Yesterday the overnight heavy rain continued in to the morning, but we decided to press on anyway. We don’t often drive far in the rain if we can help it, but it seemed a shame for Heather to just sit inside. Our recent successes with rearranging the cover also meant that we could drive largely in shelter. This section of the Grand Union Canal seems to have bridges that are high enough for us to drive under with the cover up, but not quite high enough for that to be relaxing. Perhaps we need a flexible mast at the front of the boat to act as a gauge – if the mast fits, the cover does also.
Clare was still feeling a little washed out after being ill, so she opted to let Heather and I do most of the work. I was trying out my new waterproof coat too. The coat is probably more at home on a grouse moor than the home counties, but it is intended to work well when standing still in damp weather, it even has hand-warmer pockets separate from the large ones for carrying things. Unlike many coats intended for “outdoor sport”, this one comes down most of the way to my knees. This will probably keep me warmer, but the main benefit is that my trousers stay dry. I can also sit on the coat on a wet seat without ill-effect. It was fine for working locks too. The main thing I don’t like is that it doesn’t come in red!
The weather gradually improved during the day. This section of the canal runs along the Colne Valley. In some places the River Colne runs across or even along the canal. The heavy rain made for some strong currents here and there, but didn’t cause us any problems. We were mindful that sunset was suddenly an hour earlier than we might be expecting, so when we spotted a pretty mooring in the late afternoon we moored up for the day.
Heather and I walked along the towpath to a large supermarket (other supermarkets are available) before sunset. This morning I set off on foot in to Rickmansworth to visit a branch of my building society. For some reason, my credit card had been blocked and I wanted to get that resolved. My first attempt to fix the issue on the phone had been unsuccessful, and had used up all my remaining credit. The credit should top-up automatically, but the problem with the credit card stopped that happening too.
The warm sunshine was pleasant on the way to the branch. The staff there were extremely friendly and resolved the problem with the card. By the time I came past the lock I had taken my fleece off and was still too hot. A large wide boat was being towed out of the lock by a narrowboat as I went by. Knowing the lock was set against us, I suggested Heather and Clare set off to get the lock ready while I brought the boat up to the lock. The lock didn’t seem to be emptying very quickly, so I tied up and went to see what was going on.
It turned out that the large boat I had seen leaving had knocked one of the top gates off its hinges. We think the boat must have drifted under the top bar of the gate and then lifted it up as the water rose underneath. The gate normally rests in a cup at the bottom. It seems the lifted gate came back down with its heel outside the cup. The result was that the gates didn’t meet any more, so the chamber could not be emptied.
A woman on a boat coming the other way phoned the Canal and River Trust (CRT) to tell them what had happened. It was obvious that there wasn’t going to be a quick fix. A small group of interested boaters and others gathered. We concluded that probably we “just” needed to lift the gate up and pop it back in to its cup – but the gate weighs about a tonne. I decided to take our boat back to our mooring – if we are going to be stuck for any time, we might as well be in the best spot.
To make the best of the pleasant weather, we went for a walk around the nearby nature reserve. Every so often I came by the lock to see what progress was being made. There was a lot of interest locally – boaters want to know if they can get to water and other essential services. The number of CRT employees was slowly increasing through the day, but they were always careful not to promise anything.
By mid-afternoon, the number of CRT employees had reached eight, there were padlocks on the paddles and gates, a barrier around the offending lock gate arm, and a jack poised to lift the gate. CRT employee number nine arrived carrying the all-important piece of paper that stated that the operation was safe to perform and the repair commenced. Two pushes on the jack lifted the gate up, on the third it fell back in to the cup – the whole process took under thirty seconds.
After a test swing of the gate, and an emptying and filling of the lock, it was declared fixed. The CRT crew took their equipment away and the boats waiting to come down started working through. We decided not to press on today. There was only about an hour of daylight left and no strong reason to move on.
I then spent some time trying to contact the phone company to get the payment resolved. I managed to get it sorted after an hour, but it has confirmed previous thoughts that I should move to a phone provider that has a better way of contacting their support team.
Three unexpected problems have been resolved today. Tomorrow we can carry on as we would have done if none of them had arisen. We don’t have a tight schedule to keep to and we’ve enjoyed the calm sunny weather today.