Now Where?

We headed to the train station on our way to Norfolk in warm sunshine.  While we were away the weather changed considerably.  We mostly managed to avoid getting wet, but I was mildly concerned that we had left Bartimaeus moored on the side of a river during a time of heavy rain.  I occasionally checked the location the onboard systems were reporting, which didn’t seem to be changing.  I’m not sure what I would have done if I thought the boat had moved.  I kept an eye on other things remotely too.  I could see that the batteries were getting fully charged by lunchtime most days, but the overnight low temperature onboard had dropped by 10°C.

There was a cool breeze as we returned to the boat.  I was relieved to find that the boat was more or less where we had left it.  I could see it listing slightly which indicated that it was aground.  When we left, we’d pushed the gang-plank in to the bow well – I had no difficulty pulling it back to get us on board.  Inside, the list made things awkward, so I used the pole to push both ends away from the bank to get us floating – and level – again.

The next job was to warm the boat up a bit.  I started the central heating, and turned on radiators that have been off all summer – including the one in the saloon that I replaced and hadn’t been used yet.  The final admission that summer was over was putting on socks and long trousers.

This morning was bright and breezy, but I was glad of the long trousers and an extra layer on top.  It wasn’t long before we reached the junction with the River Lee.  I remembered this wide section of river but there are no signs.  We turned left and headed up the final navigable stretch of the Lee.

A wide river with a number of moored boats against the far bank.  Behind the boats are tall trees starting to show autumn colours.
Junction of River Lee with River Stort

The first lock was ready for us, so Clare drove straight in and I climbed up the ladder.  It was a big lock with a swing bridge over it and a lot of instructions.  I opened the bridge and closed the tail gates, both of which promptly started to swing open again.  I opened one of the head paddles slightly to get some water flowing to hold the gates shut.  It still took several visits to each gate in turn to get them to stay shut.

The instructions said to use ropes because the flow from the paddles was very strong.  We tied the bow with a rope and opened the paddle very slowly.  It all went well, I’ll never know where we’d have ended up if we had been less cautious.

A couple of locks further on was Ware Lock.  There was a warning about this lock on the Canal and River Trust (CRT) website.  The warning suggested that the lock was not operational in August and that the Environment Agency (EA) had been informed.  We decided to investigate and turn back if we couldn’t get through.  Clare set off on a much-needed shopping trip while I dealt with the lock.  As I got up to the lock I found another boater about to leave it ahead of us – so it was working!

For some reason, the lock is managed by EA despite being in a stretch of CRT river and canal.  Signs all around proudly announced that it was protecting the local area from flooding.  The EA had also produced a completely different hydraulic mechanism for opening the paddles.  They behave in a similar way to the other hydraulic gear on this and other CRT waterways, but are a completely different shape.

Hydraulic lock gear.  A curved black stand is topped with a white cube from which two hydraulic hoses protrude.  Behind a narrowboat is at the bottom of the lock with no-one at the helm.
Unusual Lock Gear

I got through the lock without difficulty and had hardly any time to wait before Clare got back from the shop.  I’ve also sent an email to CRT to tell them that the lock is operational – I hope they’ll update their website.

Clare worked the last lock of the day, but realised that she had not taken the correct windlass up the ladder with her.  While she was closing gates, I tried to be helpful by using the boat hook to pass a windlass on to the side of the lock where she’d need it.  She didn’t notice the splash as it fell off in to the lock – I know roughly where that windlass is, but there was no chance of recovering it.  I put another windlass by hand on to the wrong side of the lock.

It was perhaps a good job that we stopped for the day soon after that.  We moored up in Hertford in time for a late lunch.  While eating I dropped a knife from the table twice – the second one went down the gap from where it had to be retrieved (later) by lifting out part of the dinette.

After a scheduled chat with some of my erstwhile colleagues, Clare and I went on a short explore of Hertford. The display above the fishmongers caught my attention.  I’m sure it would be more at home at a visitor attraction in a seaside town.

The Blue Oyster Bar and Fishmongers.  The sign above this shop is dwarfed by a display of sea life fixed to the building.  An open-mouthed shark and a giant octopus are very prominent.  Hanging over the street from a line are two enormous jelly fish.
Sea Life in Hertford