheeler for the first two on the way down and that last two on the way up being David Blagrove - thank you to both of them.  I took the boat down and winded it (yes without touching the edges) and Rob brought it back (after fishing a very wet boater out of the cut just below the long pound) with me helping with the locks.  It was a baptism of fire for me pulling and pushing levers (whilst trying to keep a hand on the tiller) and understanding that Sculptor has quite a bit of inertia and is not particularly well ballasted at the moment. I also had to learn how to start it (reasonably easy) and to stop it (fine when you know where the off lever really is!).  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I suspect if I were 20 years younger I might consider selling my current boat and buying a former working boat but that's not going to happen!  My thanks to Rob and David for the opportunity to learn.

The history of Sculptor, as provided by David Blagrove, is here.  Sculptor is still one of the very few (only 2?) remaining composite boats (Steel with a wooden bottom - sadly not Elm but I understand it is either Oak or Eke).  I have a nice small bowl made from some of Sculptor's original Elm bottom.


  1. Good excuse for a trip down the flight, but of course the other way is to reverse up to the winding hole by the tunnel, turn there, and reverse back again!

    Now that's proper practice! - Next time, maybe?


  2. A reverse up to the winding hole and back again is in the plan. The boat handles beautifully in reverse so I don't see it as a problem. The reason for going down to the A508 bridge is to make sure everything gets reasonably warm - not something that happens to Sculptor often enough but, if I have any say, will happen more often with at least a monthly trip through to Gayton and back.

  3. I have been on Nuneaton when she was winded below lock 4 and the bow has to be touching the bank to get round, as there is only about 18'' of free water.