Saturday, May 31, 2014

Half way

It was over-ambitious of us to have expected to get to Brentford and back in the time we'd allowed. Our progress has been hampered by rain and holdups at locks, and we never go at anything much above a very leisurely pace anyway. It would have been a different matter if we'd not been working to a deadline, but we have to meet the kids at Bulbourne on Sunday, of course, which we're looking forward to a lot. We'll do the full trip next year, taking in Bishops Stortford and Hertford, too.

We travelled solo on Tuesday. Our first lock, King's Langley Lock is numbered 69a, between 69 and 70, and numbered, rather like a newish bridge, as if it had been built later than the ones either side of it - impossible, of course. Odd!

We passed along the edge of Abbot's Langley and through the beautiful Hunton Bridge stretch and into Grove Park, with the lovely Grove Mill at the canal side, the canal wide and river-like. Is it in fact the River Gade at this point? we wonder. Again we saw lots of widebeam boats and Dutch barges, but very few craft were moving.

Cassiobury Lock 76 was something of an issue. One of the bottom gate paddle-raising mechanisms was broken. It had lost the catch which holds the paddle up after it's been raised. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem. You would simply leave that paddle down, and rely on the other one to empty the chamber. It would take longer to empty that way, though, so you might want to hold the faulty one up with your windlass. But the problem here was that the top gates were leaking badly; so badly, in fact, that the water level in the chamber wouldn't fall with just the one paddle up. OK, so I wind up the other one, too, and hold it up with my windlass. That sounds easy, but there comes a point where I need to lower the paddle so that I can get to the end of the gate beam, to open the gate. And as soon as the paddle's down, the water's leaving the chamber slower that it's pouring in at the top, and the gates can't be opened! It would have been an easy matter if there were two of us locking, but doing it myself was... interesting!

Finally, we moved on down alongside Cassiobury Park, and moored after bridge 168. We're about half-way into our cruise here. There's a Spar nearby, which we needed. No boats passed us. Is the canal unusually quiet?

The rain overnight was torrential, nationwide apparently. The sound of it on our roof was exaggerated by big drops falling incessantly from the leaves of the overhanging trees. We slept badly, and then overslept in the morning, and the rain had pretty much stopped by the time we woke up.

Starting off towards our turning point, we found a pair of boats already in the lock we needed to descend, so we pulled over to the watering point, and set about filling our tank.

We were met by a man walking his son's dog. It turned out that the man was an original member of the 1960s and 70s pop group The Foundations. I would have asked his name, but his monologue was uninterruptable as he told us pretty much his whole life story - birth and upbringing, schooling, time with the group, marriage and divorce, financial status, sex life - the lot! He could have talked for England. What surprised us, though, is that he was born and raised in Boreham Wood, as Grace and I were. He is four years older than me, so he was at Furzehill JMI school at the same time as us, and was at Holmshill Secondary School with Grace's sisters, Dorothy and Christine. He'd lived within a few hundred yards of both of us. What a strange coincidence!

The dog started to get very agitated shortly after our tank had finished filling, so the story-telling had to come to and end. We said goodbye to the guy, and moved Kantara into the lock, Cassio Bridge Lock 78, immediately after which was the winding hole in which turned the boat and drove her back into the waiting lock. We ascended that and started on our way back north, arriving back at our overnight mooring just above bridge 157. The paddle mechanism at lock 76 had been fixed.

And we were dry, the worst precipitation we'd had being a slight drizzle.

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