No such thing as a free cheese toastie

Day Two

Gallows Inn Lock to Langley Mill

4.5 miles, 9 locks

Crew: Ben, Kirsty and Heather


This my first head of navigation plaque.  It signifies that Double Fracture made it all the way to Langley Mill – the end of the Erewash Canal.  As a former continuous cruiser, my boat is probably no stranger to completing routes, but this is our first as a partnership and so I like to think has a special place in her steel heart.
I say it was a partnership, but in reality it was much more than that.  More of a co-operative, team effort.  Day two’s crew may have hoped to spend the trip taking in the scenery whilst sipping on sparkling drinks, but the reality was a little more sweaty than that.  Without the biceps and core strength of Tuesday’s midwives, Double Fracture might still be sitting in a lock just north of Ilkeston.

I dispelled any idealistic dreams they may have had about the day early on, as the Gallows’ Inn lock was our first task of the morning.  No time for idle chitchat or shop talk – my three companions were raising paddles, pushing opening gates and pulling boats to the side of the lock before the hellos were finished.  Just as well they appeared to be natural-born lock operators.

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We did have time pressures, as one of the crew had work to go to in the evening, and another had a hot dinner date (this how rumours start.  Casual comments on low-circulation narrowboat blogs).  This meant that a leisurely lunch was off the cards as Langley Mill trains wait for no person.  So as we approached one lock, I decided that whilst the girls emptied out the lock and opened the gates, I would get on with making lunch and thus save precious time.

Over the course of the last day-and-a-half, my boat confidence had been slowly rising.  There had been the odd bump and scrape, but generally things had been smooth.  As a result, I had become a little cavalier with the knot tying and so with the approach to this lock, I threaded the rope through the mooring ring and wedged the loose end in the door hinge.  (Can you see where this might be headed?)  Toasted sandwiches were the order of the day, and so I got to slicing cheese and buttering bread.  I happened to glance out of the front door and noticed the landscape had changed somewhat.  Instead of green fields and water, it was a pair of wooden gates.  I dashed out to the back of the boat but too late.  Double Fracture crashed into the lock before I could throw her into reverse.

It sounded a bit like the canon fired in Mary Poppins, and I feared certain breakages with no household staff to hold onto the china and the grand piano.  (I had little concern for the lock or front of the boat. They are both probably robust.)  Whilst there was certainly more stuff on the floor than usual, the canalboat gods had remained on my side, and there were no smashes.   If only that luck had lasted.

The sandwiches and crisps had been eaten, and we moved onto squash and cake.  We had safely negotiated one of the several low Erewash canal bridges, and I had relaxed.  And completely ignored the low lying branches ahead.  The sunbathers all took cover and we made it out with a few minor scratches, but my lucky pint glass was not so fortunate (or well named).  A malicious branch swept it off the roof, onto the door and finally the floor.  It had served me well, and did not deserve to end in tiny fragments.

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But there was no time for mourning.  We had a train to catch, locks to bounce through and dead ends to avoid. After a tip from a friendly boater, I didn’t need to reverse 200m to the visitor mooring (which is not a scenario that ends well for Double Fracture or the dozens of boats she would have encountered on the way). Which meant we could get to the pub in time. Or to work.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Superstition‘ by Stevie Wonder.

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