Canal rage

‘Twas a summer’s day and all was well.  The Fab Funky Ladies had had a lovely morning floating down the canal to Shardlow and feasted on delicious, gluten-free chips.  There was just the tricky business of getting home.

Turning around has become my new narrowboating nemesis.  It was troublesome on the Soar, and was to prove precarious once more on the Trent and Mersey. There was ample room swing around outside the Clock Warehouse (where we had enjoyed our gluten-free chips) – I had done it before on the helmsman course a boat-lifetime ago.  I have since got worse at turning DF around (who would have thought having an expert trainer by your side would make such a difference) and the willow tree must surely have grown. (Spoiler – I end up with a face full of leaves.)

Just before we were about to get completely camouflaged by the willowy greenery, a passer-by enquired as to whether we needed any help.  We looked like we were stuck you see.  I immediately leapt to the assumption that he was taking pity on us three helpless ladies as we couldn’t possibly be hoping to navigate that big old boat all by ourselves.  A polite but curt ‘no, were fine’ was called across the waterways before we completely disappeared into the tree.

(As a feminist aside – and I know those are the kind of asides my audience enjoys – I genuinely do not think he would have offered help to three men in the same position.  We are not a particularly progressive community, and I do suspect that many of its members do not think that a woman’s place is near the engine.  Reading this blog might not necessarily dissuade them of that view.  End of feminist aside.)

We made it out of the foliage and onto the home stretch. The FFL were commenting on how relaxing the whole day had been, when we were viciously attacked by another of my foes – the low bridge.  There we were, ensconced in witty banter, and then there we were, flinging ourselves across the roof so no one got knocked out.  And then just when you thought you were in the clear, there was a low pipe just after the bridge.  I’m sure many a crown has been bruised by such trickery.

But we emerged unscathed.  There was just one lock left to negotiate, and in the near distance we saw a boat heading into said lock.  “Hurrah,” I probably exclaimed. “A boat to share with.”  (Someone else to do the work is what I definitely thought.)  But as we got near the gate began to close.  But maybe that was to save time – it was after all the gate behind the other boat – there was still room on one side for us to sail into.  And then he started to close the second gate.  “Maybe he hasn’t seen us?” I possibly said.  (I definitely didn’t say this.  My musings were far less polite.)  Surely he would open up the gate when he saw us.

He opened the sluice at the far end.

That’s right, he actually started letting the water out of the lock with us just spitting distance away.

I put Double Fracture into an aggressive reverse, chuntering away as I did.  What the flippin’ heck was he playing at?  Had he no boating etiquette?  May the canal gods strike him down.  And so on.  The aggressive reverse, however, seemed to spur the object of my wrath into action.   He closed the sluice and came back to open the gate to let us in.  I was once more charm herself.  Until we actually spoke to him.

He said something about it being busy on the canal that day as there was a queue of boats waiting to use the lock the other side.  To which Sarah replied “yes, the traffic’s been a nightmare.”  Best joke of the day.  He didn’t crack so much as a smile.

He is off my Christmas card list.  Which would be far more of a damning action if I actually sent Christmas cards.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Proud Mary’ by Tina Turner.



Soaring to new places

It was a beautiful Monday morning.  I could either go do some lengths in the local swimming pool as originally planned, or take the boat for a spin.  (Just in case the decision isn’t obvious, I am not writing a blogpost about splashing around in a leisure centre.)

I was going to play it safe, head down the Trent and turn round before Beeston lock. A tried and tested route, no surprises.  So I turned left out of the marina and headed into Sawley Lock.  This is one of my least favourite locks – going downstream is not so bad on the approach, but mooring up afterwards to pick up crew (or even worse to close the gates if I’m by myself) is a problem that doesn’t seem to get any easier.  So it is always a sight for slightly worried eyes when I catch a glimpse of the blue t-shirt and red life-jacket of a CRT volunteer on the lock.  Happily the lock was manned that day, and there was a boat to share the lock with.

The three chaps on the other boat were taking the day to travel to a particularly nice pub in Kegworth.  Very picturesque route, they said.  Lovely way to spend the day, they assured me.  I was convinced.   No more playing it safe for me.  I was off to river pastures new.  Instead of taking a sharp left down the Trent, I took a leisurely right down the River Soar.

(Now seems like the appropriate time to  draw attention to my very clever pun in the title.  I’m sure you are now gasping in delight at the lovely phrasing.  Or rolling your eyes that I thought it wasn’t obvious from the start.)

The first thing of note down the new river was a new marina.  I had seen a sign for Redhill every day I travelled to work, and had had vague ideas of looking further into it (can’t hurt to keep options open).  Like Beeston marina, it appears to be entirely by the side of the river.  It’s a pretty enough setting even with the power station in the background, but I have grown used to the luxury of having a shower block five metres away.  (I think it is going to take a lot to tempt me away from the shower.)


I approached the next lock and realised my leisurely morning was fast turning into afternoon and I had a night shift sleep for.  I bade the other boat farewell and set about turning around to go home.  The basin in front of the lock was large, and I thought I would have few problems changing direction.  (Something that has long astonished me is the amount of times I am wrong when it comes to boat stuff.  A bit of knowledge and experience does not seem to be turning the odds in my favour.)

I went easy on the turn until I realised DB was just going straight.  So I took the next logical step and panicked a little.  I put the boat into hard reverse and pushed the tiller as far as it would go (forgetting you cant really steer in reverse).  This was repeated a couple of times (and got a similar result each time) until I realised a different approach would be needed.  I didn’t seem to be able to think my way around the problem, so brute force would be called on instead.  I (gently) rammed the bow of my lovely boat into the bank, then skipped along the side as fast as I could to jump onto the grass.    With the bow rope in hand, I started to drag Double Fracture around to point the right way.  It was at this moment a spectator boat arrived.  I got pitying looks and an offer of help that I was obviously too stubborn to accept.  Lucky for my pride, the brute-strength plan worked and I floated past them, a smile of relief on my face.

It was only a dipping of the toe in the new river.  I didn’t even get too try lunch at the local riverside pub.  But at least I have started my cautious explorations.   Give me a year or two and I might make it to Leicester.  But let’s not be too rash.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Take me out‘ by Franz Ferdinand.