Back Off Boogaloo

Last time Bryn stayed on the boat, he slept in the kitchen, but his rising time is later than ours and also he seems to always arrive as the forecast temperature drops to zero, and the small front room is liable to be warmer overnight. We decided we would disturb him less if we gave him the bedroom and took the large room, converting the tables into the large bed, which is easier to put together and take apart now we have the extra table. This morning, though, I was perhaps blasé in an unlimbered up state, before breakfast, and managed to twist myself putting a small table back in place, causing a painful spasm in my back. 

Discovering that merely trying to switch on the kettle or spread toast was triggering pain was not a good outlook for a flight of locks ahead. Fortunately I had already dressed.I was very glad Bryn was aboard so I could let him take the ropes and locking role if need be. Keeping a little movement going, rather than staying rigid seemed a good idea, so Shane and I went a gentle walk around the park in Macclesfield. There was frost on the ground too, another potential hazard. The pontoon has grip strips but the damp or frosted wood is very slippery. 

How easily we take things for granted: when you have to think how to brace yourself before putting on a scarf or collect your toilet paper in advance to avoid having to lean forward to reach it (TMI, I hear you cry), then you realise how many simple movements use your back. Every movement needs to be planned and taken cautiously. 

Shane set off driving and Bryn went to sit outside with him. I felt things seemed to be improving. Paracetamol, taking care and keeping moving gently all helped gradually ease the degree of pain and increased the range of possible movement. I went out to find a swing bridge was not far off. Bryn was prepared with some instructions about the mechanism, but I remembered this kind is harder than you expect and it is easy to think it is not possible or be unsure what to do, so I walked with him so I could direct or encourage as required. So glad of good grippy shoes as the bridge was icy too. It was indeed hard work for Bryn to lift the handle to release the bridge, but I hope it helped that I was there telling him how to do it and assuring him he had done the right thing. 

At the next lift bridge, button operated , I was indeed just a spare part. Many more people needed to use the bridge than when I last opened it. It is annoyingly slow to complete it’s closing and opening sequence and one cyclist who is perhaps familiar with the long wait, chose to go over the footbridge with steep steps carrying his bike, rather than wait and indeed was on his way much more quickly. The vehicles crossing, at the end, made it hard to get back to the boat quickly along the road as there is no other footpath, so Bryn and I went up and over too. Another icy bridge – good job the cyclist didn’t slip up there carrying his bike. I might not have been a useful assistant.

Bryn may have regretted his hair cut, as more forehead and nape were exposed today. I could see Shane was chilly driving so decided I would give it a go and let him in to warm up a little, and with Bryn there I felt if I found driving a pain, he could be called upon. With the stability of the boat door to lean against, and most of my steering movements being slow and side ways, I found that driving was fine. Now I felt like a proper crew member.

We stopped for lunch and a boat passed us going towards the locks. Oh no..all the locks will be set against us, we thought. When we reached the locks, we intended to get a quick pump out. It had been difficult to access coming the other way but we decided it would be easy from this direction. The other boat was at the pump out and filling with water and saying he would be about an hour and so we will have to wait for our pump out. No red lights showing so not urgent. 

I set off towards the low winter sun to drive into the first lock. The sun was welcome but made it a bit hard to see. The view ahead was all sillouettes and shiny reflections.

The hope was that all the locks would be set our way, but not so. I only found this out afterwards though, because the combined team work of two lockers leap frogging down the flight meant that most locks were ready for me to go straight into and the flight went very smoothly, which was excellent as , while it was a cold day to be standing still, I didn’t want to swap places with the active locking crew. In fact it was sufficiently cold that even the hard working locking crew were keeping their hats gloves and coats firmly on.

As we were just after half way, we were warmed by the company of a young boy and girl and presumably their grandfather who joined in with pushing the tail gates on each of locks to the bottom. They rushed to get to each lock and on the last one Shane was able to stand back and let them do it themselves.

Lock gates being opened for me, on the bottom lock, by Bryn and the little children.

The sun was beginning to set  and even the bright red coats of my crew look black when backlit as I drove out of the last lock.

Driving out of the last lock, Shane on the lock bridge, Bryn at the gate arm

So we finished just in time to moor up at the bottom of the flight before sundown. We were at a spot Shane had his eye on previous times as a good mooring spot. Luckily he told me where he wanted me to pull in, in advance as I could not see him signalling to me from the bank.


Approaching our mooring spot – Shane is standing to show me where to go

I was pleased to have regained movement and much reduced pain and find a mooring spot with ease. And as a bonus we saw two egrets and later a tiny crescent moon, much sharper in real life than my wobbly photography from a blowy boat.

Two ducks under a crescent moon at the front of the boat