My favoured technique in uphill locks is to leave Starcross in gear against the top gate, but at Rodbaston there was so much water coming round, beneath and through the gate that I held back. That's OK, as long as you then fill slowly, but a charachteristic of the Gailey locks is a fierce undertow that sets in when the locks are three-quarters full and, if you're not careful can cannon the boat into the top gate. I'd been caught out once before but even so it was all I could do to hold Starcross back with a rope around the ladder handrails. (Sorry, BW, I know you're not supposed to do that, but those big wooden posts you put in a while back are just in the wrong place!)
Just past Gailey I felt I needed a coffee. Stopping is a faff when you are single-handed, even when there is piling to attach a hook too (I don't even consider it otherwise) but after a while spent looking for a suitable spot I decided I didn't need to stop anyway, just to get out of gear and bump along the bank while I made the drink. It worked splendidly and I got back to the counter, coffee in hand, just in time to reassure the skipper of a following boat that he wasn't overhauling the Marie Celeste. Why didn't I think of that ages ago?
Turning into the Shroppie at Autherley Junction can be tricky: it's an awkward angle and you can have no idea as to what might be happening at the stop lock underneath the bridge. I've seen some spectacular misjudgments and have also executed a perfect turn myself to find the lock occupied by an oncoming boat, meaning I have to reverse out again. Today everything went perfectly, I didn't touch the sides, the lock was full and unoccupied and, needless to say there was no one around to see it!
The Shroppie beckons. . .
Non-boaters often ask if I don't get fed up of going up and down the same stretch of canal; after all all my trips must begin and end with at least half of the Shroppie. Well, I don't and today was a perfect example of why not. The Shroppie on a sunny afternoon in high Summer is glorious - dramatic cuttings and embankments, fantastic views across to Cannock Chase and the neighbouring fields full of ripening corn and other crops. I was almost disappointed that there was space at the visitor moorings at Brewood so I had no excuse to carry on.