Wednesday 19 June 2013

Lock with multiple names

We've tied up tonight in a spot that will give us just a short run into Stratford-upon-Avon tomorrow. Got to find a nice mooring there with a theatre-going evening in prospect!

But this hospitable lock appears to have three names. First up is Weir Brake. Then the plaque also calls it "Anonymous" Lock, to honour the contributions of those financial benefactors of the river restoration who wished to remain anonymous. If you can make out the writing, you will see that Eric Pritchard appears again, who we mentioned on Monday. Obviously his welding was in much demand.

However, if you cross to the other side, there's another plaque.

They obviously didn't want Gordon Gray's contribution to remain anonymous after he had gone. But what is even more intriguing is the wording above his name: "this lock built by Borstal boys and other volunteers". Now many readers younger than I may never even have heard of the Borstal institutions. Let's just say they targeted young male offenders, and had a "corrective" ethos. But I wonder in what sense these Borstal boys volunteered. Perhaps it was an alternative to several hours cleaning out the institution's sewers or compulsory boxing. But perhaps I do them a disservice, and they really did volunteer as part of a rehabilitative process.

So – a lock with three names. There was one other lock we encountered today, formally known as the W A Cadbury Lock, but I can think of a few names far less sweet. We have become adept, on the canals, of avoiding the cills at the top end of locks – hidden underwater constructions waiting to damage the rudder and propellor gear of the unwary, should you leave your boat too far back as you go down. What we had not encountered until the Avon were obstructions waiting to crunch you as you come up a lock. On the canals you keep a boat well forward in a lock. In these big, double, river locks that's asking for trouble, because the currents when you open the paddles to fill a lock can be extremely strong, and throw you about. So we were well back, and did not realise until too late that Erin Mae's tiller was rising into the latticed steel walkway across the bottom gates behind us. This is a genuine emergency – holding the stern of the boat down as the water rises is a recipe for sinking once water gets into the engine compartment vents. Fortunately we were able to close the top paddles and open the bottom ones in time, and bring Erin Mae forward from the danger. But the swan neck of the tiller bears the marks of the encounter. The red line shows the direction of the tiller bar beforehand.

This the first damage we've done to Erin Mae in travelling, apart from scrapes below the gunwale as we learnt to steer properly, or from those situations where it doesn't much matter how good a steerer you are. So the emotions are interesting to deal with. I certainly don't wear one of those Captain caps, but I'm the skipper of this ship, and should have seen the issue coming and worked out what to do about it. Having lots of contributing factors is no consolation – it was my contribution that mattered, and it is definitely not anonymous!

1 comment:

  1. We managed to pop the rudder out of the cup last week in a similar situation! It's still not right and we wont be able to get it fixed till the boat is out of the water in a few weeks time! Managing to steer with the rudder sitting on the rim of the cup, or resting on the skeg, but managing! The whole thing liable to move position on strong acceleration or at the extremes of the rotation, which is slightly scary. We felt such dorks!