One of those days! It began with a downpour as we set off from Brownhills and although it did brighten up we were forever taking our raincoats off or putting them on. We were pleased to find the Rushall flight open again after a stoppage to repair a broken balance beam and were happily cruising along towards the junction with the Tame Valley canal when we saw this:
An old iron tube had fallen from its bracket attaching it to the bridge. We simply couldn’t make the tight turn with it there. It was one of three and the other two were quite clearly empty. So in a spirit of self sufficiency we attempted to use the cable puller to winch it up out of the way. Pulling it upwards shifted it and then it became clear that this one wasn’t empty. It contained an electric cable which had evidently had its insulation severed at the point where the tube came out of the ground when then tube collapsed. It started arcing and we heard loud crackles and sparks as well as seeing flames and smoke. This was all happening some metres away from us but of course the lads who had been round the corner fishing all gathered round to see what the excitement was. Thankfully the fire didn’t last long and stopped when we quickly cut the rope which dropped the tube. Shouting for the kids to stay well back we also retreated and called 999 as well as the Canal & River Trust (although I could not get through to their “emergency number” and only got a voicemail message despite it being in office hours on a week day. I called the customer service number instead and managed to get a message to the area supervisor). It took some time for the fire service to find us and by the time they arrived the cable and sheathing at the point where it had arced had burnt itself out leaving just a small pile of ash. They did however have contact details for the electricity company in the area, who also showed up to help.
It turns out that the cable supplied street lights along the M5 and M6.
We ended up having to wait for 5 hours, but were able to supply all the firemen, CRT chap, and electricity workers with tea. Once the right department of the electricity company turned up, and made sure after visiting the sub station that the cable wasn’t live, we winched the tube up out of the way and went through.
We were stuck for nearly 5 hours, and didnt get through until 6:30, so we’ve joined another boat at the moorings at the top of Perry Barr locks. Loud, but not as loud as being stuck under the M6!