Practice Makes Perfect

Today was the gap between the named storms, so we decided to take the opportunity to charge the batteries and give Clare some more practice at lone working.  We spent some time looking at our options.  It turns out that there are very limited options for winding (turning round).  We know we can turn at the Horninglow water point and the Shobnall Marina entrance, but these are only a mile apart (with a lock in-between).  However, the next turning point in each direction is more than four miles away.

We settled on going towards Willington again – though we still had to start the wrong way and turn round.  I gave Clare a few tips before we set off and then tried hard to keep my mouth shut.  She had learned from her previous go at winding – this time she turned more gradually and so made use of the widest bit of the canal.  Encouraged, she then worked the lock without any help from me.  We’ve both done all the bits, but she’d never done them all at the same lock.  There is an extra step because you have to tie up before the lock – or risk the boat drifting off.

It takes a bit longer done this way, and there is a point where you need to get on or off the boat at the bottom of the lock.  Fortunately Dallow Lock is only about as deep as Bartimaeus is tall.  That all went extremely smoothly and we went on to Stretton where Clare moored up while I hopped off for more supplies of bread and coffee.

After lunch, we hadn’t gone far when a woman on the towpath called to warn us.  She said there was a tree down in the canal just around the corner and we might not get past it.  We thanked her for the warning, but I was pretty confident there had been a boat in front of us, so it was probably fine.  There was plenty of room, but we did cut the propellor and coast over just in case there was anything hidden.

Small Tree in Canal
We’ve Had Worse Tree Problems

Before we reached Willington the batteries were fully charged, so Clare switched to electric as we drove in to the village. We both knew where the winding hole was but neither of us could remember it precisely. There are moored boats on both sides on approach, so we were both slightly surprised when it appeared. Clare was probably going fractionally too fast, and was marginally too cautious about avoiding the boat on the offside. The stiff breeze conspired to push the bow beyond the widest part of the canal.

We’ve all seen the pictures of the Ever Given in the Suez Canal. It wasn’t like that at all, but the boat was nevertheless wedged. I sought permission to help, and then stepped off the bow and tried to pull it further round – it wouldn’t budge. I must get a toy JCB to place next to the bow for future photo opportunities.

Digger Next To Ever Given
It Looked Almost But Not Quite Exactly Unlike This

Meanwhile Clare was being offered help by two passing walkers on the towpath. They offered to help perhaps with ropes, but hadn’t realised we were trying to turn round – Clare politely declined their kind offers. I asked Clare to push her end back a bit which gave me enough space to heave the bow with the rope – and we were free. I just managed to get back on as Clare and the wind carried on with the turning. No harm was done, and minor mishaps make excellent learning opportunities.

The simple lesson was that she didn’t turn hard enough, unlike the morning turn where she’d previously turned too hard. It’s a Goldilocks sort of thing.

I drove some of the trip back to give Clare a break. So when the squally shower with icy rain came it was me that was out in it. I was suitably dressed and it didn’t last long, so I didn’t even get cold. There were a number of fleeting rainbows behind me as it dried up.

Clare took over again before the lock which she again worked solo – so now she’s locked up and down.

We were very soon back where we started the day.  “Our” mooring spot had another boat in it.  The owner hailed us and told us he’d moved there because he wanted to be away from the trees for the storm.  We are thus a little nearer trees than I might have chosen, but I don’t think we are at risk.  Tomorrow is forecast to have strong winds throughout daylight hours with gusts in excess of 60 mph.  Clare won’t be practising boat-handling!