Travelling at weekends, especially in warm weather, there is more chance of meeting others but in November we were unlikely to meet many. Not many boats are moving at this time of year. On the double locks we met very few other boaters and no actual wide beam boats moving but we did see one moored up. Sure we have seen this cat on a hot tin roof before but we can’t remember when, or where.
We had the rest of the seemingly very narrow flight to go. The majority were very close together, particularly lending themselves to popping ahead to open the next gates, while the lock that we are in, is filling. Shane wanted to do the locking today and set off to get the first lock open, while I cast off. Shane has been talking for some time about how narrow these locks are, and the reputation had made me reticent to rush to them. They were the first locks that Shane ever had to deal with and so their narrowness was all the more of a challenge. By the time you have gone into hundreds of locks, they are less daunting. As I drove in, Shane decided to further boost my confidence by saying “that was a 10 out of 10!”, Either that or he was reminding me I was being judged, as if I need reminding.
I was happy driving. There was no wind and it was not cold. Shane had his jumper off after the first lock. What I am still unhappy about is the stepping across the gates and take the slower option of walking round the lock to close or open the second gate. I thought if they were narrow I might be able to step it. I have done it once on one with well placed handles where I felt I could maintain 3 points of contact. Shane has no such qualms. The rails on these gates are set back from the middle and it was not possible to hold them to help the step across. Then there is a windlass in one hand and I thought Shane might drop it, if not himself tossing it from one hand to another. I was “waiting in a state of cat-like readiness” (to quote Marge Simpson) to cut the propellor, if he misjudged it, while he was trusting his agility like a cat jumping through a fence. Perhaps he thinks he has nine lives anyway.
I was pleased the driving was causing no worry, though the gates seem to like closing as you drive through them into the lock, while not closing easily when you try to shut them. Shane had to run back and give one a proper slam. Anyway Shane was enjoying his optimising while I enjoyed the scenery, dropped the offside paddles for him.
Shane asked to change jobs after the bunched locks were behind us. I was not going to leap and and preferred to walk to the gate or use a bridge.
Unfortunately I found that there were no more bridges in the section I was doing and although Shane said I didn’t have to run between them, I did jog a little to the next one and it was not ready to open at all, but completely full and the gate at the far end had been left open. I thanked to the jogger for pointing it out before I wasted any effort winding. As they were wider apart the value of going back to the one before drops, as catching back up with the boat and the increased extra steps is more tiring… and the sun came out so I got pretty hot. Two passing ladies thought I had the harder job and seemed pleased to hear that we had just swapped over.
With the locks completed the main objectives were getting to a shop for milk and bread, picking up grease for the stern gland if we could. It had been suggested that the two boatyards along this canal might sell some. I wondered if they would be open on a Sunday but as we reached one there was a large OPEN sign saying it provided various services. There was only just space for us at the service jetty and it took us quite a while of careful pushing and pulling to squeeze in without bumping. We wondered where the office was and asked a woman, painting her tiller, who had commented favourably on us managing the manoeuvre, since she seemed friendly. The answer was that it was in fact closed. She called a man who she promised if he could. He said the till was all cashed up and there was nothing that could be done until tomorrow, but we were welcome to leave the boat there. The other boatyard ahead is not open tomorrow. (He didn’t say if they were open today.)
We didn’t want to be woken by people needing access to the service jetty, so we drove on and had a quick lunch of leftovers from last night’s curry for Shane and pickled fish on crispbread so didn’t miss the bread. Shane cracked on with driving while I was still lunching. I was mid crispbread, when Shane called. There was a lift bridge to open, which was surprisingly tiring.
We did meet another two boats, close together and at the same time as a close encounter with a kingfisher but Shane was too busy dealing with the other boats which were between us and it, and I couldn’t get a picture so we couldn’t fully appreciate it. We got several other views though it is surprisingly well camouflaged in the brown autumn foliage with its russet breast Perhaps I should have tried to call it down with a pickled herring.
We winded so we could come back towards the boatyard tomorrow and also came back towards the shop, a much shorter walk than from the boatyard. We were entertained, on the walk to the shop, by a family picking up litter in a Canadian canoe and the artistry on this sign on the towpath. There is one at each end of a pair of boats.