Seal was a full-length, wooden motor originally owned by canal carriers Fellows, Morton & Clayton. The Salford University Inland Waterways Society was given her by her previous owner in 1972 when she was based in Chester.
The boat was in pretty poor condition, but the Society attempted to do her up and use her as a trip boat. Jim Davies and Hugh Mowat spent some time aboard her in Chester Basin improving the cabin accommodation but without tackling more fundamental problems. In the event, Seal only made two trips for the society: one from Christleton to Calverley, which was the official “handover” trip early in the year and a second, summer trip with route as follows:
Chester – Shropshire Union – Autherley Junction – Aldersley Junction – Wolverhampton – Birmingham – Worcester & Birmingham Canal to the outskirts of Worcester, where the boat broke down. She was then bow-hauled back along the W&B to a boatyard where the engine was given a temporary repair. At this point it was decided to curtail the rest of what had been planned as a summer-long excursion and return the boat to Chester.
Overnight stops are known to have been at Beeston, Audlem and Tardebigge Top.
Unfortunately, whilst descending the Wolverhampton “21” after dark a lock-wheeler left a paddle open on the next lock down, partially draining the flight. When the lock above, containing Seal, was emptied it continued to drain until it reached the level of the empty pound. Seal hit the bottom of the lock, severely damaging the rudder and rendering the boat virtually un-navigable. She was left at Autherley Junction and later collected and taken back to Chester. Jim and Hugh had by now graduated from the University and took no further interest in the Society.
People known to have participated in either of these trips are:
Steve Bacon, Keith Bailey, John Boyce, Jim Davies, Robert Mears (plus girlfriend), Hugh Mowat, “Kathy” and “John” (who were a couple, but for whom I don’t have surnames) and “Vorgie” (Devaungilia (?) Forsythe), but there were certainly others.
Steve Bacon and Jim Davies’s photos are on this Flickr link