Missing Link log 11 May 1999

Crew: Kim Hollamby and Howard Jones.
To: Upton Marina, Upton-on-Severn, Worcestershire.
From: Gloucester Dock, Gloucestershire.
Port engine start hours: 324.0. Finish hours: 326.7. Hours run: 2.7.
Stbd engine start hours: 324.1. Finish hours: 326.1. Hours run: 2.0.
Log start: 3477.2. Log finish: 3488.2. Distance run: 11.0

Navigation log
1025: leave Upton Marina.
1035: photograph Upton-upon-Severn. Drop to one engine.
1145: arrive Tewkesbury. Moor below bridge.
1325: depart mooring.
1335: into Upper Lode Lock.
1345: clear Upper Lode Lock.
1535: into Gloucester Lock. Tight on air draught, hold while bridge lifts a little.
1545: into Gloucester Lock. Moor next to Kimberley Warehouse.

Howard turned up this morning to join Missing Link again for the downhill leg. He is a constant bluster of enthusiastic organisation, a one-man dynamo who does his work on behalf of Severn and Gloucester-Sharpness Canal leisure users without any hint of a personal agenda. They are lucky to have his boundless energy and time, and so are we (even if he can’t make a proper cup of tea).

It was with regret that we turned Missing Link’s bow out of Upton Marina. Manager Steve Arbor had said that our berth, one of just a few unoccupied ones in the peaceful lagoon, was going spare until June; we could have stayed there to keep it warm for the next occupant. But time and tide wait for no man…

Mind you, that is a silly saying for it takes no account of weather. We don’t have such a luxury. The rain was dealt with easily enough by leaving the flybridge tonneau up and steering from the lower helm. You’ll not be surprised that the sun came out in response, for bits of the day at least. But a similar solution to spook away the wind has yet to be added to Missing Link’s inventory. As we headed downstream it wasn’t a great encouragement to still feel the influence of a stubborn low when plans call for us to head for sea tomorrow.

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First call of the day was at Tewkesbury, where Howard had promised us a meeting with one of the Severn’s last skippers of cargo-carrying barges. There were a few surprises in store though.

We hadn’t exactly expected Jim Dorman to arrive in a Rolls Royce limousine. We hadn’t expected him to hail from the East End of London. And we hadn’t expected to run out of notepaper trying to keep up with the many jobs he has conquered over the years.

Steel boatbuilding was the enterprise that eventually drew Jim to the Severn area. Once there, he started building down as well as up, digging a big hole in the ground which became known as Evesham Marina and filling it with a hireboat fleet that peaked at 65 craft in its heyday.

Jim’s latter day roots are still in Evesham and he remains keenly interested in the leisure boating scene. But you are now as likely to find him delivering a flat-bottomed Dutch barge around Lands End or at the helm of one of the two 40m (130ft) grain carrying barges Tirley and Chaceley which ply between Sharpness and Healings Mill at Tewkesbury when cargoes are available.

Weighing 150tonnes empty, 400 tonnes full and propelled by a single 150hp Gardner diesel, these barges take a bit of stopping, so the G-S Canal’s swingbridges and pleasure craft both have to be anticipated well in advance although ultimately Tirley and Chaceley need a measure of co-operation from both.

The silted Upper Parting above Gloucester also causes problems. When Jim first started working the barges it often took him over three hours to cover three miles there. Once, his ship touched bottom, skewed across and neatly planted the bow on one bank and the stern on the other, which took a bit of sorting out especially when a narrowboat appeared around the corner and had nowhere left to go.


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