The French waterways have been modified by the electrification of the gates and automation of the locking process. However, this can have disadvantages if you are a relative novice boater or unaware of the hazards, as we were on our trip to the Canal du Midi.
Having turned in the round lock at Agde we were returning toward Beziers and were rising for the first time. We entered the first lock alongside a german crew on a plastic hire boat. The gates closed automatically behind us. We had experienced the automative system and I, Eeyore, was on the lock side. I looped the centre rope of the narrowboat around the centre bollard and pressed the 'Ascend' button. I admired the view as the paddles opened automatically, water entered the lock and the boat began to rise. The flow of the water into the lock pushed the boat forward as the rope around the bollard slackened as the boat came up. But only so far. As the roof of the boat came above the top of the lock side it started to tighten again and as the boat had moved forward the rope was crossed and locked onto the bollard. The boat began to tilt quickly and dramatically. The boys were on the boat and plates started to slide off the table onto the floor and items started to crash around them.
Fortunately I noticed in time and hit the RED EMERGENCY STOP button. The paddles closed and calm was restored with the boat at quite an angle but clear of the water. The German crew were not amused as they were stuck in the lock with us. Their skipper shouted at me to get a knife. I got the boys off the boat first and then took a kitchen knife to the taught mooring line. The boat jumped up and bounced back into the upright position.
Voies Navigables de France (VNF) the French navigation authority sent their engineer out to find out why the button had been pressed and reset the controls. I explained and apologised. No harm done!
I had learned a second lesson. Watch the ropes at all times!
It is this incident that makes me believe that the newly installed extra bollards on narrow locks will be "an accident waiting to happen". It happened to us. [To be continued
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