Hemel Hempstead to Cowroast
An early start today.. I pulled away from the mooring near Old Fishery Lane Bridge just before 6.30 am and I was on my own. The Best Mate has had some problems which are under investigation and slowing her down. I had no available other mate. The 14 day rule loomed and so I had to do it alone.
I decided on Berkhamsted as being the next place. It has good connection to Hemel Hempstead via the very useful 500 Aylesbury to Watford bus. This is upgraded to having 240v sockets and WiFI if needed!
So lock by lock I progressed, enjoying the peace of the canal as we passed through the green and pleasant corridor provided by Boxmoor and the valley of the River Bulbourne. Only the roar of the West Coast main line intermittently interrupted the chorus of bird song. I had no hearing aids with me today so their best notes were probably lost on me.
I was forced to stop at the aptly named Sewer Lock, opposite the Sewage Works outfall, to clear a rope and numerous plastic bags that had wrapped round the propeller. Usually prop fouling in SONFLOWER is cleared by reversing the drive and spinning it off. Not this one. I was unable to remove it with my boat hook so had to open the weed hatch (for the first time ever) to cut it free. The rope was a knotted blue loop as some people use to moor on the "wrong type of piling" that is common in the Grand Union Canal.
As I entered the lock after my half hour's labour of love down the hatch I was caught up by a member of the crew from one of two boats that were following me. She told me they were stopping for breakfast and I was hopeful that the other boat would be continuing. No such luck, they were staying together. So on I went, lock by lock, on my own.
Excitement came at Berkhamsted Top Lock 53 where a white wide beam was coming out as I waited on the lock landing to enter. I asked the crew to leave only one gate open to make it easier for me and the crew obliged. The steerer then plowed straight into Sonflower bow on and lodged the boat between the boat and the bank. I rushed back to release the centre rope from the bollard and the wide beam proceeded to push SONFLOWER back toward Hemel Hempstead with nobody aboard. The steerer told me that he couldn't ease up on power or the engine would die and he had no reverse. I held on to the centre rope and followed the boats down the canal until they parted and the wide beam managed to turn away and I got SONFLOWER back to the bank to board her and enter the lock. They continued their way to become a danger to any craft they meet. Why not maintain their craft in good working order! No damage to SONFLOWER but I ended up with a piece of ply and a chunk of fibreglass filler on my bow deck.
It must have been wide beam moving day. At Gas Works Lock No 1 (Northchurch Lock No 51) the young female crew of WB Jaylee from Milton Keynes decided to close the gate I had opened and fill the lock as I was coming out of Gas Works Lock No 2. I was left in the middle of the 200m long pound floating with my arms crossed until the gates opened. I shouted to the crew: "Leave one gate open, please: the one I opened!" They were clueless and descended the steps on both sides to get back on board! The master of the craft was more aware and told them to go back up and close the gates after I had entered and then to walk to the next lock after the boat. (A friendly boater who was crossing the lock to his own boat opened the other gate for them as I left the last lock with one gate open). Even when I climbed the ladder, windlass in hand they could not understand the failure in ettiquette that had taken place. I thanked them for their help.
At Bushes Lock No 50 I must have been tired. I failed to tie SONFLOWER or take a rope with me when I went to open the gate as the lock looked empty. The gate would not budge so I opened the paddle and washed SONLOWER away from the lock without me aboard! I shut the paddle immediately bit she was out of reach. I ran down the towpath to a moored boat hoping to find a boat hook. I borrowed a broom from their bow deck and managed to hook a fender, pull her back to with in the bridge and get on board. A panic moment. I tied her up again, did the job properly and when she was in the lock and safe I returned the broom. As I left the lock I was pleased to meet up with friends from nb AMY EM. They were moored at Cowroast and were walking into Berkhamsted, just to show themselves that they could. They were going to get a bus back. They told me there were quite a few boats moored at Northchurch Top Lock, my target for the day.
As informed there were four boats there, two breasted up, and taking up all the rings and the right type of piling. I continued cruising, with an exciting glimpse of a kingfisher on the way, to a mooring opposite the Tring Road Texaco Garage, just below Cowroast Lock No 46. Favourably the right type of piling and I just couldn't manage another lock on my own.
6miles, 16 locks, 1 swing bridge; 9 hrs and 30 mins
Nick says that this cruise should have taken 6 1/2 hrs so I am quite a slow coach on my own
2 hours ago