04 June 2018

BAT Squad rescue Flea - II

Today was the day when the Bat Acquisition Team had to refloat Flea and take her some 700m from her 7 year resting place around to the nearby Black Prince depot.  

The day started with the loading of all the prepared equipment into the vehicle and with the check list checked we set off for Etruria Basin in Stoke on Trent.  An arrival at 11:30 was followed with the carting of all the equipment around to site, avoiding the local (messy) geese.

Flea was as we saw her 2 weeks ago, with water sometimes lapping over the gunnels as boats passed and locks were operated.  Our first task was to get the bilge pumps running.  For this, we had one mains powered unit and two battery powered devices donated by dredger Patricia.  Together, they were shifting the water out, quicker than it was coming in - result.

It took some time for the level to drop significantly, but Flea held firm on the canal bed.  We also deployed the shovels and removed a significant layer of silt that had collected in the boat.

It was at the point where the question was asked 'shall we winch her off?' that there was a massive schlschlschlschlschlooooooooop and the front of the boat broke free and floated.

Pumping continued.  The lock on the cabin was cut off and we gained entry only to find it was home to a shoal of fish!  With the skilful application of a black plastic bucket, they were captured and given their freedom.  However, one avoided capture by hiding in the mire of silt and had a few minutes longer onboard before heading overboard into the canal.

Eventually, with the vast majority of the sludge and water removed, it was evident that there was probably some trapped water in the stern bilge.  This, we could do little about, so it was time so set off for the Black Prince depot.

This was hard work,  Movement was achieved with a combination of paddle power and towpath tugging, as and when there were no moored boats in the way.  Progress was slow, but eventually it was time to raise the lift bridge and enter the yard.

Hanging up in the cabin was a very rusty windlass.  This was extracted and used for the first time in years at the bridge.  Our path took us across the marina to the slipway.  The boat later was turned and then pulled stern end onto the concrete ramp.  With the front floating, we were able to place two lengths of wood under the hull so that, should it sink, the crane boys can get their slings under.

It was 17:30 by the time there was nothing else we could think needed to be done.  Taking a look inside, there was no evidence of water leaking in, so hopefully, Flea will be afloat tomorrow for the lift and onward journey to Saul Junction.

We had a hard days work, but it was interesting, challenging and all passed off safely.  The folk at the 'independent living' home were most friendly and supplied us with tea and cakes.  They were glad to see it go!

The departure at Eastington for home was 20:00
The BAT Squad