The forecast for today said that if we set off early, we’d get soaked. So this morning Bryn and I sat in and watched the rain. Clare had a parcel to post, so she ventured out when the rain was light, and came back via a shop to stock us up for the next few days. When she got back to the boat, the geese were enjoying the wet canal side.
The rain went off as promised a bit before 1pm. We set off in to the first lock just as the sun broke through. This flight was going to be a little harder to choreograph than Tardebigge because we were going down, not up. There are two tail gates at the bottom, so it takes a lot more work for one person to open them, and the driver is not at a convenient height to help.
However I soon realised that while I was driving, I could still operate one of the paddles and open its gate. I got back on to the boat roof by holding on to the lock-side ladder, and thence to the steering position. I then drove out leaving Clare to tidy up. Bryn meanwhile went ahead to prepare the next lock.
The first few locks were set against us, but we were still making good progress. As I came round a corner under a railway bridge, Bryn signalled “boat coming”! The two guys on the boat coming the other way were soaked – they’d worked up the flight in the rain we had avoided. They seemed in good spirits despite that. The good news for us was that the rest of the flight was now likely to be set our way.
There was a spit of rain at one point, so we decided to take a lunch break. It was so quiet that we did this by leaving the boat in a full lock with the gates closed – that saved using ropes. After lunch, we let the water out and carried on – now with Clare driving. She noticed that a number of locks had strong streams at the exit and asked if I’d had to deal with those – I don’t think so! They are easier to deal with on exit, but sometimes make you bump.
Clare wasn’t prepared to hop on and off the boat, but most of these locks had a rail such that I was able to step across the tail gates even with one of them open. By 3pm we were almost at the bottom of the flight, at a spot that looked suitable for mooring.
Where we moored last night was right next to the railway station in Wolverhampton. Bryn was leaving from there today to go back to stay with Nye and David in Marple. So we walked back up the lock flight to the station to see him off. His train came over some of the flight we had just worked as it left. Clare and I walked back to the boat in the gloaming.
It’s been great seeing more of Bryn than we had in a while. Having only two rooms means we’ve probably seen more of him than when we shared a larger flat. He’s been a very useful crew member too – lock flights just whizzed by. We’ll catch up with him again in Marple.