This morning’s sunshine was very welcome, but the weather has turned noticeably colder. We’d decided to switch roles for this flight of locks, so I cast off for Clare and then headed off along the bank to open the lock gates. There had been a number of boats passing in the opposite direction so I expected to find the lock ready. Someone on a boat passing just as we set off gave us a confused message about there being a number of boats coming down so we’d have to slip in. That isn’t how locks work, it’s easier (though marginally slower) to use them if there are boats coming the other way.
However, when I reached the lock there was a woman standing there who had refilled the lock. After some further confusion, I was left to empty the lock again and let Clare in. The next lock went smoothly – we crossed in the pound with a boat coming down.
These locks are slightly frustrating as they have a pair of tail gates. When one gate is closed and the other open, it is possible to step across the gap. The step is less than three feet, and there is a rail to hold, though the reach for that is more like four feet. So sometimes I was brave enough to use this shortcut to cross so at to open or close a gate. The alternative is to walk the length of the lock twice.
While trying to get the lock ready for Clare to drive in I was sometimes doing things in unusual orders. Normally when I open a gate I immediately shut the corresponding paddle. But with Clare waiting, I was moving on to the other gate first. Inevitably I forgot to close a tail paddle, which Clare noticed when the boat stopped rising in the lock as it should. This can waste a lot of water, though this canal is clearly well supplied just now. There is a strong flow on the bywash – often throwing the bow sideways just as it enters the lock mouth.
I managed to make several other unimportant mistakes while operating the other locks too. Slightly wound up by a set of minor mishaps, we trundled on towards Market Drayton. We filled up with water and then went to use the pump out. The large valve at the end of the hose was missing which gave us some cause for thought. We now know that the hose is the right diameter to be used without the valve, so we have managed to empty our waste tank. I have informed the Canal and River Trust, so I hope they will replace the missing part for future boaters.
By this time I wished we’d had lunch first and dealt with the boat servicing afterwards. We went in to Market Drayton and found a cafe for lunch. We had a little stroll round with Clare inevitably wanting to have a look at the church.
Buying some more supplies took enough of the day that staying overnight made sense. Clare got me to unwind – holding a skein of wool while she wound it in to a ball.