The countryside around here continues to impress with it’s rolling hills and deep valleys – it looks so different at 3mph on the canal than it does at 80mph on the motorway which is usually how we see this part of the country.By 10am there are other people beginning to set off too – there does seem to be a lot of hire boats on this canal but it is the summer holidays after all.
I got off the boat and opened a swing bridge and there was a chap coming along the towpath who said he was coming through the other way (in a day hire boat!) so we agreed that we would leave it open and he would close it. Only trouble is I am now on the wrong side of the canal for Steve to moor and pick me up so he had to come though the bridge at an angle with the back of the boat near enough to the edge for me to jump on board which I did to a round of applause from six cyclists on the towpath who had stopped to see bridge being opened, either that or they were waiting to cross it!We chugged along this stretch with a hire boat called Leah that had a family on board and the two boys were fishing off the side of the boat. Just as Steve said they will never catch anything like that the younger of the two boys started to real in his rod – he had caught a pike and had to call his older brother to come and get it out for him!
We then turned the corner and caught up with Rob on Weston Lady in Bathampton – he had overtaken us while we were still in Caen Hill Marina but we stayed in touch and planned to hook up again. We are going to do the Bristol Channel together. As we were moored three young people came along and asked if we lived on board so I said yes and they asked if they could ask some questions about alternative energy so we said yes, then Steve and Rob made a hasty retreat so left me to it!!We left Bathampton and made our way through Bathwick where there are five locks in quick succession. It was in the last of the five that we had an OMG moment. I’m still not firing on all cylinders as I still have a sore throat but I didn’t fancy being in charge of the boat either as it was pretty windy and thought operating the locks was less challenging! Anyway I get the lock open and in chug Steve and Rob. There are four guys sitting on the grass – not meaning to stereotype... but obviously not at work, look old before their time, tattoos on their faces, not in possession of all their teeth, in need of a good bath and haircut and high on something – you get the type I mean and one says to Rob can I take a line for you. As Rob is on his own he usually comes into the lock, gets off the boat, ties the centre line onto a bollard then closes the gate behind him on his side and opens the paddle on the front gate – I am on the other side of the lock doing the same, Steve is on the boat. So Rob thinks ok what harm can it do? We are at the front gates, we’ve opened the paddles and the water is leaving the lock, Rob would then usually go back and hold the boat steady. When you are travelling downstream you enter the lock when it is full, the rear gates sit on a huge concrete block called the cill, then in front of the cill is the pound that holds the water at the same level as the canal downstream. There are always signs on the lock saying keep boat forward of cill marker (you do hear the odd story about a boat getting it’s rear end stuck on the cill then the front of the boat tips so it is under the waterline in the pound and starts taking water on board - and we all know how heavy water is - it is then impossible to re-float the front of the boat as it has so much water on board) you know what’s coming....
Rob looks back and suddenly realises that this guy is holding the boat tight to the back of the lock so he dashes back and says hey buddy we need to pull the boat forward so they start to pull on the rope and it won’t budge, Steve jumps onto Weston Lady to put it in forward gear but the engine is not running so he starts it but the boat won’t budge so he shouts STOP. Do you know how long it takes to close a paddle when you are in a panic – I get my side closed as quickly as possible, Rob runs back and closes his, I run up to the other end and open the paddle to refill the lock – by this time I can see the rudder and the bottom of the back end of Weston Lady resting on the cill. It takes a few minutes but thankfully the front re-floats. We carry on and moor up in the centre of Bath at which point Rob empties a bucket full of water from the front cratch, the carpet and everything in there is wet – we think we were about 60 seconds away from disaster.... can’t believe I didn’t get a photo! We all needed a drink after that.We had dinner on board and are going to stay here for a couple of days to see Bath and wait for Claire who is arriving on Friday.
|There we are, second boat along - wedged on the canal side in Bradford on Avon!|
|The booze run at 7.30am!|
|Bradford on Avon|
|All hire boats should have 'L' plates!|
|Mr and Mrs River Rat!|
|Manned swing bridge - that's handy.|
|Every canal should have one!|
|Shame they were closed!|
|Approaching Avoncliffe Aqueduct|
|I'm standing on the roof trying to get a better picture!|
|Can you spot the rowers at the top of the wier? No neither can I but I did see them when I took the photo!|
|At last a nice boat with nearly my name!|
|Limpley Stoke Bridge|
|Must have taken ages to paint this.|
|Entrance to Somersetshire Coal Canal - it is only about half a mile long.|
|Moss - the new paint!|
|We can't go much slower than this...|
|Bathampton - meeting up with Rob.|
|Not sure what this is supposed to be or do!|
|The beautiful Bath Tunnels|
|And ornate bridges|
|The second tunnel.|
|Small world - Steve our mechanic from Caen Hill Marina fixing a hire boat in Bathwick!|
|Bath Deep Lock - apparently the second deepest in the Country. This kind chap let Rob and I get back on the boats as we didn't fancy climbing down these steps.|
|Look at the size of the cill - thank goodness it wasn't this lock hey Rob?|
|I said to Steve only this morning that I had only seen two Kingfishers since we left Roydon and this one stayed still long enough for me to get a photo!|
|Arriving in Bath.|
|A room with a view.|