Friday, March 26, 2010

Back to Barnton

We’ve made a couple of short hops from Longacre Wood of the last couple of days. First to near Bridge 206 on Wednesday, then today to Barnton Bridge. Meg and I had a pleasant circular walk along the canal and river on Wednesday morning, and picked up another travelling companion on route.

Meg’s little mate
She stayed with us for about a mile, and I was about to turn back to find where she was from when she stopped, then turned and headed home herself. She must be local and familiar with the area.We joined the river near Dutton Lock.

Barge carving at the lockside
Dutton Lock
I always feel obliged to take a picture of the remains of MV Chica as I go past. Maybe to catch a glimpse of the shade of Tom Barlow, the last master, in the wheelhouse?
I’ve been contacted by Andy Coles, the son in law of the late Captain Barlow, and he’s kindly provided lots of details about Chica’s history, as well as some documents.

From her beginnings in 1894 as a sailing cargo vessel carrying salt fish along the Norwegian coast, to running contraband on the North West coast of Africa, finally coming to rest on the muddy bottom of the River Weaver, she’d certainly had a varied life. It’s a shame she foundered just a year before her 100th birthday.She arrived in the warmer waters of the Mediterranean in the middle of the 1970’s, and traded general cargo as far south as Casablanca and Angola. It was off Angola that she was involved in blockade running for the Angolan rebels during civil war. Not arms though, something much more important to West African insurgents, Cocoa-Cola!

Having been originally named “Flora”, then variously “Bjorg Haukas” and “Lill Tove” she received her final name in 1981. Reports suggest that she was operating on the fringes of the law at this time.

In 1983 she arrived in the UK, and was laid up for a while at Mostyn in North Wales on the Dee estuary before trading on the Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. She ended her days as a passenger cruise boat on the Weaver.

Cruise ship brochure. Courtesy Andy Coles
Captain Tom Barlow. Courtesy Andy ColesWhen she sank in 1993 BW made extensive investigations into her ownership to try to get the wreck removed, but was unable to get a definitive answer as to where the responsibility for her actually lay. There was also some doubt as to whether she was even insured at the time of the sinking. The estimated salvage cost could not be raised, and so nor was the Chica. So there she rests, quietly rotting away, on the bottom near Dutton Lock.

MV Chica soon after the sinking. Courtesy Andy Coles
On the subject of wrecks, there’s a rather smaller but more obstructive one on the canal near Saltersford Tunnel.
Cracklyn, an 8’ sailing dinghy, was moored on the offside near Little Leigh Pond, but has gravitated to the towpath side, and with the transom knocked off, is awash to the gunwhales.

It’s only a matter of time before it gets run over by a passing boat, I just hope it’s a steel narrowboat and not a fibreclass cruiser.

Locks 0, miles 5

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