The Voyage of Doom ch7 - My Kingdom for a Windlass Sept 2, 2020 20:18:55 GMT quaysider, peterboat, and 3 more like this
Post by Tony C on Sept 2, 2020 20:18:55 GMT
First of all I must apologise as my boating lesson today is very long winded, and was not terribly exciting. You have been warned.
The most important development in today's voyage is that I now have a boating buddy.
He's a really nice young chap, probably in his late twenties, whom I shall call Alex. I'd first said hello as we were waiting to go through Denver Lock and Salters Lode, and had sort of leapfrogged each other all the way through March and Peterborough to Wansford Lock, where I now found him awaiting the first vessel of the day.
I suspect he'd been roused from his slumber (tied up overnight on the lock landing at Wansford Lock) by my jaunty arrival aboard the good ship All That Jazz (that's her real name), keen as mustard and in no mood for the usual canal faffing. As ever, I was to receive quite a healthy dose of faffing. And as ever, it was entirely my fault.
Now my understanding so far has been that people who moor at lock landings are Very Bad People, so I inwardly judged the young chap for this at first. But then I realised that in truth, there are often several miles between public moorings on this part of the Nene, and that you have to be 'creative' if things go wrong, its getting dark, and you are left miles from the next mooring, often with not so much as a bit of grassy bank you can hold on to for the night.
So his strategy when travelling upstream was that if it was getting dark and he couldn't find a public mooring- and if a lock was getting close, he would moor at the lock landing overnight, and be ready to spring forth from his vessel at a moments notice, and hasten through the lock as soon as the first boat showed up early next morning.
Although I had initially been ready to report him to the canal secret police for his crimes, he was actually a really decent lad, well mannered and really helpful.
"Hey, the next few are double locks, we can go through together- it will be loads faster" he suggested.
The idea of going at someone else's pace seemed like a snag to me initially- but here we were, already at the lock, so I though what the hell. He disappeared faster than a meerkat, and in 30 seconds he was dressed and ready to go, and in we went.
"Dont worry, I'll to the paddles and stuff", he said, "You can stay on your boat if you like."
Hello, I thought. Things were definitely looking up.
There were clearly significant advantages to being lock buddies, particularly if your buddy was as agile as a cat and with plenty of stamina.
We were through in no time, and in order to be of some small use, I volunteered to go back to close the V gates and reopen the lower guillotine gate, while he cruised on, promising to meet at the next lock.
Just my sodding luck- the guillotine gate jammed halfway up, and I faffed around with it for five minutes, before sitting down and scratching my head, pondering who I might need to call to remedy the situation. But I gave it a final try, and up it went. Beginners luck again.
Alex had very kindly waited at the next lock, and again we were through in no time. This time he even asked me to carry on and he'd go back to set the gates and catch me up. At this point he had become my personal mobile volunteer lockkeeper, with me cruising through and never leaving the boat- but I felt too guilty to let this highly charitable effort continue.
So on the next lock I again said I would go back and set the gates correctly, and catch him up further on.
However, what I had completely forgotten- in my willingness to contribute some physical effort to our venture- was that I am a blithering idiot.
And true to form, I put my windlass down on top of the control box that houses the buttons to lift the gates. And when the gate was fully raised, I dutifully locked the box and walked away, leaving my windlass behind.
And so we got to the last lock of the day, a mile or two before Fotheringhay. Of course I made an utterly botched entry and bounced off of the lock entrance walls and the bank a number of times (thanks to wind and stupidity), all the time being observed with no small amusement by the crew of an EA working boat.
I finally skulked into place beside Alex, but resolved to make some meaningful contribution this time, and reached for my windlass.
He immediately volunteered to go back the two miles and fetch the windlass in his tender. I'd been cursing the thing all morning, trying to dodge it as it weaved about around his stern going into the locks, but there was another lesson- suddenly it was a major help.
I worked him back through the lock and he sped off- and was back in 40 mins or so, windlass in hand.
In the meantime I became a volunteer lockie for the EA crew, who had roused themselves and wanted to come up through the lock. The gate has a steel wheel that you push or pull to wind it around many dozens of times in order to lift the gates- which at first you do with great speed and energy, but a little later in the process you realise that you are 57, and your pace becomes more pragmatic.
My lock buddy also turned into a mobile chandlery when my centre line snapped (again) shortly afterwards, and I was left with about 15 feet of it- which could be a real problem in a lock.
Alex, it turned out, had loads of spare rope, and offered to lend me one, but I asked if I could just buy one- so he flogged me one of his spares, which solved my problem on the spot, and also saved me a trip to a chandler.
If all goes to plan we will work out way up to Northampton in no time, laughing in the face of adversity, and tweaking the nose of those eternal winding up lock gates.
So yes, another lesson learned- I shall never again look askance at a lock buddy. They are worth their weight in gold.