Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Stoke Works (nice cruise there and back)

Did I mean to be here?

Monday was forecast to be the best day of the week and as we needed to move this week, Buddy and I set off for a cruise in the morning.  Monday is also washing day so it worked out well, as it meant the washing could be on whilst we were cruising.  We need the engine on to power the washing machine therefore it’s more efficient to do it when we are cruising rather than moored up.

I set off just at the wrong time – a couple of boats were going down the Astwood flight in front of me so every lock was set against me.  Anyway, as it was a lovely morning it didn’t matter and I took my time, chatting to the passing walkers.  At the fourth lock, a boat was coming up so it meant I could go straight in once they came out.

Waiting for a boat to come up so I could go down

You may have read the other day that we are facing the wrong way.  A couple of weeks ago I went up to Stoke Wharf to get a pump out, turned around, and came back to our spot opposite the Boat and Railway.  This meant that we had to find somewhere to turn again and get back to facing the right direction.

There was a winding hole after the fourth lock but it didn’t seem well used – I suspect winding holes aren’t often used in the middle of lock flights.  It was quite silted up so I wondered whether we would have managed to turn our old boat there as she was 13 feet longer.  This explains the picture at the top, we are in the middle of turning.

As we had just come down the locks I thought that they would all be set for us on the way back.  No such luck, I had forgotten we had passed a boat at the fourth lock down. 

The locks on the flight have been repaired many times over the last two hundred years. The coping stones are a mixture of modern, precision cut stone, old railway engineering brick style and original coping stone bocks about eight feet long.  How they used to move those massive blocks is mind boggling – it must have involved pulleys and a lot of brute force.

Lock showing the different coping stones used over the years.  Right side has the modern blocks.  The left has the engineering bricks and one original block closest to the camera.

Going up the locks involves a different routine for Buddy. As we go into the lock he leaps off onto the lock steps and runs to the top of the lock. 

Buddy leaping off the boat onto the lock steps

I don’t bother using the steps on single locks but wait until the boat is in and then climb up the lock ladder.  On wide locked canals like the Grand Union then I tend to use the steps, taking a line with me which I then have to lift over the open lock gate before tying off to a bollard.

Racing me to the top

We moored up opposite the Boat and Railway where we were two weeks ago.  We will probably stay here until we go up the Tardebigge flight towards Birmingham in a couple of weeks.  It’s really quite handy as we are next to a water point and also a spot where Karen can park the car.

During our afternoon walk we met two delightful retired couples on holiday on a time share boat.  We had a long chat, exchanging stories of trips both domestic and foreign.  They were particularly interested in our current lifestyle.  They were sort of nomadic in that they have lots of holidays, including one on a narrowboat each year, and several houses abroad so don’t feel at home at any particular place.  One couple were white South Africans so I can understand that having had to leave their home country would make them feel like that.  The other couple, Murray and Lyndsey, were keen adventurers so of the type where it’s not natural to have roots.

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