Friday 1st july 2016
Phew! Man and the elements tried to drown us today. Too much water from the sky meant too much water in the canal as we travelled back up from the Kelpies having explored Helix park in the morning. Most top gates were weiring such that you’d fill a lock quite quickly without opening the paddles, and some of the locks were deep! You couldn’t see the top of most gates as they were inches under water. And then there were the squally showers, straight out of the shipping forecast, it felt very Dogger, Fisher and german Bight. I can attest to the canal water temperature being warmer than the air temperature as I was three times under a waterfall as I held the bow rope. At one point, I was standing in water about three inches deep in the front well deck. The first time was my own fault as I failed to throw the rope up to the lockside volunteer. They were wet and getting heavier and I had the sun in my eyes. The other two times were when one of the trainees opened a gate paddle far too soon when the bows of the boat was directly in front of it. He then closed it but re-opened it almost immediately after because he mis-understood the instructions given by the instructor . . . . but an appology was offered and accepted. A hard passage up the lock flight and graham had it no easier at the back end - just slightly drier.
A little sailing cruiser joined up for the passage. They had booked the morning run up the flight but then their engine broke down after one lock so they tied up to repair it and joined us for the afternoon transit instead. Beware of boats permanently fitted with fairy lights. We know that ropes are traditionally called strings, but all they had at first were strings, actual strings, and in the deep locks they had neither the weight to allow them to be thrown up to the lockside or the length to reach up to the hooks and back. A couple of lengths or rope, albeit very thin rope, were tied onto the ends to make them long enough.
Having watched the lady on the cruiser fail to hurl her lengthened string up to the lockside several times, G asked their skipper if he possessed a short boathook on board. Yes he did so G suggested the lady used it to pass the string up rather than trying to hurl it. This worked well and speeded up our lock passage times.
It was obvious, compared to all the other lock flights we’ve passed through this trip, that today’s crew were relatively inexperienced. They were opening the paddles evenly on both sides or opening them too far when the lock was empty which both made the boat very difficult to hold steady in the lock.
Once out of the top lock, we moored on the visitor pontoon above lock 16 to dry ourselves off as well as get a beer from one of the two pubs there. Not impressed with either and ended up drinking bottled beer as the best option.
We then walked a little way down the road by the chipshop and found an excellent Chinese buffet restaurant. After 6pm it’s £11.95 per head for all you want to eat. We had an enjoyable meal and then went back to Sonya, moved the half mile along the canal, back to base and started un-loading all our stuff into the car ready for a quick getaway Saturday morning.
As the run through the locks was too busy for both of us I’ve just added some photo’s G. took of the lit up Kelpies in the rain last night.