Charlotte Dundas

The Kennet and Avon Canal rises up its 29 locks into Devizes – locks which in the bad old days were utterly derelict but from Devizes, heading east, there was a 15 mile stretch with no locks – The Long Pound. This stretch held water but with virtually no flow on it, it was always very weedy. However, it was an ideal stretch for trip boats which could raise money to help save the canal. One such boat was known as the Charlotte Dundas. In the early 1970s, my wife and I were volunteer crew on the little boat which could carry up to 28 passengers.

The name, presumably, was chosen as the same as an early steam boat – the first one that really worked, but Dundas was also the name of the first chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Company.

Our Charlotte Dundas was a paddle boat – she could cope with weeds in a way screw driven vessels could not. The power came from a diesel engine and transmission was hydraulic. She was entirely double ended. Turning Charlotte Dundas just involved removing the tiller from one end and walking it around to the other. Here she is in 1980. We are not the crew. My wife and young son are on the towpath looking on.

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In fact the boat had been modified a little since our day. The far end had weather protection by 1980. Back in the 70s it had been entirely open to all weathers.

The boat has just slipped away from Devizes Wharf. I guess the steersman, standing on the back is just tidying his mooring rope. Paddle wheel drive and slow speeds made for hard steering. We always had a person ready to assist by reversing one of the paddle wheels if need be. Maybe controls had been altered by this time for when we crewed old Charlotte, one person was always by the central engine house to manage the paddle wheels.

Charlotte had a flat bottom which made her rock and roll very easily.

Times change. Once the canal was open, better boats could do the trip work. I’m not sure where the Charlotte Dundas is now.

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One Response to “Charlotte Dundas”

  1. An old tourist flyer | Locksands Life Says:

    […] who took folks for trips on this rather quaint old vessel. She has appeared before on this blog. Click here to see […]

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