Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Very Busy Day

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

We thought we would rather like to get to Braunston today.  Although we had already been out and celebrated our wedding anniversary early a couple of days ago, we could now do it for real, after the dress rehearsal.

I don't think we were quite prepared for the boating day that followed, and had simply not expected it to be anything like as busy as it turned out.  Two days ago, we had come out of Birmingham to beyond Knowle locks, and literally only passed one moving boat the whole day.  Yesterday was much busier, as we worked down Hatton and through Warwick and Leamington, but I'm not sure we had still woken up to the idea of bank holiday weekend!

"Bottom seriously too close to top" at Bascote.
Our first locks were on our own, and only when we got to the 4 locks at Bascote did things really get going.  We had noticed the occasional slightly low pound up until now, but a distinct lack of water in the short pound below Bascote staircase locks was enough to see the stern of Chalice firmly stuck, whilst the bows drifted aimlessly towards the mudbanks now visible on the right.

Opening move in the "Bascote shuffle"
However, I do think we got through Bascote with far less delays than would have been the case therafter.  We were already setting up the staircase lock to go in at the bottom, when two boats arrived at the top to come down.  "No problem!", we said, "we can do the Bascote shuffle".  The owner boaters on one boat had been unaware it was possible to pass boats within the staircase, whilst the hirers on the second boat just looked totally bemused through what followed.

I'll not go into detail - as there are actually less effort ways of doing it than what those coming down went for, but basically two boats come down the top lock, with the water used to fill the lock Chalice was in coming up.  Once equalised, and the gates are open, you shuffle boats Tetris style until each have changed chamber, then go on your way as normal.

Even amongst weird boats, this one is VERY weird!
We didn't stop around though to find how two boats coming out into the very low pound actually managed to pass the two already coming up from the lock below.  I think it might have been "challenging".  Meanwhile boats were arriving in droves to go down, and a distinctly large queue was forming - out of that one just in time, I think!

Line up of ex working boats at Warwickshire Fly Boat Company.

The Blue Lias.

Sharing at Stockton - another experienced crew eases the work!
We eventually ended up sharing most of the remaining ascent of locks through Stockton with an experienced crew.  With our bike out to lock-wheel ahead, progress was as good as the boats ahead allowed us.

Stockton Locks come thick and fast.

Queuing at Calcutt Bottom Lock
However, at Calcutt locks, (the last 3 locks on the Birmingham main line of the Grand union, heading this way), we hit another queue.  The situation here was further complicated by boats wishing to leave the marina at Calcutt, and work up these locks.  They emerge well beyond the back of the queue.  At first it looked like some queue jumping might occur, but in the end it was all very civilised and British.  We stood around exchanging stories, and comparing dogs, whilst everybody was very careful to go on exactly their turn!

It has to be said the waiting here was unnecessarily long.  Is it beyond the wit of crews going uphill to leave open the gates of the lock they are leaving, to allow a clean exchange with boats nearly ready to leave the lock above coming down ?  It sometimes surprises me that people who clearly own their own boat still have little concept of how to get people through with the least delay at the busiest times.

Braunston Church
Anyway, no real problem.  Braunston was still a realistic target, despite the delays of the day.  The delays were not quite over, though, as a slow boat preceded a line of people behind him who might have preferred to go a bit faster, and did so all the way until nearly Braunston.

Festivities at "Braunston Village Weekend".
Braunston was packed out, with boats moored on every available slot we passed, including out onto the Puddle Banks.  But just as we were about to pass the customer mooring at the Mill House pub, I spotted someone might be leaving.  Yes they were, so we moored up straight outside the pub - we were not going to have to walk far to get to our Wedding anniversary meal, after all!

Above Fosse Locks to Braunston
Miles: 12.5, Locks: 19

Total Miles: 361.7, Total Locks: 350

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