"Wotzza matter mate - Yer enjin' broke?" or
"Where's yer 'orse?", even, "Elastic band snapped?" & "Rather you than me!"
These are some of the most popular comments made by the jolly public, made to us whilst towing Brighton with Nuneaton around the extensive canal system of England. But they come more often when members have to do the job instead!
Brighton is a butty - a cargo carrying boat that was designed to be pulled by a horse or sometime by hand, like you see here. The shape of the hull has been refined in wood down the centuries until in 1930’s they became mass–produced in steel for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company and could carry 25 tons of coal or whatever other cargo was on offer.
The Narrow Boat Trust still use Brighton (paired with the motor Nuneaton) to deliver coal to islands on the river Thames and show her at waterways festivals where the public can visit her beautifully decorated cabin. Incidentally, these type of narrowboats are called a ‘Town Class’, simply due to the original owner choosing the many names from a directory of English towns!
Yet again the filming of the trip took second place to the difficult task of steering. The whole trip took 3 hours and I had 1 hour, 9 minutes of recording time on my Sony camcorder and Fuji camera. I ran out of film on the last straight and there wasn't the opportunity to swop the cameras on the tripod so the last few clips is my shaky hands except for the M1 traffic jam shot where a fence post was utilised. (It’s this length of canal with the colourful narrowboats glimpsed by many as they speed pass in their vehicles or the frequent bullet trains, that leads many to sadly question their current situation)
When I ran the first edit it was nearly 35 minutes so successively cruel and savage edits later, I halved the length of it. And then on watching it, with various soundtracks I realise it was confusingly repetitive in the lock sequences so decided to compress the clips from a third of the way in the film, the ‘story plot’ having been established. Starting with a 1000 times on the first clip and slowing down through the clips to normal speed at the bottom of the flight. Initially, it was just to cut the running time and file size but I realised it communicated how we worked and interacted as a team, sharing all the different tasks, other than me steering and filming, of course!
On watching it I found that it reflected the pace of the trip where everything was observed as we got the hang of the task and then events came blurred by the pace and repetition. At the bottom, it was simple pull to a mooring place (except for that tree!) and everyone relaxed and 'Sunday Smile' echoed the feeling of a job well done and time for a pint.
Brighton doesn’t look her best here, as some of the woodwork is still in the process of being replaced in the hold. This meant that the mast that is a third the way down the hull, wasn't up and in use so the towline was attached to the tee stud at the front end. This makes steering the boat hard as the bows are constantly pulled towards the towpath and so you proceed down the cut at a slight angle to the pull, swooping in and out as the opposing forces each have their way. The wind also plays games on an empty boat and I was blown onto the towpath a number of times, making it hard to pull and the only cure is for someone to push the bows off!
The waterways environment is quite hard on the boats so there is an ongoing cycle of maintenance which is carried out by members during the winter months in friendly weekend work parties.
Please visit the website for more information:- http://www.narrowboattrust.org.uk