Monday, March 21, 2016

On the move...

Thursday was altogether brighter, sunnier and warmer from the start. There were more boats on the move, we thought. I heard from a fellow boater the evening before that Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock is being repaired, and wouldn't be passable until some time on Saturday. This will slow our progress a bit, but it's a good place to spend time, so we wouldn't mind. We continued our descent of Buckby Locks, solo all the way down, and I was glad to be doing the locking, and walking from lock to lock. It was warm and still. Daffodils lined the hedgerows and verges. Birdsong filled the air. Perfect.

The locks were straightforward enough until we came to the second to last one (don't remember what number that is). As the chamber emptied slowly, it became quite clear that neither of the sluices was fully closed, despite the paddles being right down. I checked them, just in case. The sluice in the wall on the towing-path side was the worst, but both continued to pour water into the chamber at such a pace that we didn't think it was going to empty enough for me to open the bottom gates. Eventually, very slowly, it did, and Kantara made her way to the bottom lock.

The problem here was at least in part caused by the previous lock. I found the top gates closed, the chamber full, and the pound above it so full that water was pouring over the top gates into the chamber. Against that weight of water, I found it difficult to open the gates to let Kantara in. Once she was in, opening the bottom gate paddles started to lower the water in the lock. As you would expect. But then the lock above us, refilling because of the faulty top paddles, started to overflow at an alarming rate. And the level of the pound below rose to the point that the water again started to overflow our top gates and refill the chamber. Kantara rose slowly, and there was nothing I could do about it.

I was joined by one of the crew from a pair of boats who were now in the faulty lock above. It took him a while to grasp the situation, and it was amusing to watch him try to open a bottom gate against a huge weight of water. The time came, though, when the level of the top pound had dropped enough for it to stop filling our lock, and allowing the water to fall again. The bottom paddles were fully open, remember.

All seemed fine at last. The two boats left the lock above us and chugged down to wait to enter our lock in their turn. The lock they'd left would have to fill up again before it could overflow the gates, reflood the pound below, overflow our top gates and repeat the problem for us. All was well.

Until it became very obvious that the crew of those two boats had failed to close either of the bottom gates. So yet again, the water rushed over the top of our top gates and... you get the picture.

Eventually, after half an hour in the bottom lock, we escaped and continued a now lockless journey to a lovely mooring opposite some very grand houses just around the corner from Stowe Hill Wharf. It was a beautiful, mild evening.
Looking back at the offending lock

Stowe Hill

The next day, Gayton Junction was the first place of any importance, being the entrance to the Northampton Arm of the GU. When we've wanted to use the services here in the past, there have been other craft moored there, and we've had to wait – where there isn't really anywhere to wait. That day, the moorings were vacant – and we didn't need them! Ironic.

Blisworth village has a small but usually useful general store, which was totally useless to us on this occasion, so we moved on to the tunnel. Two working boats were behind us as we approached it, and we allowed them to pass before entering. The extreme flooding we'd seen on YouTube had subsided, leaving behind grassy banks in muddy disarray. But the amount of water falling from the roof of the tunnel, throughout the 35 minutes we were in it, was soggily amazing.

Finding a good mooring in Stoke Bruerne shortly after exiting the tunnel, we tied up for the night. We like it here.


  1. Wonderful to be following your travels! I wonder what it would be like for a single woman boater of limited strength to manage those locks. Not easy I imagine. Your photos are lovely!

    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying it, Val - it's good to have you along! Unfortunately, too many women have to manage the locks even when they're with their man! It seems to be the thinking that only men can drive, so you get the common situation of a woman struggling with the locks while her overweight man yells his impatience at her. There are single-handed women on the canals, of course, but many struggle. Strength is needed. Managing locks and a boat alone is not something I'd want to do.