Our recent trip to Edinburgh was meant to be the first time I could nip back for the minimum time for treatment and straight back. Two things got in the way of that. Industrial action meant that the railways were disrupted for the return journey, and Clare had a funeral to attend. So in the end we went together and were away for most of a week. Our journeys in both directions were uneventful on relatively quiet trains.
We got back to the boat just as it was getting dark. While we were away, another boat had been “breasted up” – tied to the side of us, rather than to the bank. We immediately closed the curtains, so it made little difference, but our view from the breakfast table was diminished – no chance of seeing a kingfisher today.
We filled up the water tank and I took down the pram cover so that we were nearly ready for departure, and then went to the office. As I had expected, Ian said he would come and sort us out in a few minutes. By the time he caught up with me, I had disconnected the electric hook-up (including getting the credit back on to the smart card), and rearranged the ropes so that we were almost ready to go. Ian held the centre rope of the other boat and we slipped out underneath it.
Immediately after we’d left the Arm, we moored up again so that Clare could make a quick trip to the supermarket (other supermarkets are available). We were now suitably provisioned to approach the Hatton Lock Flight. This is the infamous flight of 21 double-width locks which climb out of Warwick.
The locks themselves are very similar to the ones we’ve met on this section already, but this time there were only two of us operating them. The paddles are mounted in white posts at the corners of the locks and are moderately hard to operate, but mostly consistent. The gates are large with long arms. Once the water has equalised, they usually open smoothly, but the lower gates weigh over three tonnes, so getting them moving is quite an effort.
Clare managed the first two, but when I offered to swap jobs she didn’t hesitate. As she drove between the next pair with me walking along the towpath, a man walking the other way commented to me: “And they say women do all the work!” I didn’t waste any of my breath correcting his world view.
We only need to open one gate at each end to get the boat through, which saves a lot of effort. Once in, the theory is that if the boat is kept close to one side, and the paddle on that side is opened first, the boat will be pinned by the flow rushing underneath. In theory, practice and theory are the same, but in practice they are not. However these locks mostly seem to have read the text book. The flow creates significant turbulence, but it seems to pin the boat as expected. So much so that in some locks, Clare nipped in to hang out washing from the machine while the lock was filling.
As lunch time approached, I directed Clare to moor up. We had done nearly half the flight, but I’d noticed that the density of locks ahead was increasing, and I wasn’t sure if there would be another chance to moor. While we were having our lunch, we decided that perhaps we had done enough for the day. The sun was out though, so we set off to walk the rest of the flight. And I was right, there were no more mooring opportunities.
When we returned from our walk, I did a bit of boat maintenance. When Rob and Ian visited last month, they commented that the engine room floor was very wet. I think I had failed to adjust the stern tube stuffing box correctly. This involves tightening it periodically to compensate for wear, and is in addition to the daily injection of grease by winding the grease gland. A slow drip can let a lot of water in eventually. The bilge pump ensures we don’t get flooded, but can’t keep the engine room floor dry.
I’ve brought some ragged towels from Edinburgh, so I spent an awkward half hour climbing around the engine room, dropping towels in to the water and then squeezing them on to the deck. I’ll keep an eye on things – perhaps the rate of evaporation will keep up with the drips from the shaft for a while. Rob has suggested leaving a disposable nappy in the engine bay. That seems wasteful, but perhaps if we only need to change it every few months it will be better than letting canal water attack the hull from both sides.