Monday 30th May
Just as well we didn’t have our visitors today. We set off from our overnight mooring and into the first lock that I had set, only to be told by the volunteer lockie that he would like us to stay in the empty lock and not come up as there was a problem with the gate paddle on the next lock, it would not close. I walked up and there was a queue of three boats waiting to come down. Then another boat joined us in the empty lock. The CaRT emergency response man #1 soon arrived to assess the situation, the keb he had brought with him was not long enough to have a good furkle and so he needed to go away again to find a longer one. He was soon back but still unable to un-jam the paddle and so a long ladder and waders were sent for while he emptied the pound above us by opening both the top and bottom paddles of the lock we were sat it.
CaRT emergency response man #2 arrived in another van and nearly drove the long ladders into the overhead power cables. Luckily he stopped just averting disaster and untied them from the back of the van and drove the rest of the way with them balanced level on the roof of his truck. Then emergency response man #1 donned the waders and went down into the lock and found the offending bolt which was stopping the paddle from closing. Unfortunately the nut was not on the other end so a replacement bolt, with nut, was found under the drivers seat in the van of emergency response man #1, by emergency response man #3 who had arrived whilst all this was going on, .
The new bolt was then fitted into place, but amusingly it was so low on the gate that it was well underwater. This meant that emergency response man #1’s waders started filling with water as he bent to reach it. Now, on completion of the task he resembled emergency response Michelin man #1. This gave emergency response man #4, who had replaced emergency response man #3, a good laugh before he too departed. Finally, after 3 hours of patiently waiting we were told that the pound above our lock had refilled enough for us to work up through and continue on our way. Brenda and I even prepared and ate lunch in the lock whilst all this had been going on, so we were happy to be on our way. Well done to all the emergency response guys – a terrific job which meant we didn’t have to pull back out of the lock and peg Jannock in for a week.
Out of the top of the flight and off towards Cowraost on the tring summit pound. No sign of any Kingfishers during this transit. At Cowroast lock I spied Mike Askin on Victoria approaching below and so I opened the bottom gate and let him up through before we entered. By this time our previous lock partners hadstopped at Bulbourne and so we were joined by a Wyvern hireboat who had been waiting below us at Marsworth. We shared with them all the way to Berko lock where they were turning to return up through the lock in order to start heading back.
As I approached Berko lock on the mighty lock-wheeling bike there was another boat going down in front so I asked if they would let us share the next lock with them. When I arrived at Raven’s Lane lock they were waiting patiently for us. Oh good, I thought we’ll soon be home. I cycled down to prepare Rising Sun lock, filled it and opened both gates with no problems. Once both boats were in the lock I found that I could not close my top gate. The crew from the other boat came across but with us all heaving on the gate we could not budge it. Closer examination revealed that the collar holding the gate pillar into its socket had broken and dropped the gate down onto the bottom of the canal.
It was my time to phone the CaRT emergency line (08004799947) this time. It was answered by a call taker who initially thought we were at G.U. Lock 55 near Birmingham. The duty manager, Keith, rang me back to inform me that he’d called out his engineers. Here we were, stuck in a lock for the second time today, so while Brenda prepared our dinner I took advantage of the convenient lock-side pub and got myself a pint. We then had our dinner in the lock and finished just as the next emergency response team arrived. Two guys this time riding in the same truck. Having looked at the collar and stating ‘they never usually break like that’ they agreed with our suggestion to use a ratchet strap to pull the gate back into the pivot so that we could be let out of the lock. They would then have to get a day shift in to repair it tomorrow.
I lent them a spare mooring rope to attach the ratchet strap to a bollard and they ratcheted it up tight, but still the gate would not move. We then volunteered to provide some ballast on the beam end to help, and they managed to get the gate to close. This meant that the water pressure would hold it in place until a new collar could be fitted. Having retrieved my rope we dropped down through the lock and continued down another three back to our mooring.
A long day taking over ten hours to complete a journey that normally takes us about five. We tidied up our stuff, packed the car and headed home – tired but happy.