Last Thursday I had a phone call from a single handing friend who was in Braunston. I had offered to help him through a flight. He was calling in my offer. But this week I was not available Sunday, Monday or Tuesday until a rearrangement enabled me to offer him today. I had not looked at the weather forcast. On rising this morning to a skyful of rain I called him expecting him to call it off. I hadn't reckoned on the fact that his boat is fitted with a canopy and he could stay dry all along the top level from Marston Doles to Claydon Top Lock.
I met him there in teeming rain. He took a little longer to get from Fenny Compton marina than I expected and I had the pleasure of helping nb Sarah Louise down. These were first time boaters, on a borrowed boat and this was the first lock they had gone down. They had got themselves stuck, with fenders down, in the second Napton Lock (No 9) known to be the narrowest lock on the system. Their boat's owners had told them to use the fenders in the locks! Oops. They had to be washed out shortly after being stuck half in! After they left I helped nb Pepper up the top lock and waited with the gate was open and lock full.
We went down without problem and then found the second lock with bottom gates open and paddles up! Maybe my tuition was not good enough! At lock three (Middle Lock) we encountered a Viking invasion. Coming toward us. Heading for the gates was the first of six Willow Wren hire craft with Danish crews. The boat went across the canal as they reversed thrust realising there was a boat in the lock after they had passed the lock landing! (I had met them in Banbury this morning when I was turning Sonflower to return her to the mooring.The Danish crew had to wait!) They had to wait longer here as the canopy would not fit under the bridge at teh foot of teh lock and had to be furled back. It didn't seem that they were used to this. I spoke to a couple of the adults as I did not know the Danish for 'dangerous' 'stop running' and 'keep off the gunwhale in the rain while throwing the centre rope".
Many of the crew were quite young, slight and inexperienced.They emptied the bottom lock as we approached in spite of my hollaring and waving. No harm done and in this torrential downpour no-one would be thinking of saving water! I waved my friend goodbye at the Bottom Lock and went back to the middle lock where two little Danish lasses were trying their hardest to open the gate paddles to drain the lock. (They were just too small and slight to make any impact.) They made up for this in enthusiasm and the teeming rain did not stop them or dampen their joy at being able to open the gates by themselves. They ran off to try the same with the top gate! I returned to my car: very wet and tired.
The joys of boating.
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