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Monday 26 March 2018

Observations 6, gear.

I am full of admiration for those that take on historic vessels and have the expense and enthusiasm to preserve them in pristine order. I also understand the allure of a nice old engine that chugs away and shining brass work etc. I am less understanding of those with new boats that have Buckby cans and mops on the roof with an electric kettle and microwave inside and false river heads inside. Each to their own of course and they do look the part. The only brass on our boat is the tiller, and I don't think it has been polished, other than by use that is. I suppose that this gets into the same argument as bow thrusters and the like, and really I am ambivalent about it all, as it is what ever each person is happy with.

From the top floor of the waterways museum at Stoke Bruerne there are always plenty of historic boats to take the eye along with plenty of other too on a summers day. Not much brass visible externally on this boats though.

I have also noticed over the last few years that 'must have' equipment to be had at the locks is some fingerless gloves and a holster for your windlass. The holster, for some, may well be a good idea as I must have found a dozen or more windlasses over the last few years. I was watching a film of the old working boats a while back and they seemed to just tuck them into their belts, or hang them off a shoulder. I have also seen the rotary/ratchet windlasses, but not too many. They must be great for those with little arm strength, but they seem to weigh a ton to carry backwards and forwards too. More aluminium windlasses are about too, to cut down on the weight, and I got one for the crew, with a longer throw to help on the more stubborn locks. However you do need to watch your knuckles on some locks where the beams are a bit too close.

Helen showing off the latest summer boating wear, along with her long throw aluminium windlass. I did bolt a strip of steel on it just in case it ever got submerged so I could get it back with the magnet.

Ropes are another thing you can't really do without, but some seem to manage with a bit of parcel string and wonder why they are often returning to their vessel to find it was not quite where they had left it after having broken adrift and been re-moored by some kind soul. I have just bought some more rope and I was toying with the idea of going for 16mm as it is a nicer size to grab hold of with cold hands and non bendy fingers. However I did hold fire and settled on the 14mm as we have now. Anything less and it seems to really cut into your hands with any weight on and hard to get a good grip of. I also get  3 part cable lay rope as it is nice and easy to splice. There is nothing you can do with braided ropes really. I don't think there are many canal boats with white ropes, unlike on the Thames, as they would soon by mucky beige at the best.

Somewhere on the Stratford. I have my for'd mooring line the longest as I adjust the stern line by heaving on the bow line (see previous posts). The crew enjoying the sun despite the trees and hedges about.

A bit of a theme going on here, with the crew relaxing once again. A good mooring for the solar panels here. Low hedge on the towpath side and a field on yonder side.

The length of mooring ropes is also very personal. For the centre lines I just have them long enough to reach the back end of the boat comfortably. This allows you to hop off with them but with no fear that any longer and they could get in your own prop. I think that my mooring lines are maybe a little long but have come in useful on some moorings, say up banks on rivers, or between big mooring posts. Better a bit too long, than a bit too short I suppose. Some big locks like you to have longer lines so that you can pass them up and back down at the bottom of the lock.

A bit of a wait at the top of Marsworth locks. The centre line means that you can just jump off and take a turn on something, or stand and hold it whilst you wait.

There seems to be a fashion in head gear on the canals too. Those big leather cowboy style hats seem to be the thing now. I wonder if there are many that wear traditional garb on their traditional boats, other than at festivals that is. I suppose what would be a trilby and cords or pinny and mop cap in one era would be just an old gabardine coat, great coat or donkey jacket, with any old pair of trousers and a flat cap in an other era. I suppose I am of the flat cap brigade, until it gets too warm then go to a baseball cap. I wear old trousers that can't really be used for anything else until the end of May when, come Hell or High Water I start getting the legs brown with some shorts. I do try to make a bit more of an effort when going ashore to shop or to the pub, but maybe a casual observer may not notice!

Summer head wear on, and legs out. Maybe this is why kids run away when they see me! I have my windlass in my hand or hooked over the gate, in such a manner that if closing the gate it wont be jolted off and into the dock.

Since a nasty incident in Harecastle Tunnel C&RT have been pushing for all to wear a life jacket when transiting. Last year I noticed more people donning them all of the time, and not just children on the hire boats. I wonder if it will become like cycle helmets where they just become almost the norm. We always wear them on the rivers for some reason and not on the canals. The horse collar type are pretty easy to wear and don't get in the way of movement. I know you can stand up in many of the canals, but maybe not if you bang your head on the coping stones of a lock on the way down!

Sporting the winter head gear as we head south down on the Trent. Also wearing the horse collar life jacket. Mind you the life jackets aren't just to be left in a wardrobe until required as the gas cylinders need checking for date and to ensure they haven't set off accidentally. If they are fitted with self inflation the little disc expands when just moist so might activate the cylinder if stowed a way damp after rain, or left in a damp boat over winter. Always a good idea to give them a good check over for condition at the start of each season.

More and more boats are mounting solar panels and their benefits are obvious, especially since their price has come down and the technology of the controllers seems to mean more of it can be harvested. It does therefore irritate me a little that many, if not most, 'official' moorings seem to be under trees.This is obviously not a health place when you get something like the 'Beast from the East' passing through, nor when a flock of starling or pigeons are roosting there. I am always amazed when looking of old footage and photos of canals just how few trees there are. I suppose that the canal companies didn't want them as their roots could damage the banks and their leaves would fill up the canal in winter. Mind you I have been very thankful of a hedge or belt of trees when there has been a wind blowing as they provide a bit of shelter. For us none working boat, leisure boaters they tress and hedges always seem to block the best views and then disappear as you pass through the industrial areas of our towns and cities!?

This mooring near Hopwas Wood on the Coventry is a nice spot but the trees and hedges means that you can not benefit from the sunshine all day. Macy taking a sniff between the inevitable dog walkers.

This mooring on the Thames is made to measure in size and for the solar panels, if not for access as the bank is at roof height!

We are gearing up to returning to 'Holderness' soon. As the Easter Weekend is also the first weekend in April it could well be a very busy time on the cut. Mind you they seem to be telling us that there may well be snow at the weekend again, so that may cause a few delays to people starting off this year.

Monday 19 March 2018

Observations,5. Navigation.

I am now talking just the moving of vessels up and down the waterways.  I suppose the first thing I should mention is the speed of travel. There is a speed limit of 4MPH on the canal, and this maybe a little easier to actually see what speed you are actually doing as phones have GPS's on them so in theory you can see. However this does not mean that everybody should travel at 4MPH as the disturbance made can be better judged by the wash behind the boat. If there is a wash/wave this will inpact on the banks and eroded them more quickly, some wildlife may also be disturbed, and it is this displacement of water by the moving of the hull that also causes problems to moored vessels, if not correctly secured alongside. Observe your wake and slow down if you see one. If the canal is shallow, which many of them are, and the bottom of the boat is closer to the bottom a wash will be made at a slower speed so you may well have to slow down further. Actually going faster 'sucks' you down towards the bottom, so may cause you to touch the bottom!

approaching a toll island on the Birmingham New Main Line. There is no point in increasing revs as you go through the narrows as it is shallow and you will go no faster.

Now the antithesis of going too fast is those that go too slowly. By that I mean too slowly for those that are stuck behind you in 'tick over' when they may have reason to 'crack on'. If you want to travel slowly, go right ahead and do it, the canals are not for speeding along. However do not impose your speed on anybody else, let them pass. If I am stuck behind a slower boat my procedure is to sit off for a while to give them chance to notice me. After a period if they haven't checked aft and seen me, or have done and then continued to ignore me, I carefully close up with their stern and shout across to ask if it is okay for me to pass. It is then a matter of waiting for a suitable place. If I am the boat to be overtaken if a passing place does not seem obvious I will pull over to the tow path, jump off with the centre line and let them pass. If there is a straight section and room to pass I will reduce speed to tick over or stop the engine and just continue with way on and steerage, until their bow is closing my stern and then will go to tick over again. The object is to go as slowly as possible so that the speed of the passing is quickest. This means that if I am the overtaking vessel I will increase speed so that the relative speed between the boats is greater. If there is room the boat being overtaken should pull over towards one side or the other to give more room for the overtaking vessel. bear in mind though that the interaction of the overtaking vessel will draw water from underneath your boat and the bow and stern waves may make it difficult to keep a straight line. If a lock is coming up you could ask if you took the lock first so as to do the overtaking there. And don't forget to say thank you too.

Timing movements of the boats ina pound between locks helps with keeping the flow of boats going just dodging round each other as you pass to line up for locks/bridge holes.

Not a place to start your first lesson in boat handling! The trip boats run in and out of Bancroft basin at the bottom of the Stratford Canal taking now prisoners and there isn't much room for chucking the boat about to get stern to, alongside the pontoons. It can be windy and to add insult to injury there are always loads of sight seers there to watch you do your worst. I always think that none of them would be able to do any better, so why worry!

There are many bling bends and bridge holes on the canals and I know that some people seem to toot their horn every time. Personally I don't do this, I like peace and quiet. My way of approaching them is to have a suitable speed on, not too slow and not too fast. As I close the point I make sure my bow is visible through the bridge hole from the other direction, even if I can't see myself. I will start the bow swinging just as we get to the obstacle so that when there the bow is just on the st'bd side of the channel, if a wide canal/bridge hole, or just in the centre if a narrow canal/bridge hole. If there is another boat coming at speed it gives you some chance to move the bow either way to avoid an head on collision. The moderate speed is also such that an emergency full astern will take the way off the boat. As frequently happens there is a bit of a Mexican stand off at a\pinch point. Neither helmsman is sure who is going. This is normally followed by a lot of indistinct arm waving. Please do large and simple actions to indicate what you are trying to convey.

The Swans Neck on the River Avon is not really the place to meet another boat, but was unavoidable. Just make sure you are well positioned when entering the almost 180deg turn. Is there any deep water on the inside of the bend?

Even when you can see along way you can still do much to reduce problems. If you see you are going to meet another boat approaching a pinch point, why not just slow down in good time to allow the situation to resolve itself. The further away you are the less you actually have to slow down

On the River Avon between Stratford Lock and Colin Whitter Lock we could see one boat heading for the lock, (eventually it winded), and two trip boats just coming to wind above the lock so we hung back and out of the way to let it all go on ahead of us then advanced to take the lock.

Usually there is deep water gully in the canal, and where there is much silting up of the canal it may be that you are not able to go much off the line without touching the bottom. If both boats hold the line until quite close and then each just turn to st'bd a little so the bows miss the interaction of the two boats will mean that th sterns miss too. There is actually no need to be miles apart, just inches is fine. Easy to say, not so easy to do though.

Just treading water waiting for Helen to get the bridge wound up. I like to try to hold my place in the canal, and it is a good way to get a proper feel for how the boat handles, but in a wind don't be embarrassed to get alongside and hold the mid line.

It is difficult to say much about actually maneuvering boats as some have a flair for it and some don't, some have a bow thruster, and some don't. All I would say is, that in my experience, that if you want the boat to turn in a short distance it is always best to start from stopped, or very slow, as that way your travel forward is little.  It is not always necessary to use high revs to achieve the best results. Also please don't think when moving round marinas, pontoons and other boats etc, that you need to do everything by the engine. It is perfectly acceptable to tow the bow or stern round with a line, or walk down the side of another vessel. It is less easy to do on the canals than in open water but I would also advocate letting the wind assist you in your objectives, rather than fighting it. This may mean holding the bow or stern close to the bank and letting the wind blow the other end round after a bit of a shove, or it could be that you go past where you want to be knowing that when you take the way of the boat and start the maneuvre the wind will bring you back to where you really want to be. One of the joys of being on the canals is just sucking it and see, so have a mess about, when you are not upsetting, delaying anybody, and the worst that will probably happen is a bit of a scratched paint.

Banbury, on the Oxford Canal, is another place where it is always busy and plenty of spectators, bridges and locks to test the helmsman.

A bit of a srum to get in the lock at Teddington for the tide down to Brentford or Limehouse. We just let them get on with it and were still in the same pen as the last few.

When venturing on the rivers of the network don't be too worried about the current try to use it to assist you in turns etc. Just like the wind the current can make things much easier for you. An example would be that you can maintain the boats position head to the current with out moving ahead or astern just by using the current. Let the current do the work when turning off the berth etc. Don't forget that 'practice makes perfect'.

This vessel is using both the wind and the current, luckily for us. Had he been going the other way he would have been tacking backwards and forwards across the River Avon, using the wind to make progress against the current.

On the upper Thames there are some wicked bends and bling corners along with the current to contend with. As many of the boats using the river are small cruisers you don't really want to be having an argument with them as it may cost your insurance!

One last thing, please don't listen to Timothy West on the TV programme when we just tells people he has just crashed into that it is a contact sport. It isn't, but these things happen so make sure that if you do make contact make sure your speed is very low and then all your bumps will be little ones!

When navigating on rivers take care not to over estimate your skills. be very aware of the power of moving water and take heed of river levels and current warnings, as it may not be your skill that is found wanting but the engine may not want to play just when you need it.

Monday 12 March 2018

Observation 4, moorings.

Although there are reportedly about 2000 miles of C&RT waterways to choose from it is always surprising how many people, even outside the busiest parts of the year, want to be in the same place! We all know the honeypot places, and we all like stopping at them at some point in our cruise. It therefore astonishes me that at these spots you are able to watch folk moor up leaving big gaps between boats, effectively reducing the number of boats that could utilise the space. Would it be possible do you think to alter the bye law to say that where ever there is a 24 or 48 hour mooring time limit, boats must be moored so as to leave minimum space between them. (or something similar). I have been very tempted to let  go a boat and move it a few feet so as to be able to slip on to the mooring. If the owner/occupier was not aboard at the time, would you think this was acceptable?

We have used this spot on the Thames a couple of times now. It is just 60' long where you can slip in next to the bank. You have to climb on to the bank from the roof and moor up tied to trees but you aren't going to be plagued by neighbours here!

On the other hand you are out in the wilds with nobody about and miles of empty mooring places in both directions and boat will moor up about 4 feet from your bow and stern! Why on earth do people do that. I've heard of safety in numbers but it has even happened when there hasn't been a road or a house in sight? I have even had it where they then run their engine or generator well after 2000. If I had to do that I would ensure I was as far from others as possible, and it is against the bye laws!

One of our better moorings with a low hedge to the south so sun all the day, very little foot traffic and an uninviting bank for others to stop.!

Miles and miles of on line moorings are a bit sole destroying as you idle past trying to keep your interest and concentration. It is bad enough n a lovely sunny day with no wind, but when the opposite is true it is a real grind. You then get to the old argument about speed past moored boats. When you are inside your boat and see a boat whiz past your window they seem to be always speeding as you see them close up and for a short distance. If you are outside they always, to me seem slower. Personally I do go to my tick over, which is not the same for every engine, or every boat, but I must admit to just pushing her up a notch for long lines of moorings.

I can't really remember where this is but illustrates those lengths of moorings that seem to grind on. (And a boat with her fenders down!).

There are serial Mr. or more normally, I find, Mrs. Grumpy, who shakes her fist at the window as you pass, or hurls themselves out of the hatch to curse and swear at you for speeding past them. Invariably I am doing my tick over (which is actually very slow it seems compared to others) but still their boat is moving laterally along the canal. When you look you see that actually they seem to have no idea about how to tie their boat up and really it is their own fault that it is happening. I used to tell them so, but now I just smile and wave back. As a minimum a bow and stern line should lead well for'd or aft, AND NOT PERPENDICULAR TO THE BOAT!! The other thing that I notice is that what ever knot, or system some people are using to secure the ropes they are pulling out so the rope just gets looser as every boat passes. I very rarely use springs but they are useful in some circumstances as an aid. As we have dollies aft my system is to position the boat alongside, select a ring, length of cladding or place for the pin and place it securely in position. One end of my mooring rope is secured to a dolly. The other end goes through/round and back to the boat. I have an eye in the end of the mooring line and I just 'wrap' the rope round the two dollies in a figure of eight until I can place the eye round one of the dollies so there is as little slack as possible. I will then push, power the boat ahead until it is nice and tight. I will then go to the bow and place the mooring rope through/round the securing ashore and make it up on the 'T' piece on the bow with a locking hitch on the last turn. This is good for just about every situation. If not I secure the stern line with several half hitches round itself between the dollies. These will just pull tighter if there is a surge, but still be easy to let go. There are other knots to do this, but a half hitch is easy.

Ideally the mooring line should lead from the outer dolly to exert the maximum 'pull' into the bank, but the fuel filler would fray the rope there. Maybe you can also see that I have just looped the line round the dollies and placed the eye in the end over one and tightened it by moving the boat ahead if required.

There is the old bug bear of overstaying on moorings I have done it myself, in the middle of nowhere, or for an hour or two. However I feel so guilty and suspect that C&RT will be knocking on my hatch at any time I am much more comfortable moving on. I'm glad that I am in the happy position where I don't have to live on my boat and work, or educate my kids etc. But when you get your licence you sign to agree to the rules and regulations knowingly. I know that some say that those rules and regulations are wishy washy, but that doesn't mean you have to exploit them. I am also a little sceptical of their authority to declare themselves canal people as the majority don't seem to go anywhere. Can owners of a static caravan join the Caravan Club? (That's a genuine question by the way). Should Councils be obliged to provide low cost marina moorings like chalet parks? I'm glad I don't have to sort it out, and I do like the diversity of people on the cut, but there are more boats on the system than there ever has been now.

 No fear of over staying here as I think it was about £70 for the use of the lock and a temporary berth until the next tide. Mind you as we penned up into Portishead Harbour it was pretty surreal as it felt like we had been transported to the Mediterranean after leaving Sharpness and coming down the Severn. We were just waiting for the tide to head into Bristol.

Whilst I'm on about moorings can I make a plea for having a good think about what position you put other boaters in when you moor on lock landings, water points, winding holes, bends and by bridge holes etc. Put yourself in their place and look to move on just a little to make the lot go easier.

The moorings at Droitwich Basin are on pontoons and are secured by a gate. I wish that other towns on the system thought about providing similar moorings as it would certainly encourage boaters to stop and spend their money locally. There are several places on the Wyrley and Essington, Leicester and Star City on the Saltley Cut in Birmingham come to mind.

I must be on a flow now as I have just thought of something else. Music, or even test match special etc. When ever you are moored up why do some see fit to play their radio as loud as they can? Why should others around have to put up with your choice of listening material. Sit inside, sit closer to the radio, or even employ modern technology and use headphones, rather than inflict it on others. I swear on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal heading up to Brum a boat went past with a blaring radio, obviously listening to the football. But no, he was actually watching it on television in a cardboard box with a hood like affair to keep the sun out whilst he was at the tiller!

Despite being in the middle of Birmingham it is surprising how quite it gets in the night.

Oh, something else!! I think we have become addicted to 'Armco' shuttering. It seems that we have become allergic to mooring up to the bank anywhere that does not have it. I understand the soft bank syndrome and those horrid speeding boats, but surely we can still double pin at these moorings. It seems that where there are no rings, 'Armco' etc and people don't moor, and so Fountains don't mow to the edges so it becomes impossible to moor. I think every boat has a gang plank so so long as you can get ashore you should be able to moor. Mind you it may put off that bloke who seeks safety in numbers if he has to use pins and a gangplank to tie up near you!

Very little Armco on the Kennet and Avon and I found that if you could get ashore to take the ropes, that was a good enough mooring spot.

When heading for the Kennet and Avon I would always recommend an extra long plank as they make life a little easier. Ours is extremely heavy but makes finding a mooring for the night much easier.

One last thing, I promise. Can I also make a plea for more moorings where the trees and bushes are reduced in height as more and more people are utilising solar panels and so having to use their engines, generators less, more green etc, but it is not possible if everywhere is shaded. Just a thought.

We have always managed to find a spot to moor just by the flood lock at Ferrybridge on the Aire and Calder, partly because there are not that many boats and partly because it is a bit of a walk to anywhere. When you look down the cut towards the power station they seem to tower over you. I don't think any of them are producing electricity any longer as they were coal fired. A great place to use your solar panels obviously.

Tuesday 6 March 2018

Observations, 3. Service stations.

Firstly I want to talk about water points. A few years ago C&RT realised that some of their water stand pipes did not meet new requirements. Something to do with a possible back flow or similar, that meant there was a possibility of contamination of the supply. They uprooted some of the old cast iron water points and replaced them with tin plate ones that did meet the new regulations. They were not popular mainly because they were pretty ugly, had very sharp edges, they were installed so that they were only easily accessible to folk of restricted height, and never mind the extreme difficulty of the padlocks that were fitted. I dread to think how much money was spent on those padlocks, and then replacing them when upset customers just chucked them away. It is a couple of years now since I have actually seen a padlock on any of them. As loads of them a now unlocked I now wonder how much water is taken by people who have not paid anything towards the up keep of the canals, such as a licence!

This service area look a little like the entrance to a prison camp but is actually quite a clean and tidy place. But then again it is on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal above Stalybridge.

Whilst we are on water points; why do people moor up on them and pretend they are taking water? Do they think we are stupid or some thing. We have all done it I'm sure, pull up at a tap and start filling up. The pressure is slow so you sit down to lunch with it still filling. Then half way through it over flows, so you stop the tap and quickly finish your lunch. I have even had this in a lock! Having their lunch in the lock, not even on the lock landing! Why!! Personally I would now be on edge, and any boat that passed I would be popping up to ask if the wanted to use the tap, and if they did we would set off immediately. I really dislike those that just brazen it out, as if they have a right to deny anybody else the use of the water point, even to the point where they have turned the tap off but leave the hose connected, even when they have a flat hose so you can see there is no water going through it!!? Oh, and once finished with the tap can we start shutting the flap on the old cast iron points so that they are not abused by none licence payers.

The service station at the round house in Birmingham didn't last very long. It was all in the process of being redeveloped from the Fiddle and Bone pub when we last passed this way.

Close by to the Fiddle and Bone at the Round House is the services at Cambrian Wharf at the top of the Farmers Bridge flight of locks. 

The water point is near the lock at Tewkesbury on the Avon, just ahead of the boats on the right. However the bins are quite a bit further away on the other side of the river and over the bridge by the mill. Not a bad spot to moor up on a nice day though.

Then we come to the more unsavory part of the services, the Elsan. I have been in to some where I have been 'gipping' (vernacular for nearly throwing up) with the mess that some have left it in. I can't understand why folk feel able to do that. We all make a splash at times, but  shouldn't you have as part of your kit when doing the essential task, something like a washing up brush to scrub down after yourselves, a couple of old 'J' clothes to mop up and dry up, and a pair of rubber gloves if you feel the need. Shouldn't it be the 'rule' that you leave it as clean as you can each time you use it, and not rely on a paid cleaner to clear up after you. I would love to see what these peoples houses, or boats, look like; or maybe not.

The water point at Fenny Compton. I bit close to the bridge hole

As far as I remember there was water laid on to the pontoons at this nice little berth in the middle of the Floating Harbour at Bristol. Opposite is the SS Great Britain to look out at too.

Bins are another area that leave a lot to be desired. I understand that C&RT are rolling out more bins for recycling, and not before time I think. I expect there is a cost to this but C&RT, and most of the folk that use the canals, will actually be quite environmentally aware and would probably think it is a price worth paying. Having said that, where there has been a recycling bin many is the time that it is obvious people haven't looked to see if there is an option, and just flung it in. That then basically that bin full can not be recycled. If every waste point on the canal had a recycle bin people would get used to it, and look for it, especially if it was well highlighted or even a different colour. Why, oh why, do people just put their waste next to the bins if the bins appear full. Often I have looked and the bins at the back are not full be folk haven't bothered looking. If they are full why not keep it with you until the next services, or until the bins are emptied if you moor nearby? To make this easier might I make a plea to ensure that you make your waste as small as possible, not just by buying stuff with less packaging, but by physically flattening boxes, tins, plastic bottles if you use them etc etc. Space is limited on a boat so it just seems a natural thing, but when you look in the bins this is not something that is done by some. That way there would be more room in the bins so as not to mean you have to leave it for the rats, dogs and seagulls to scatter to the four winds.

Just a small example of the state in which bin areas a left. Clearly there is recycling laying about, so a bin would have been useful, but why not pick up the stuff that you drop when putting it in. I should have taken an afterwards photo too.

I have never used a shower in a service station, but generally when I have looked they seem pretty clean. Maybe that is because only a limited number of folk actually use them. Same goes for the toilets, however with the much increased use of tow paths by walkers and cyclists where the facilities are no locked up after use they go down hill. Lock up after yourselves.

The yard at the top of the Aylesbury Arm at Marsworth has been redeveloped but they have retained the water point and service point. However it is right in front of ground floor flats to the right of the development. I wonder if there have been complaints yet?

I like the mini book exchanges that have built up around the system in the the service points, and have swapped a few books in passing. I wonder if there is anything else these points could be usefully employed as? Are there enough of them around the system? We have a 'compost' loo so can go weeks without needing to do the necessary, but how many cassettes do people have, and what range do they have?  I don't really hear of new service stations only some closing, like Peel Wharf at Fazeley Junction.

Helen keeping an eye on the water at Fazeley Junction. I have never bothered with those hoses on a reel as if you coil them up the same way each time they naturally fall into the loop. and it is easy to drain the water out, rather than it sitting in the hose until the next time.

The service area near Stanley Ferry on the Aire and Calder. It is quite a nice stone built facility as where the toll and workshop house by the aqueduct.

This blog sounds a bit of a moan, but it is like everything else in life if everybody just thought about the effect that our actions may have on others, before doing them,  life would be much easier.

Friday 2 March 2018

Observations, 2. Locks

We are hopefully heading for the Lancaster Canal this year, and whilst I am looking forward to seeing new places, I have an inner fear that I will be a bit bored as there are no locks, once you are there!

We didn't see many other boats to share locks with on the Leeds Liverpool. We hardly ever tie up in wide locks as if the technique of opening the same side paddle to keep you on the wall doesn't work, you can't go that far and we aren't too precious about the hull paintwork.

I think it is the locks that make the life on the canal system so interesting. Going up and down rivers is great but there is a limit to just chugging along and watching the scenery. The locks mean that you can go up and down hills and access new places. They break the journey up, and yes they present a physical challenge.

This may look like a gate paddle but it in fact the locking device of a swing bridge.

The locks are also a great place for those short conversations where you learn about the road ahead, nibblets of gossip about the system, and sometimes a potted life history and then you find yourself revealing much more than you would normally to a perfect stranger! I am not by nature a gregarious bloke but I always like to make a bit of an effort to talk on these occasions, even on my 'off days'. So hopefully others would feel the same. Clearly some don't. I do find that locks filling make it very difficult to hear so it is always nice to meet across the gates or where ever.

I love the individuality of the lock equipment. This cast iron quadrant is required here at the Blackburn Locks as the road bridge is too close to get a beam in. Each of the original canal companies had equipment for their canal. I love the fact that British Waterways and C&RT have not homogenised it all.

When we first bought 'Holderness' Helen would not steer the boat at locks. She was not confident enough and was worried that she would makes mistakes etc, in front of a knowledgeable crowd, who would then make comments. However since then she does much of of the steering when we have flights of locks as I have long legs and seem to get about a bit faster. Other times, especially on narrow locks I will drive going up as I can usually close the bottom gate from the back of the boat.

With no other boat to share Helen just lets the boat do its thing in the lock as we go down.

When I was stuck on the back end I real missed being involved in the chatter and physical work. My approach to lock work is that, while not rushing, I do like to be as efficient as possible, doing things in a timely manner with regard to people waiting. I do get frustrated with folk who do not have the same feelings. Hire boaters are invariably pleased if you give them a hand, or even point out a better (sometimes correct) way of doing things. The opposite is largely true for those of us who own our boats. Everybody has there 'way' of doing it and resent being told there is a different way. I have seemingly caused upset in the past so now just grit my teeth, unless it is dangerous.

Whilst we all know that we are supposed to open both gates on a wide lock to prevent wear on the gate edge as we pass through, with a two man crew you would have to be a saint to do so I think.

There are somethings that really do 'T' me off. We were going down the Marple flight, I was one lock ahead of Helen on the boat when I saw a large guy swinging his windlass waddling up towards me. There was no boat in view. When he came up to me a greeted him to be told that he was helping out a single hander on the way up. The boat turned out to be about six locks down and there were two of them on the stern. I had to hold Helen back!

Wind, atmospheric, not biological, is the thing that makes life difficult when heading through locks. Could this be one advantage of leaving all the gates open?

When there is a bit of a queue at locks things would go a little quicker if those waiting helped out on the lock, but we have all seen those that sit there waiting for the lock to be ready for them! A bit like on the Thames when some on cruisers seem unable to get off their boats when there is no keeper on duty, and seem to expect the narrow boater (or wide beamer) to take their place.

 It is always nice to share a wide lock, and not just to save water, but to have a natter and share the work, each workin g one side of the lock, and being able to work ahead more easily if in a flight. However there is the dilemma of what to do if you are in the lock first. Unless going up and there are massive leaks on the top gates I tend to come in and rest my bow on the cill or the gate. I can then go ahead and keep the stern clear for the second boat. As the other boat's bow passes my stern I come astern and the water pressure of the bow wave of the second boat just straightens us all up.

Plenty of room in this lock at Goole. Ocean Lock that pens you down onto the River Ouse. I think most would say they prefer to work narrow locks as they seem to involve less walking and as less water is involved quicker to fill/empty so speedier all round.

We have also all heard that line 'Oh sorry, I didn't see you', as we find the gates swung shut in your face or the lock turned. This may well be true, but you wont see anything unless you look! Then there is the old chestnut of those gates being left open. We also know that there are many that blow open with the merest breeze, but many just can't be arsed. It seems that down around London this is a habit. I have had several explanations given to me, something about a water course so not worth it, etc, but I think it is just a matter of swings and roundabouts. You may have to go and shut the bottom gates, but then again you may be able to sail straight in. However the C&RT regulations say that the gates should be left closed, along with all the paddles. Therefore I think the root cause is laziness or ignorance again. Mind you if you watch old film of working boaters they were not gentle with the locks at all. Paddles were dropped on the run, gates left open, gates used as stopping devices etc etc. We all make the odd mistake with paddles etc as we get distracted with one of those conversations talked of earlier, but some people seem to make an art of it.

It is always nice to get on to the large locks on the Aire and Calder and South Yorkshire Navigation when all that is required is a thumb or fore finger, rather than a fore arm and windlass.

One thing that really gets Helen going is when the safety catch on the paddle cogs are left up! Just saying. We are all different I suppose, but tolerance is the key, or stay up north where there are few to share the canals with! Maybe an idea. I'm sure we all have out particular moan about everybody else doing it differently.