Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lock Wheeling

Wednesday we dropped Sharon & Richard of at the station for their onward journey home to Portsmouth, from there we made our way to Manchester airport to collect Ray & Diane and take them to Overwater marina where Ferndale has been looked after while her crew  circumnavigated the globe.

Friday was going to be my day for experiencing the other side of narrow boat cruising. The energetic bit, the bit that you need a tool for the job... and best of all, that part where you get to interact with other crews at locks. My usual interaction at locks is a quick "hi" as a boat passes me while I'm hanging on to the centre rope, I enjoy none of the jovial animated cheerful banter I see Sue engaged in with other crews while working the locks.

The plan was hatched a few days previously when I was contacted by friends to help get their boat from Rugeley to Stone.

Early Friday we were drinking coffee in Tesco's at Rugeley with Dot & Gordon. Sue and Dot went off to Stafford by car while I would lock wheel for Gordon to Stone, Pearson's guide had the trip down to five and a half hours while CanalplanAC had a cruise time of seven hours, it turned out the latter was spot on.

We untied the Pasty Boat Ewn ha Cul from the bank at 09:30, the day was cold but still, with a few bright interludes to the grey skies during the trip. At the first lock... Colwich Lock... I hopped off the cruiser stern windlass in hand to work the lock, as I cranked the ground paddle open I am on my own, no other living soul around apart from Gordon holding the boats centre rope on the canal below. I was a solitary figure winding the paddles at the next couple of locks too... no one wanted to play. Where were all the other boaters.

At Haywood junction the home made Cornish Pasty, payment for my services, was warmed in the oven and devoured with mugs of hot tea while the water tank filled with water.

At Hoo Mill lock I spied somebody at the lock, right I thought here's my chance for some of that lockside interaction, pass the time of day with, perhaps share a joke with. As I strolled up to the lock swinging the lock key like a 50's football fan's rattle the somebody jumped on their bicycle and sped off down the towpath.

As we passed through Sandon Lock the degrees took quite a tumble and I abandoned Gordon at the helm and warmed up beside the log burner in the cabin. I was up again to do my duties at Aston lock, it was dusk as we moored Ewn ha Cul below Star lock in Stone.

A message on my phone told us Sue and Dot were in the Royal Exchange and two pints of Steerage awaited us. It poured with rain as we left the boat and made our way to the pub in the dark, a couple of quarts later and a fish supper in 'spoons' I was getting all the interaction I could cope with. A very enjoyable day.

Boaters gold log mosaic

Entering Weston Lock.

Gordon at the helm.

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