All this caused a feeling of debilitation and I can't say I was in top form winding paddles, so I had to have an occasional lie down to recoup some energy. Fortunately, we now had Graham back on board, as well as Dave Thompson for the day, so there were ample bodies to cope.
Approaching a bridge 'ole, a CRT work boat was moored the other side and very close to the bridge, which was going to be a tight squeeze for our pair. We had already removed the looby from the butty, knowing that bridges were extremely low close to Stoke. The work boat had moored there so that it was close to the vehicle for tools to do a repair on the boat, but there was ample room further back. The motor just got through, but the butty, being that little bit higher, caught the top cloths and strings on the bridge arch, so pushing all the top planks back by 3 inches. It was good that we had removed the looby, otherwise the box mast would have broken it's steel bracket yet again. With hindsight, I should have stopped and asked the CRT crew to move further back on their mooring. As we passed I suggested that they were too close to the bridge 'ole, to which they just laughed. Maybe a good bang on their bow would have made them realise their stupidity!
As we approached Fradley Top Lock, another boat was making an exit the other end, so the lock was against us. The motor was up to the top gates, with the butty on cross straps right behind. There was room for one boat only on the lock mooring, as there were moored boats immediately behind. On the outside, a permanently moored boat made the entrance very narrow, so I decided to refill the lock and take the motor through. Immediately I closed the bottom gates, there was hooting from a boat in the next lock, which was a good 400yds away, which I had already noted. As the lock was filling, a woman appeared, brandishing her windlass and in an obvious state of agitation, protesting that I had turned the lock against her boat. Now I can understand her frustration, as I have had it done to me on more than one occasion. Very politely, I pointed out the situation our boats were in and explained that if we tried to reverse out of the way, the pair would jack knife and block the cut, as well as possibly sustaining damage to other boats. I asked her what she would do in the under the circumstances, to which she had no answer, except that we were wasting water. Hardly relevant, as the water was running over the weirs. However, not to be outdone, she then said "The boat is going to hit the gate. The boat is going to hit the gate! THE BOAT IS GOING TO HIT THE GATE!!! WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS
Of course Barry touched the bottom gate with the bow, otherwise how does he know if the boat is right into the lock? At this point the man approached and started a rant, to which I replied "Sir, I have explained the situation to your wife," and then I walked away. As their boat entered the lock, I closed a bottom gate and they accepted my offer to draw one of the paddles, but only a little way on each one, so it was a slow process. No thoughts of holding the boat against the top gate on the engine and speeding things up then? It must have been a slow journey!
On Canal World Discussion Forum this posting appeared, which I presume was aimed at myself:-
"Just go back from a fortnight cruise. Only one lock gate slammed in my face and the lock filled, and that was by a "working" boat who obviously didn't feel that the normal rules applied to him. Not a real working boat, I stress, just one of the heritage johnnies."
I did prepare a suitable reply, but the NBT chairman got in first, so it was not posted, but I publish it here anyway:-
Reply to Mrs Arsey
As the person responsible for making the concious decision to turn the lock against this boater, I would like to explain the reasons why.
1. The motor and butty (72ft each) were both empty and on cross straps, with bow in the head of the lock.
2. There was space for only one boat on the lock mooring.
3. Behind the lock mooring was a line of moored boats.
4. Another boat was moored on the opposite side to the lock mooring.
5. Reversing the pair to clear the head of the lock was not an option for the reasons 3 and 4 as well as the certainty of the butty jack knifing and the cut being blocked for a clear exit from the lock, which would delay all concerned and be a pointless exercise.
6. Had the boat owners been waiting below the lock and not 400yds away, to be asked if we could take the motor through before them, then we would have done so, if at all possible, as we have been doing on the rest of this trip. Needless to say, everyone, without exception, conceded to our former requests.
7. Just for you information, these boats carry 80 tonnes of coal each year.
And, by the way, my name is not "johnnie"!
Barry found this bye-law from BT:-
Operation of locks 25. No person shall:
(a) Open or close or attempt to open or close the gate of any lock
except by the means provided for that purpose or before the
water is level on both sides of the gate.
(b) Draw or operate any sluices until the lock-gates are closed.
(c) Operate or leave open any sluice so as to waste water.
(d) Operate any sluice otherwise than by means of the handle or
other device normally used for that purpose.
(e) Fill or empty any lock of water for the admission of any vessel
to the lock when there is another vessel approaching the lock
from the opposite direction and within two hundred yards thereof
and the level of the water in the lock is suitable for such
approaching vessel to enter the lock.
When the butty was picked up by the motor at the bottom of the lock, Graham had yet to get on board and the only option was on the butty, which is a difficult operation when the butty is stationary, let alone on the move, as it is so high out of the water when empty. He attempted to plant his bum on the back end beam, but did not quite make it and slid gracefully into the cut, though still hanging on to one of the side strings. Fortunately, his head did not go under, so he retained his hat and glasses. Barry slowed down further and pulled in close to a CRT work boat, by which time Graham had his feet on the bottom and could walk to it, where two hefty guys pulled him out, much to the amusement of all, except Graham of course. Luckily, he had a change of clothes with him, although his mobile got wet, but not enough to stop it working after a slow drying out.
Sadly, we passed by The Swan, aka The Mucky Duck at Fradley and made a clean turn on to the Coventry Canal, eventually reaching Alvecote for a meal and well deserved beers at The Samuel Barlow.
The following morning, the pair were moved to the dry dock at Grendon for blacking the hulls. This was to be a three day affair and there was only Barry and me left on board, although Setareh Campbell bravely made her first ever visit to the boats from Oxford to help. Rather a baptism of fire for her, as blacking is not one of the most delightful occupations in a dry dock that never is dry.
Despite wearing gloves, Barry had more black on his hands than I did!
The deeper skeg added to avoid the rudder being lifted.
The enlarged and greater pitched propeller.
people on the job, which was now complete, so job done. Sorry I was not there guys, but I have no guilty feelings and I can't help having a puncture!