Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Long wait at Watford Locks

We set off fairly early yesterday, after I'd paid a flying visit to Crick Garden Centre for some new plants. As Monday night had been a bit frosty I'm going to need to bring the planters into the cratch at night for a while so I tried not to get carried away.

Crick tunnel was wetter than I remember and we could have done with an umbrella in places as it was really "raining".

We got to Watford Locks at 11.30 and were happy to see that we were third in the queue to go down. That soon ended when the volunteer lockie came to book us in and told us we wouldn't be moving until at least 2pm.  C&RT were replacing one of the paddles on the bottom lock of the staircase.  That wasn't going to be the main delay though. He then went on to say that there was a queue of 15 boats at the bottom who were going to come up before we could go down.  Why?  Because "they were here before you"  was his answer!  Now Watford locks have always worked on 4 or 5 boats up followed by the same going down and usually with boats passing in the main pound. But that was in the days of employed lock keepers not these volunteers who couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery!

We waited for 2 hours under the M6 bridge while the repairs were completed.  The man standing on the side of the lock holding the rope was really nasty and told me to stop taking photographs. I asked why and he said because it was a work site and I shouldn't even be there! Stupid man. The couple on the opposite side of the lock peering down at the two men doing the repairs were also taking photographs so what was special about them?  I've always praised C&RT workers as without them our canals would grind to a halt and, up until now, they've always been unfailingly polite, but not this idiot. I think he should have been wearing a "job's worth" T-shirt rather than a C&RT one. When the work boat came past us the driver was one of the men who'd done the work and he was happy and smiling and asked where we were going next, the total opposite of his boss.

After half a dozen boats had come up the locks, the owners of the two boats in front of us started kicking off and eventually the volunteer lockies (there were 4 of them) decided that we could go down.

The staircase locks are controlled by coloured paddles. Back in the days of paid lock keepers, one of the couples who looked after Watford Locks were Crystal and Mick. Crystal used to teach new boaters a rhyme to help them remember how to operate the paddles safely. "Red before white and you'll be alright.  White before red and you'll be dead"  But in those days, even when boats were queuing for hours after Crick Show, the boats up/boats down system was used and no-one got wound up. We had boaters coming up to the locks to help speed things up and they were certainly needed as the tiny little female volunteer could hardly open the paddles and when she went to set the bottom locks she only opened one paddle. To think that there were 4 lockies on duty made the delays even more disgraceful.

We eventually made it to Braunston at 6.45 after sharing the 6 locks with a lovely family on a hire boat, and were greeted by this mother duck and her new family.

No comments: