Thursday, May 05, 2016

And now it gets better! (cruise retrospective)

We'd been pretty disappointed with the Lee from the start. Perhaps unreasonably so, but we'd been told by several how pretty it is, such a pleasant change from London. But it wasn't. Until the end of yesterday's cruising, when it had begun to feel more rural and beautiful. And we started today passing between lakes. Lakes below canal level, unlike yesterday's vast reservoir which hid behind towering banks on both sides of us. Birds filled the trees and bushes, singing as if it were spring. Perhaps it is!

Today's locks were all manual, but frankly I could have done with motorized assistance at some of them. The gates were almost immovable. And there was no safe way to cross the gates, no way to get from one side of the lock to the other save from a footbridge at the downstream end. This made locking rather tedious.

Picture the bad-case scenario. Which was not uncommon. I empty the lock and open one gate for Grace to drive in at the bottom. I close the gate, but the one opposite drifts open. So I cross the nearby footbridge to close it. I go to the top gates, open the paddles and fill the lock. I open one gate and Grace drives out. I close the gate, but the one opposite drifts open. At this point, Grace could back the boat up to the lock exit and close the gate for me. But this is often not as simple as it sounds, and then it's easier and quicker for me to do it. But the footbridge is at the other end of the lock. Sigh.

And it the other one swings open again? It happens sometimes, And sometimes, when "closed" gates swing open again, you just have to leave them.
One boat, apparently made out of three!

Old wooden barge
There were notices at locks, warning boaters of canoes and racing boats. You know the ones - one, two, four or six people pulling hard on oars, and going backwards very fast? Sometimes with a coxswain looking forwards for them from the back of the boat. But often not. What's that all about? Why don't they have wing-mirrors? I watched with some amusement as a solo rower drove at high speed into an overhanging tangle of tree branches. No damage done, I think, but what a plonker!
This isn't him. I didn't have the heart to photo him in his embarrassing plight.
I helped a young man, Dutch or Deutsch, down through one of these challenging locks. His boat was quite remarkable. Small, narrowboat style but with an outboard motor. The tiller, however, was short, made for a boat without a cabin. He had to sit to steer. But the cabin was in his forward line of sight. His solution to this was to open the door at each end of the cabin and look down through the cabin. His progress was understandably slow.

Fielde's Weir Lock is the last on the Lee before the Stort Junction. We filled with water below the lock, then ascended it, and turned right into the River Stort.


  1. Ah, there is it. Yes, that wooden barge is Dutch. Despite the locks and the odd threesome, it looks lovely. I love the idea of rowers having wing mirrors. Why not indeed?

    1. We saw lots of old barges which we thought were probably Dutch. The names of several were a bit of a giveaway, too!