Sunday, May 25, 2014


We woke to a fine, sunny morning, but a little concerned by the amount the boat seemed to be moving with every shift of the water. I looked out, to see the front mooring rope hanging from the bow, and dangling in the water. The front of the boat was a couple of feet further from the bank than it should have been. The stern was holding fast, however. I pulled the rope up out of the water, with one of the mooring pins still attached. I'd used two pins for additional security in the soft ground (ironically!), but the second one wasn't actually attached to the rope.

I fished around in the water for some minutes with my magnet on a rope, and found... somebody else's lost pin! Then I found ours. I moored the front again, and went to the back of the boat to clean up the newly-acquired pin, just in time to catch the stern mooring rope and pins as they, too, got hauled out of the ground by Kantara as she rode the waves caused by another speeder. In fairness, the ground here was very wet and soft, and this wouldn't have happened in firmer ground. We moved on.

I walked the next three miles of towing path. There are a lot of locks on this stretch, and it's not worth getting back on the boat after each one. Much better to walk quickly on ahead and prepare the lock before the boat arrives.

At one lock early on, I met a young Welshman with his girlfriend. He was particularly fascinated by the lock. He knew nothing about how they work, and was full of questions. I'd never met anyone who was quite so amazed by the mechanics of locks, and of boats, so totally amazed by it all. He'd heard of the Falkirk Wheel, and I was able to explain that to him. He had lots of questions about boats, and about the canals themselves. Did they pass through any areas which are more peaceful than Berkhamsted? By the time we'd finished at the lock, he was dead set on having a canal holiday. I think he'll enjoy it!

Locking was slow. We were solo all of the time. Many of the locks were required to be left empty by users, so I had to fill them before Kantara could go down. Some of them were extremely slow to fill, too. Come 2:30, we'd done seven locks, and were much in need of lunch. At the first place we tried to moor, the ground was again too wet and soft, and the pins wouldn't hold. In another two spots, the water against the bank was too shallow to allow Kantara to get close enough. When we eventually found the right spot at Winkwell, above lock 60, we decided to stay there for the night. Lunch was well overdue, and we fancied a rest!

Sitting here at Winkwell, we're been passed by dozens of groups of young girls, followed by similar groups of boys an hour or so later. Some of them have adults with them. The boys all wear yarmulkes. The entire population of a Jewish school, one would imagine, and probably on a sponsored walk. They all seem to be enjoying it, and the weather's certainly being kind to them.

A strange thing we've encountered over the past few days is this notice I mentioned, at many of the locks, asking users to empty the lock behind them and leave a bottom paddle raised. We imagine this to be because of leaky top gates, but we don't understand why it would be such a bad thing simply to allow the water to overflow the bottom gates. That would waste far less water than is wasted by having to empty the chamber after each filling. Odd!

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