Friday, 26 October 2012

Over the Leicester Summit

I committed a boater's faux-pas first thing on Sunday morning, when I "turned" a lock that had been set for another boat!  Last night, all the locks on Buckby flight had been full, which as we were going uphill meant they all had to be emptied before we could use them. So whilst Bernard got Sunshine ready I went ahead to the top lock. As expected, I found it full; but what I didn't expect was to find both top gates open. This can be a signal that the lock has been set for an oncoming boat, but several sets of top gates had been left open on the rest of the flight the day before and there is a certain class of boater that makes a point of leaving them so. The fog prevented me from being able to see very far down the cut and, after waiting a while during which time the only boat I could see moving set off from the bank above the lock heading away from me, I closed the gates and opened the bottom paddles. The lock was almost empty before a rather disgruntled lady arrived at the top gates. She didn't say anything but I could tell from her body-language what she was thinking! Although there was still no sign of an approaching boat I immediately apologised for pinching the lock - an apology accepted without much grace it has to be said. Sunshine was in the lock and rising before the other boat arrived and I then went and made my peace with the steerer also, who was somewhat more relaxed about it all.

By the time we got to Watford locks the mist had risen again and the sun was out. Bernard disappeared though the hole in the hedge that leads to Watford Gap services on the M1 for a shower, whilst Kris and I prepared to wait our turn for the locks. As it happens, we didn't have to wait at all and as soon as I found the lockie he invited us to come straight up.
Kris getting stuck in on the Watford flight
For the first couple of locks Kris steered whilst I did the lock-work. A towpath-walker came along and said "You're doing it the wrong way round"  I was puzzled at first until he pointed out that all the other boats he'd seen had the man steering, whilst the woman did the hard work. I told him it was traditional that way.

Part of the Watford flight, like that at Foxton is a staircase and requires a different way of working to normal locks. To assist boaters half the paddles have been painted red, like the one in the photo above. The red paddle has to be operated before the other at each lock or as the lock-keepers tell you:
"Red before white, you'll be alright", "White before red, you'll end up dead!"

After Watford, you are on the summit level - a long, lonely stretch that lasts all day with only the tunnels at Crick and Husbands Bosworth to bring variety. We carried on all the way to the top of Foxton locks, where we had to stop anyway as they had closed for the night.

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