Yesterday I commented that the river was often wider than canals and all the way the locks have been double width. These are easier done in pairs but mostly we have been doing them alone. As we were sitting after breakfast this morning, we saw two boats going past very close, and the one behind had a very old style wooden tiller and large rudder. Shane noticed that it had no engine and they were travelling together as a barge and butty. Then, as we watched out the hatch window, the man on the barge that was towing the butty slowed down while the man steering the butty steered to bring it round and level, he then removed his tiller and they roped them together. Then he could go to the front and go to work the lock. I went out to ask if we were in their way as they were obviously lining up to get into the lock side by side. It was clear they had accomplished it smoothly and when I complimented their expertise, he called back “oh sometimes, it just works!”
I was impressed with their slick manoeuvres. We set off ourselves and headed for water. A day trip hire boat came close to us but managed to get past, only by driving themselves through the trees at the other side.I called out that going through the trees was all part of the adventure. The driver smiled, waved and apologised saying “sorry, as you can see we have no idea what we are doing!” They then came back over to our side to moor up. We had about finished getting water and headed off towards a bridge. From the front I gestured there was a boat coming in case Shane hadn’t seen it. Often at a bridge hole there is a judgement about whose bridge it is and who will wait to let the other through. There are no give way lines or signs about who has priority. I wasn’t sure which of us was nearer but the closer we both got, the more obvious it was that, unusually, this bridge was, wide enough ( and high enough) to allow two boats to pass under it and so we met exactly under it, and crossed smoothly.
We reached a lock and I prepared to get off but not without snapping the artwork at the side. The lock was straightforward though I did get a little oil on my hand.
Arriving at another lock I saw the top gate was wide open. I went to close them, and a woman sitting down got up to help close them. She was awaiting her husband coming the other way but said as he was not in sight we should just go through. I crossed over. I went round and got the other gate and she helped work us through. A bystander also came and helped me as the gates were very heavy. It turned out my side had a non functional ground paddle so she had more winding to do than I did. She wa every cheerful and chatty. Another boat arrived, but was still not her husband, but she recognised it as a boat that had been ahead of them. One of their crew came over (to my side) and offered that we should get on and he would finish but we had to explain that we were not actually from the same boat. She helpfully explained that in Leicester there was a particularly tricky gate that could only shut if you did the left one first, or both got out to close them or only did one gate. “It’s the one with the graffiti on it”.
Shane wanted a break and we were hoping for lunch soon so I drove and he snacked and I thought with warning of a difficult lock ahead, it would be just as well for me to be driving. There was quite a windy section, then round another bend there was a class of children in kayaks. I sounded the horn and slowed and they gathered together while their tinstrucor sat furthest out into the water. There were some more in Canadian canoes and then a large group on what looked like two canoes doubled up together with a board between them, like a group paddle board. I haven’t seen that before. I gave them a wide berth.
We reached a lock that had a bit of graffiti on the lock arm and I let Shane off. A woman with an e-scooter was beside the lock and when Shane couldn’t open it she came and helped him push. Still no movement. He came to get the windlass and wound it a bit, but still it wouldn’t open. I tied the boat to a bollard and went over. He had crossed to the other side and wound that paddle. I tried the gate and it moved and the other woman came to help too, though we paused to let Shane cross back on the lock gates. So then I went back to drive in. It had been awkward but we thought it was not as hard as all that once the water was level.
After lunch Shane was driving and we approached a lock and I though that this may be the hard one she meant, with graffiti on it. I got off and started winding anyway and just then another boat arrived with another couple. I was glad that if this was the tricky lock then we could double up and there were extra hands to help with heavy gates.
There was a fair amount of discussion about the best place to moor in Leicester and Shane got out to do some panorama photography of the artwork along side the lock. It turned out that there were new pontoons (not in the other couple’s very old Nicholson canal guide) called Memory Lane Wharf right after the lock and we both decided to moor there.
We went shopping and walked along Memory Lane and found some more impressive artwork with pictures within a picture. You might see double or triple if you take too many drugs. It was a good landmark to help us remember the way back down Memory Lane.
Shane found his panorama hadn’t worked and we also noticed that although I had no difficulty moving the gates myself, they had swung open again after. Other boats had been through and still they were wide open, so we went back to try closing them again and had a circuitous route and took in a bit of the park nearby. Shane managed a second take and with both of us, Shane closing the left one first and holding it while I closed the other carefully, they eventually settled shut.