Sunday, July 10, 2016

After a short stay at Stone...

It's not because we're superstitious, it's just that I'm forgetful at times, but I failed to record the other day that Grace and I both had dreams on the same night, that Kantara was sinking. Different circumstances, same outcome. Weird!

Our Stone mooring

We were in no great hurry to leave Stone this morning. We'd spent the day here yesterday. The morning weather had been rather off-putting, and both of us had things to do for which a day's pause was useful.

Early yesterday evening, a hire boat had come down the lock ahead of us and moored rather clumsily at the white bollards, which are reserved for boats waiting to ascend the lock. I didn't say anything. It didn't seem likely at this time of day that they'd present much of a problem where they were. It was not till this morning that I learned that they'd been pretty much forced to moor there, in fact. Their throttle had jammed open in slow, forward gear, and they could neither go faster nor stop. Hence the clumsy arrival! They stayed the night, and someone from the hire company arrived at about 11:00 to fix it.
We set off at about that time, up the remaining three of the Stone Locks, followed shortly by the four Meaford Locks. Both flights are of deep locks - around 10 feet – and they fill and empty rather slowly. Add to that quite a volume of traffic in both directions, and it resulted in slow forward progress. Not that we minded. I got to meet several people, and have relatively long chats with them. The lady from NB Sailor, with whom we leap-frogged a bit over the course of the day, gave me some useful advice; not to moor at Trentham Lock today as we had intended. It's fairly close to the sprawl of Stoke on Trent, and the gates there are fitted with vandal-proof... er... no, it's "water-saving" locks which require special keys. “Water-saving locks”! They only save water because the local vandals are unable to open the paddles because of them! Is that Political Correctness, not to use the word “vandal”? Anyway, the necessity of fitting the locks suggested to us that perhaps we don't want to moor there. The Sailor lady recommended Barlaston instead, a mile below Trentham.

This lady told me she's over eighty. She was an inspiration! She was slim, fit and strong, fully able to manage the lock we were at. Her mind was sharp, too. I just hope I can be the same when I'm her age. I'd love still to be on the canals then, and still managing the locks, and engaging in witty repartee with other boaters. She'll be on my mind as my years roll on!

We had lunch just below Meaford Locks before ascending this flight.

Though most of today's locks filled gently, just a few of them were very violent, throwing up bath-suds around Kantara, and forcing Grace to rev the engine quite hard to stop the boat from rushing into either set of gates.

I had a very strange experience at Meaford Road Bridge. I'd just assisted the single-handed skipper of a 25 foot boat as he opened the top gate and drove out. Looking ahead, he could see that there was a boat in the next lock, on its way down. They were just about to open the bottom gate paddles. The little boat drove slowly towards them as I tried to close the top gate behind him. But this gate was very heavy. Stiff. And at about the half-closed point, it refused to close any further. I'm pulling at it with all my might, but nothing's happening.

Suddenly, I heard a shout from the man in the little boat, then a loud rush of water in the side sluices, which carry overflow from the top of the lock to the bottom. My stubborn gate that had been going nowhere just a few seconds before slammed closed, and the beam I was pulling on slammed me, knocking me several feet backwards. I was unhurt, but quite shocked by what had happened. I'd never experienced anything like it before. Meeting the man in the little boat again later, I heard from him how he'd felt his boat ride over a wave just before it hit my gate. Neither of us had a clue what had caused it. The same thing didn't occur when I was at that lock, opening those paddles. Very strange!

Taking the advice of the Sailor lady, we moored not long after that, at a very pleasant and sunny Barlaston, mooring of a good number of other boats.

I've been in Twitter conversations with John of NB Samsara, who is just a matter of a few hours ahead of us on the same journey to Liverpool, and David on a three-week holiday on NB Elbereth heading towards us, so we're keeping a look-out for them both. It's always good to see in the flesh people we've only ever known by name and/or boat name.

David's read my book.

I can forgive the typo, in view of the accolade!


  1. Maybe you'd both been reading about the sunken narrowboat that fetched £5900 on eBay? (Waterways World August edition)

  2. I wish it were that simple, Tony, but I knew nothing about that eBay boat until you told me. I'm going to have to find out more!

  3. Roger, about the wave thing. Seen this happen once many years ago. Can't remember where but was in a lock flight. Turned out that the cause was that at the next lock up the crew had opened both bottom (gate) paddles fast at the same time. This created a rush of water which was like a wave! Slammed my top gate same as you experienced. It's not that often these days that gate paddles can be wound up so fast!!! I'm now at Wheelock after a couple of hard days of locks! :-) Cheers, John (nine9feet) NB Samsara.

    1. Weird, isn't it, John? It all happened so fast!

      We'll be in Wheelock tomorrow afternoon. We'll look out for you! Is there good mooring there?

  4. P.S. The 10th photo is Newcastle Road Lock which is in Stone (3rd up) rather than the Meaford flight. Cheers.