Puttering, one way.

The route planner was set not taking more than 9 days. 5 hours a day.
That daily grind limit went for a bucket of chalk after day one.
Eventually we were casting off at 6.30 – 7.00 am and finishing (on average) at 6 pm at night.

Putting a 82 inch wide boat through locks and bridges only 84 inches wide one after the other in quick succession for hours on end is “a little bit stressful”.

Add a lot of gusting wind, 6.5 tonnes of aluminum needs a strong hand on the tiller.
Me walking the boat out of the locks on a rope to save time as we were on the clock.
As for SWMBO?
She was shattered at the end of each day as leaning on lock gates all day is not a lot of fun.
We shared the load but more often than not SWMBO was looking after her little old man!
Plus squeezing in and out of tight gaps was my forte not hers.
This was a trip of 78 miles, 6 furlongs (126.7 km) and 97 locks.
How does a river lock work? It ain’t rocket science, just loads of hard work.

44 miles, 17 wide locks along a river.
This we knew how to do and the first part of the journey was peaceful and relaxed.
No excitement and loads of rest.

And then,
13 miles, 34 narrow canal locks followed by,
21 miles, 46 wide locks which included the dreaded Hatton flight, which consists of 21 locks in a tight series, descending 146 feet (45 m) over 2.5 miles (3.5 km).

Luckily a friend came to help us.
We had a huge breakfast to fortify us and in 4 hours the flight was completed.
Only it didn’t stop there. He went home, we continued on for another 4 hours.
Tiny locks, heavy gates, hard concentration, heavy labour.
The workout from hell!

A nights sleep followed after a meal prepared by SWMBO with me carrying out the daily routine maintenance and washing down the boat.
We ate but without much enthusiasm and crawled into bed.
Next day the grind went on.
4 flights of locks, one ‘3 tread’ staircase lock.

Finally we crossed 3 aqueducts and puttered though a majorly VERY cold, drippy wet, low height tunnel. 7 minutes it took and I was deep frozen and sodden. SWMBO wisely sitting up front with the camera. Worse bit about it? The damn flash reflected off the front canvas tilt (cratch cover) and we got ZERO really good photographs.

Death toll?
3 badgers, one beautiful fallow deer, and a tiny puppy (which deeply upset SWMBO).
Animals fall into a lock or a canal with it’s steep banks, usually at night, and they just swim around until they drown.
It’s a sorry thing to see but that’s life.

Major tilts?
One busted rudder (thank Gawd I always carry tools).
Add a couple of stops for debris round the prop, one keel haul to release a trapped branch beneath the boat, the heating failing which caused me a complete nightmare but after a full forced shutdown it fired up again!
We used 50 litres of Diesel.
Top speed? 4 Mph. Chugging speed and locks? 2 Mph.

We met some extraordinary people, learnt a complete new skill set.
Eat what has got to be the best “Full English” breakfast in the world!
Travelled through the centre of the narrow boat world in the West Midlands where canals once ruled supreme and for the most part still do.
What struck me the most?
The number of families living on boats in less than austere conditions.
No running water, rubbish being burned, and I’m pretty certain toileting involved the use of a shovel for some. Add no electricity apart from batteries, the ocassional solar panel or wind turbine.  A complete society with no apparent safety net yet the kids were clean, bright, articulate, and polite.
Welcome to the other side. The UK’s version of the fourth world that no politician will EVER talk about and that UK’s culture is trying to grind into the dirt by upping the yearly fees at an expotential rate in order to drive ‘them with nothing’ off the water and into  homelessness.

So, what do you want to know apart from that?
The weather?
Sun, snow, ice, sleet, rain, WIND, very cold, very hot.
We both ended up well sun tanned and wind burnt.

Injuries? My hands look like chopped meat from rope burns.
SWMBO has developed a set of muscles most personal trainers would die for.
And as for our personal body weights?
Working flat-out throwing heavy wooden gates around weighing between 490 kg to 3250 kg (each gate has its weight carved into it). Winding lock mechanisms all day, every day, and me fighting the boat, SWMBO has put on 2 pounds (a kilo) in pure muscle, and I’ve lost 2 inches from my waist staying the same weight!

As for anything else.
Nope, nothing, no colds, sniffles, upset stomaches, headaches, we had a few aches for the first couple of days, and we’re both fitter than we’ve been for many a year.

So, photographs. Which of the 127 to pick from.
I’ll settle on one  I think.

The Captain,
aka SWMBO!

p.s. The sad bit? Driving off leaving our home behind.

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10 Responses to Puttering, one way.

  1. Brittius says:

    Watch it, mate. The skipper looks like the type to keel haul you for stepping out of line.

  2. DM says:

    BRUTAL. Glad you’re done.

  3. jlm990 says:

    Glad your adventure finished up well. Lots of memories there. Best of luck to you both! And God bless.

  4. shtfprepper says:

    There’s always a silver lining somewhere. Sometimes? It’s a bit cloudy.

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