On Tuesday I had a good day's boating and got the boat from the Top of Stockton Locks to Fenny Compton Wharf.
The sun shone, a working boat came by to share at the wide Grand Union locks and the locks were not too bad but there were two incidents that spoiled the day.
The first was when I was sharing the Calcutt locks with a town-class working boat in very good condition and looking original. When I came up the steps of the first lock with the centre rope in my hand I was welcomed by the boatman on lockside welcomed me as he saw that this single hander was not going to take his help for granted and free load on the boat! I commented that I thought he was single handing too. He told me "I'm not allowed out alone." We worked single gates for the first two locks, with the boatwaman taking the towny in first. The third lock was set for us by another crew who held the gates open. I came alongside the off side stern of the towny to go in beside it. "What do you think you are doing!" The boatwoman shouted (almost screamed). "Get back!" and with that she steered the boat further toward the middle of the lock. I retreated. Coming in beside her when the towny has settled at the nearside I said,"I thought that I was coming into the lock beside you to allow the water to slow us both evenly." I went up on lock side to open the paddle. The boatman said "She's a fiery one. You see why I am not allowed alone".
I have thought about it a lot. This woman needs to review the days of the boat and butty when they approached the lock with he butty on a single short strap. The boatman ascended the steps with the cotton line in his hand, slowed the moty boat with a turn on the the bollard at the entrance and then closed the gate behind it. He then hopped onto the boat cabin roof as the butty slipped the short strap and came in alongside, stepped on the butty roof and jumped up to close the gate behind the butty as his partner opened the top paddle. Smooth as silk and efficient operation.
The second incident came in the late afternoon. After working up the nine narrow locks of the Napton Flight on the South Oxford Canal comes the delightful interlude of a peaceful three to four hours of cruising on the meandering top level across the Warwickshire plain. Sharing the view with lapwings, resting on their summer meanderings and emitting their shrill "pee-wit" call in the fields of sheep; or with buzzards wheeling overhead, flapping to find a thermal and them soaring upward, flap some more, soar even higher until only a small speck in the sky crying to keep in touch with a mate or chick. Such is the peace, soon to be shattered by HS2, but, for the moment something to savour. There are some delightful moorings and some boaters had taken the opportunity to moor under the shade of the hedge and marginal trees to enjoy the warmth without the heat of direct sun. I always slow down for these moored boats. So it came as a surprise when I heard a shout from within one, followed by a holler from the bank where a woman roused from her reading to shout "Why did you speed up when you came to our mooring?" I looked at my tacho. 1050rpm. Equivalent to about 1mph on this canal. However, Granny Buttons noted in a tweet that "It is not all about speed, it is more complicated than that". I have thought about this a lot too.
I was passing several boats. My throttle naturally declines as the friction brake is shot! I had slowed and as I passed the third boat the throttle was down such that I was losing steerage. As I passed the engine room of this shiny boat I glanced in at the thumping engine that glinted with chrome and brass. I blipped the throttle up a bit to recover steerage and steer away from the immaculate paintwork and false rivet heads on the side of the boat. It was this action that the boatman heard over the thump of the engine that he was oiling or caressing. He shouted what was probably, after thoughtful consideration, "slow down not speed up when passing moored boats". Of course from within his engine room he had no actual knowledge of what speed I was doing. The woman in her deck chair on the bank was probably fine tuned to the call of her husband and responded with the shout that ruined my peaceful cruise. If they don't want boats passing them they should stay in the marina where they will not be disturbed by boaters who actually boat.
2 days ago