Monday, 14 March 2011

A very hard day's cruise

We are now moored below Marple 16 locks and WHAT a day!

After dumping the rubbish and filling up with water at Marple services we moved into the top lock no. 16 only to be told that a boat was stuck in lock 12. Roger walked down to have a look but couldn’t see anything or anyone there so we carried on down to lock 13 where we were met by a couple of BW (British Waterways) guys in a van. They asked us to moor up in the pound above lock 12 as there were 6 – yes SIX – shopping trolleys in the lock and they were going to have to get them out before we could carry on. We weren’t the first boat down the locks, the coal boat had gone down earlier and got stuck but they’d managed to ‘flush’ him out by letting a load of water into the lock with the bottom gates open.
We couldn’t actually see anything in the lock but after about an hour Dave the BW man snagged something with his grappling hook and managed to haul out a large Co-op trolley. 

You can watch it on you tube here

The next trawl snagged 4 trolleys fastened together so we wrapped the grappling hook rope over the lock gate and around the T-stud on our bow and reversed the boat backwards to pull the trolleys up towards the gate.

Unfortunately it was impossible to get them out of the lock as they were too heavy. Dave then decided that as they were so close to the top cill of the lock it would probably be alright for us to go down, albeit very carefully. Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as he thought and we got our rudder caught on the trolleys and it popped out of it’s socket so we had to quickly stop emptying the lock and refill it to reverse back out into the pound again. Roger struggled to refit the rudder but eventually managed to get it done, although it’s not quite right and will need doing properly when we are out of the water in the dry-dock in April.

When we got caught on the trolleys it must have freed 2 of them and by using brute strength and the combined efforts of Roger, Dave and his mate another 2 trolleys were hoisted out of the lock.
While this was going on another boat arrived wanting to come up the lock. They helped try and drag more trolleys out of the lock backwards but were unsuccessful. The rope snapped and that attempt had to be aborted as Dave didn’t have another grappling hook in his van.
The boat came up the lock with no mishaps but by now water level in the pound was very low and our boat was stuck on the bottom. The woman from the boat coming up was sent up to lock 13 to let down some water to re-float us but she must have mis-heard the instructions and had both top and bottom sets of paddles open at the same time which was beginning to empty the next pound up. I had to go back up to lock 11 to let more water down to refill the first pound so that we could then refill the second pound to re-float us and so that her boat could get out of lock 12.
By this time 3 hours had passed and with just 2 trolleys left in the lock Dave decided we should have another attempt at going down but this time even more slowly and carefully than last time. SUCCESS!
We managed to get down and out of the lock and set off on our way leaving Dave and his mate to dispose of the rescued trolleys and decide how they were going to get the others out.
Well the first 5 locks had been hard work but nothing like the next 11.  Roger steers the boat and I work the locks and although he helps raise the paddles on the bottom gates he has to be on the boat as the water goes down so he can’t help me open and then shut the gates at the bottom. I have NEVER worked locks so stiff before. This bit of the canal has only been open since Saturday so very few boats have passed through the locks so far this year and it shows. Although Dave and his staff have greased every gate and paddle they are very, very stiff to wind up and the gates themselves are very heavy to open and close.

By the time we got down to lock 1 I was absolutely knackered. We cruised on for a while over Marple aqueduct and moored up just before Hyde tunnel. The towpath is extremely muddy and the dogs trampled mud all through the boat but I really don’t care. It’ll dry and I’ll hoover it up tomorrow. Right now it’s time for a beer! I'm so glad I made tonight's dinner yesterday. More of that tomorrow.

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