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The Cruise of the Dondevoy


I cast off in the morning, only to find that the motor would not start, I had left the fuel tap on all night, and the engine was flooded. I moored again, and tried again while tied up, so as not to drift all over the canal. Needless to say, it started first time, but promptly broke the shearing pin on a stone; I did not realise it, but the whole of the canal is lined on the banks with sloping stones, so my motor hit one in a place which on first inspections looks quite deep enough. I was now in a difficult position, as the boatyard nearby did not sell spare parts for outboards, being a diesel only hire firm.

The first boat to come past was a narrow boat, and they offered to give me a tow as far as I liked; I promptly accepted, and we got under way. It was quite tiring being towed, as I had to concentrate on steering all the time, and could not relax for a cigarette or even a drink of water, or the boat would start weaving from side to side.

At Hawkesbury Junction, where the Oxford Canal joins the Coventry Canal, I suddenly realised that I had left my mallet (for driving in pegs for mooring) back at Brinklow where I had spent the night, and just to prove that troubles come in threes, I dropped the locking bar for my motor in the Stop Lock. This latter was not so serious, as I found that I could padlock the motor to the ring on the boat. We tried for some time to fish for the bar with a large magnet, but to no avail, se we retired to the pub for a drink.

The pub (The Greyhound) is still in its original state, and has not yet suffered from being "done up", as no doubt it will when boating on the canals becomes more popular. In fact it is so remote and rural in character that it had a message chalked on the door to the effect that they had run out of draught beer, with "This is no joke" added on the end. Happily for us, the beer had just arrived, so we enjoyed a chat over some good, if rather new, beer.

I learnt that my hosts were Doctor David Owen and his wife on their boat "Rose of Sharon"; Doctor Owen is director of the University Museum at Manchester, and lives near his boat on the Macclesfield Canal. His boat displays the coveted Silver Sword of the Inland Waterways Association, awarded for "Meritorious Cruising", They invited me to drop in and see them any time I might be in that area; I probably shall, as they are very pleasant people.

"Rose of Sharon", seen at Altrincham. Picture from Canalscape Book 5 "Canal Cruising 2008 to 2010", Chapter 1, by Cyril J Wood,

We set off again, turning through a tight hairpin under the bridge at the junction, and going northwards along the Coventry Canal, to find the boatyard at Bedworth. The canal is very pretty and peaceful, marred only by a few derelict cars pushed into the water, and a few pieces of junk which scraped the bottom of my boat. When we reached the boatyard, we found they did not sell shearing pins, so I was towed as far as Nuneaton, past the entrance to the Ashby Canal and the derelict Griff Arm.

At Nuneaton, we said goodbye, and they pressed on, as they were in a hurry to get home. I bought four shearing pins, just to be on the safe side, and after fitting one, I set off back to Coventry, after an uninteresting and difficult cruise from Hawkesbury to the city. The weed was very bad, and the canal littered with floating rubbish, Several times my propeller struck underwater obstructions, and once got itself completely wrapped up in a heavy polythene bag. There were factories backing onto the canal the whole way, and there were not many bridges to relieve the monotony.

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Copyright ©1972 Ben Newsam. The author of this diary may be contacted at