Today’s plan was to finish the rest of “Heartbreak Hill”. We made great progress yesterday in the sunshine. Today was overcast, but mild and still. I wore the Santa hat again while driving the first few locks, which got some smiles and comments, later on while locking I was too hot to wear it. Coming out of the first lock, we met a Canal and River Trust (CRT) boat coming the other way. The next lock was not only set our way, they had left the gates wide open too. This was the only lock on the entire flight that we didn’t have to empty before we could go in – we didn’t find that heartbreaking, but it was warming.
Some of the locks we have used in the last couple of days were originally scheduled to be closed for maintenance until today. The maintenance was cancelled due to pressure of work elsewhere. One of the locks we were in had a very large bulge in the side wall – let’s hope it gets some attention soon.
By lunch time, we had reached the Red Bull Boat Services where we intended to fill the water and empty the waste tank. This was the first time we’d attempted to empty the waste tank when the access point was on the off-side (over the water). My initial mooring position turned out to be too far for the hose, so we pulled the boat back half a length and tried again. With some delicate balancing I got everything ready. Clare put the card in to the reader and it said “Card Error” and spat it back out. Several more cards gave the same, so we had to give up. (I’ve reported it to CRT).
After lunch we carried on through the rest of the flight. As I was driving out of the next lock, I saw a boat moving ahead. I soon realised that it was a moored boat that had come loose. The front of the boat was securely fastened, but the back didn’t seem to have a rope or anything to attach it to. Clare was on the bank, so she gave the bow some suitable shoves which brought the stern in enough for me to get by.
We then went under the aqueduct that we’d soon be coming over on the Macclesfield Canal. I noticed the stone shows a date of 1828 – so this structure is nearly 200 years old. It’s a Grade II Listed Building.
The final lock is near two supermarkets (other supermarkets are available). Before we went in, Clare set off shopping. I then worked the boat through the final lock on my own. I’ve done all the steps to this before, but never the whole thing. With the boat tied to a bollard I emptied the lock and opened the gates. Once I’d driven in, I climbed on to the roof and up the ladder so I could shut the gates behind. I then opened the paddles gradually so as to reduce turbulence. Sometimes a fast filling lock can throw the boat against the end of the lock with surprising force. A helmsman can keep the boat safely at one end of the lock (usually the front).
I got the boat out of the lock and closed the gate without any difficulty. I then turned on to the Macclesfield Canal and headed back to and over the aqueduct and waited for Clare. We came on through the Hall Green Stop Lock before mooring. We are now two whole days ahead of our schedule.