We had a productive day yesterday, working through two sets of locks with the friendly crew. They noticed we had a ratchet windlass and said they had two on their boat because it was a time share and one of the people who had a share in it was the designer of the “go windlass” and they had two versions aboard.
I knew the locks were hard work so offered to drive and it was an extra boost that the man driving was really enjoying his first attempt at driving into locks and we had a routine of the order of going in. I had one wait at a lock where everything went a bit wrong. I wanted to hold the boat with the rope but it was on the wrong side and I couldn’t flick it over so climbed on the roof to get it, by which time I was well away from the side and couldn’t step off. One of the crew from the other boat offered to catch it but didn’t manage and it slithered into the water so we had a soggy rope. His wife said he never was much good at cricket and I said I wasn’t any good at throwing -all worked out in the end – I brought the boat in and got off to take the rope. When going into the lock I went into the other side from usual making it harder for my new driving partner but again it all worked. I apologised for messing up and he said he would have been panicking but thought I looked calm. He generally wanted me to go in first and this was new for me , as I have usually gone in second when sharing a lock, so I think both of us upped our locking skills and confidence.
The locks behind us, we went through a lovely rural part. There are a lot of young birds about and as often happens one set got separated from Mum and panicked. The ones on the ramp are feeling safer.
We moored up in a rural spot. We ate outside in the evening with passing boats telling us it smelt good. Later I could hear birds but also some clanking. The clangs were from a farmer’s vehicles. They seemed to be moving cows around. I did also catch sight of several goldfinches flitting around the trees.
This morning we had quite a bit of distance but fewer bits of canal ironmongery to manage. I decided to work the locks, we only had three to do. They were single width locks but in pairs. A couple were just going into one so we went to the opposite one. The woman was concerned it was not working but it was only one paddle that was out of action. It was slow but worked fine. I told the man working his lock I would close his gate so he could get on and I was on an island between the two locks anyway so able to reach both gates. When we reached the next set he was repaying me by setting the other lock filling so I had less work to do. The next ones coming in asked for advice about how to work the paddles and which ones to turn. “The ones nearest the front of your boat” I said (Shane had told me this and I found it very helpful) and she was very pleased to have a simple rule rather than a lesson in engineering. I warned her it was really the direction of travel rather than the front of the boat as we have had to reverse through locks occasionally, but that is rare.
At the last set there were lock keepers so I had only half the job to do and both were very friendly and talking about school group activities. The mechanisms were not identical in all the locks and some still had the original fittings. The extra set of parallel locks had been added later to cope with the increase in traffic.
With the locks behind us in the morning we had a steady drive ahead. There was a junction but we didn’t turn at it. There were other boats to drive around and as often happens the bridges were in corners. I was heading under a bridge having slowed a bit as there was a sign warning of moored boats (which you couldn’t see) on the other side asking drivers to slow down, when I realised there was another boat coming the other way, also under the bridge straight in front of us. We both slammed into reverse. He fitted in a tap to his horn and I tapped the bow thruster so we didn’t bump noses. Continuing reversing left us in the trees and shallow water, but once he had backed out of the bridge, the other boater waved us to come through, not that I could see that for the branches and leaves around me but Shane did and told me to go forward. We were all in good spirits and it is a frequent joke that the bridge positions are far from ideal when driving from the back. Originally the horses were ahead of the boat and had someone with them so the steering happening at the back didn’t matter, as the stopping and starting was from far ahead. Later we met another boater telling there was chaos behind him but by the time we got there it all seemed to have calmed down.
It was not as warm and sunny as yesterday and some clouds were very dark.The cows looked like they were expecting rain.
We needed our fleeces latterly. Still the nuthatches, swallows and long tailed tits were not upset about the weather. Once I had remembered you can drink Pimm’s even when it isn’t sunny, then neither did we! These geese looked quite serious though.
As well as the usual birds we were surprised by the sound of a near helicopter. It flew very low, over our heads, only just clearing the trees at the side of the canal. Later we saw two other helicopters. They didn’t look like they were on rescue missions.
Although we only had light rain while cruising, I can hear now the cows were right and the rain is getting very heavy indeed.