Thursday 26 October 2017

Too much excitement

Coming down the top lock in Stoke on Tuesday, we had somehow omitted to close one of the top paddles. At the same time, having opened one of the bottom paddles, I got back on board, made sure Erin Mae was tucked up snug at the front of the lock and went below to attend to something (I won't go into detail!). The next thing I know, I see through a window that we are moving backwards and there are various bangs and thuds.

Rushing up onto the cruiser stern, I found that we were right at the back of the lock, and I couldn't tell whether we were getting caught on the cill. I engaged forward gear and Erin Mae didn't move. I pumped up the revs and still no movement. We were stuck, with water streaming down from leaks around the gate, currents swirling all around, and I yelled to my best beloved, at the top of my voice, to drop the bottom paddles quickly. Of course, this would be the one lock which uses a special gear mechanism, meant to make operating the paddles easier. In this case, it meant it was really hard to drop them swiftly. I climbed as fast as I could up the lock ladder to open the top paddles, in order to get Erin Mae off the cill. It was at that point that I found one of them open already, and realised what had happened.

Thankfully, it seems the currents from the top paddle had dragged us backwards after we had already dropped below the main part of the cill, so we weren't hung up on it and no damage was done. It had been the strength of those currents that held Erin Mae back, even with so many revs engaged. Once we'd dropped the top paddle and I was back on board, everything proceeded as it should have done – except for one of the bottom gates being extremely hard to open. But we could have done without the drama – a salutary reminder always to keep your wits about you.

Today, the excitement was of quite a different sort. It's obviously half-term for some of the schools, and we've met many boaters out with groups of children, all of them having a ball. One woman, who sounded a New Zealander, had her daughter and seven other 9/10 year olds out for a birthday jaunt. The kids were loving it and helping, responsibly, in every way imaginable, even when they were stuck across the cut trying to wind above Sandon Lock (this was a 60/70 footer, not a day-boat). We had a great chat when I walked back to help. They pointed out I had a very large spider hiding under the lapel of my fleece – and I got a very nice piece of flapjack for my trouble.

Now that's the sort of excitement I can cope with!


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