Today was definitely a game of two halves! The first half saw us leaving a lovely spot by Lock 25 and thoroughly enjoying a meandering route through lovely countryside and forest. I have now nearly perfected getting into these tiny locks and was enjoying the sunshine, the tunes on my minirig and the birdsong coming from the trees. I had a beautiful moment when it was just me and my boat in the big outdoors (Richard hard gone ahead to set the lock), one of those goosepimple ‘good to be alive’ moments. Seeing more of the buildings based at locks, I really am starting to like the little barrel houses and the black and white bridges over them.
Next up was a small aqueduct which i misjudged steering into but got through it, straight into the lock. After that was a lock that once lowered you ventured under a bridge. Was taking it slow to pick up Richard afterwards, so many cool massive cobwebs under there but all occupants must have been sleeping.
Pootling on and i spot a gang of folk all poking around in the next lock so i dispatch Richard to go investigate. Turns out there’s just loads of sediment and branches and stuff that means the lock gate won’t open. With 3 boats queuing to come up the lock we decided that too many cooks spoil the broth and had a bite to eat while they continued poking around. Im so glad i did as i saw something swimming around near the boat. I tried to get a picture and failed miserably. It was sooooooo tiny, on googling i found out it was a baby water vole, it was about as big as my thumb!!
The gaggle of people seemed finally happy with their efforts as the 1st boat made it up the lock. Casting off we thanked them muchly then went down it! A couple of locks down and the width was getting narrower and narrower, i had just nailed the precision steering into the tiny openings only to have the exits be more challenging. A slow careful approach to edge us past the lock gates and not get us wedged somewhere in the middle and we were through!
Next up was my biggest aqueduct yet, someone was going very slow through it so i had to hover and wait. Hovering in a boat isn’t easy, there is a lot of of little constant adjustments to be made all the time to not end up in the bushes. He mentioned that they’d had a couple of sticky points up ahead as the water was so shallow. Nervous now, as we have measured the depth of Māhina when she was out of the water (she’s 2ft3″) and knew there was only about 3″ to spare when the canal is super shallow.
I approached the aqueduct slowly and found it easy to navigate although a little challenging to steer and not look around too much to avoid snaking side to side along the iron sides.
The next 2 miles were excruciating, i’m generally polite and move over to allow oncoming boaters room to pass but every time i did i banked myself on the hidden mud underneath. They would glide past whilst i fought with the prickly bush trying to unwedge my boat off the bottom of the canal. It was the wrong time of day for this shit as i was tired from a long day boating and over it.
We tried pulling over to moor but couldn’t get near the bank so kept going a little. I’d got myself nicely back into the middle of the channel to pass a moored boat (with a guy inside who wouldn’t quit with the judging stares and frowning eyebrows), great, pass him i thought and then we’ll find somewhere to stop.
About half a boat length away from this moored boat, my boat suddenly rises and veers left (towards his boat) as she finds another mudbank and at this point there is nothing i can do. I pop her into reverse to slow her down incase we do touch the moored boat but i have no steering at this point. To be honest i don’t quite remember what we did to get back on track but i know it involved a bit of reverse, a bit of forward, a bit of rocking the boat and a fair dollop of swearing.
Finally passed them and found a potential spot to stop, got the boat close enough to the sides without too much issue and poured a very big gin. A couple of boats managed to pass us ok so i felt confident we too weren’t moored next to some unseen underwater humpback mud bridge. A hire boater did struggle to get their massive boat to turn enough but they were super slow and gently pushed off us no problem to continue their turn and lightly brushed against us with their stern. After 15 locks, 3 aqueducts and a whole lots of swearing i’m ready to chill for the night. It’s about a mile to the next lock where we’re hoping the water levels will improve as we descend into Stratford.
Todays video can bee found here: https://youtu.be/VAeez-qjiDE