Thursday, May 26, 2016

Berkhamsted again (cruise retrospective)

I went to sleep last night to the gentle sound of ducks pecking at the weed around the hull water-line. I was awoken this morning by the sound of emergency vehicle sirens. Come to think of it, we heard a lot of that yesterday evening. Is Hemel such a troubled town?

We left Boxmoor under a grey sky. It was cold and windy, but looked as if it might improve with time. Fishery Lock was next, the nearby ancient inn still closed and looking sad. Boxmoor Top Lock, then on to Winkwell. I love the electrically controlled swing bridge there. All that power given to you at the press of a button! Barriers come down across the road, lights flash, a claxon sounds, cars and lorries stop, and the bridge swings back, allowing Kantara through. And the road vehicles have to wait patiently for this slow craft, and until I press the button to return the bridge, raise the barriers and let them across. There's a sign by the bridge, warning boaters that failure to "close and fasten" the bridge might result in a ten shilling fine! I felt 50p was a bit steep, so I pressed the button.
photos geograph.org.uk
The unfortunately-named Sewer Lock (I sniffed the air - no nasty smells) surprised us both. As we approached, there was none of the tell-tale leakage from the bottom gates. A sure sign that the lock was empty, and ready for us to enter. Grace drove Kantara right up to the gates, and I jumped off to open them. The lock was in fact full. The gates look very old. There was no sign of recent repairs. But the gates met each other with a perfect seal. This is most unusual!
It was warm now, and I'd peeled off a couple of layers of clothing by the time we arrived at our final locks into Berkhamsted.
The Rising Sun has an amusing welcome sign outside






Another tame heron

Clearly, the home of some Native Americans
At one lock, a bystander was clearly a bit agitated about the way I was ignoring the warning which is commonly seen at top gates.
This is a very valid warning, but the fact is that, with care, the flow from the top paddles can be used very effectively in raising a single narrowboat in a double-width lock.

A single boat going up a wide lock is very likely to be thrown all over the place as the chamber is filled. The use of ropes and bollards goes some way to check this, but we've found that that's usually quite unnecessary. What we do is this...

Grace draws the boat up against a chamber wall. I open the ground paddle on the same side as the boat. The water from this sluice goes across the chamber in front of Kantara, hits the wall opposite, and comes back against the side of her hull, pinning her firmly to the wall. I then cross the top gates and slowly and carefully open the gate paddle on the other side. This has the effect of sending a torrent of water straight down the chamber alongside Kantara, holding her even more firmly against the wall. I can now open the ground paddle on this same side, then, when the water level in the chamber is higher than the other gate paddle, I raise that. All of that has to be done carefully and judiciously, but it's our normal practice, and it works well for us.

At Berkhamsted Lock 53, we found two narrowboats waiting to enter and descend. One of them was being towed by the owner.
photo grandunioncanal,co.uk
The skipper of the other craft and I helped him in and out of the lock. Leading it with just the centre rope (or any single rope, come to that) would have been hard work, and very likely to cause collisions with any part of the lock, or nearby boats. The poor man had been driving along happily, without problems, until he put the boat into reverse. At which point, the Morse handle jammed and he could neither go forwards nor stop going backwards. He had continued in reverse at some speed until he went deeply aground in a reedy bank. And there he had to stay until someone came along who was able to pull him out. Once down the lock, he was going to moor up and try to buy a new Morse cable.

In Berkhamsted, we arrived at our usual spot, and tied up behind NB Muttley. The lady on board recognised Kantara, and came out to tell us she'd read my book, and how much she'd enjoyed it. I was chuffed. She and her husband, along with nearby NB Tickedy-Boo, are on their way to the IWA Canalway Cavalcade, to be held over the May Bank Holiday. She's recently retired, and now does a lot of work for IWA. It's a shame we couldn't have stayed in London to attend the Cavalcade, but the length of the wait was prohibitive.
photo - boatingbusiness.com
Her husband (stupidly, again, we failed to learn their names) very kindly gave us a 500W inverter, for us to power our computers. We've not tried it yet. We're trying to find out if the "modified sine wave output" might damage the computers or their power supplies. It seems that some think it might.

It's raining. That wasn't mentioned by the Met Office. We're here for the night.

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