Sunday, 21 August 2016

Nothing can beat us today except....

Up early of course today, I definitely did not want to be following another early bird boater up the flight.  
So soon after 7am we were off.  Not too much of a problem for our guests as they both rise very early for journeys to work.  

Now its not remotely funny Reader but look what happened to Leon at the start!  He got an icy blast from the air vent of a gate paddle and it woke him up good and proper.  I have only ever been lightly sprayed in the past but from now on I will watch out.  He described it as a Marilyn Monroe moment but with cold water instead of hot air.

Leon's wet knickers.

I went ahead to prep the locks and David was helped by the guests.  They didn't really need too much instruction as its not beyond living memory when we took the little three girls on a fortnights holiday on a Black Prince boat to do the Avon Ring, then the children did some the locks alone and were very good at it, however I have to say the novelty wore off after about 9 days.....

Impressive farm house that was used to make the mortar for the locks here in construction, it was also a pub at the time too, now its a farmhouse.

Leon checking his phone or more like checking to see if he had signal, I didn't get a thing.

All was going swimmingly, I was up to lock three of twelve and it looked like we would complete them in 90 mins or so.  Then it came to a halt and stayed that way for the next four and a half hours.

I was looking at the view below as I waited for the lock to empty, but it didn't, I realised this and ran to check that the top paddles were down although I could see that they were from where I was.  Yes they were both down however the paddle on the towpath side was gushing through at a very very fast rate and constantly filling (Or trying to) the lock.
I knew that this was out of our hands and then quickly shut the bottom paddles too.  

This was the great view that had got my attention

This below, was the pound that feeds the lock and it can clearly be seen to be very low by now.   I went back down to the boat several locks down to report the news. I lost the coin toss and got to call CART.   

In our experience this summer when trying to book passages CART seemingly never answer the phone, if you do get through in 12-15 mins of being on hold invariably the department you require is engaged and they offer to call you back by the time that happens, you are in an area of no reception, they leave a message to say please call again and the process beings all over again.  Not at all annoying.

But today was different being a Saturday, the phone was answered immediately, "I'll send a team out to you straight away".  
He did too, even calling us back to say they were on their way.

Well within the hour two schoolboys arrived, or that is to say two young CART employees arrived, summed up the situation and said Yep we can fix this.

There was a lot of talk about safety protocols and risk assessment but in the end Billy just got in the water without a rubber ring.

Normal height can be seen above.

So Reader, this above is what you don't often get a chance to see.  A paddle.  But this one is off its runners.  Billy felt it with his foot and retrieved it.
Each paddle has two runners, one was long gone 
(By co-incidence the paddle on the other side had lost one runner too).  Billy said that these would be rectified in the Stoppage Season coming up.

Billy just got in the water

It became apparent that it was off its runner.

Folks off boats above us were equally trapped and all lent a hand.

Now a pain in the neck maybe it was, BUT, every cloud has a silver lining and for us today was a Bloody Brilliant Silver Lining Day, some of you may recognise the lady in black that I am talking to....?  Her name is Ann Marie and she and her husband Brian run the working boat NB Alton, and guess what they sell?  Yes, FENDERS!!!!!!! Wooooo Hoooooo.
So due to the entrapment, we got our dodgy fenders examined, discarded and replaced, they were a good price and I would urge everyone to use NB Alton.   HERE 

This is the old style of nail holding up the runners.

Finally the drained pounds were refilled and time for us to move again.

Tom and Billy did a fine job, even though some boating idiots from down the flight were moaning that no one was on the bottom lock telling approaching boats of the difficulties, some moaners just need a good slap.

We got to the top pretty easily after this and sailed on into the sunshine.  

We arrived at the Gurnett Aqueduct mid afternoon.  It was very busy there due to in part a Country Show being held there.  
We squashed on the very end of the moorings in some nettles with the back end sticking out but after cruising on the Thames, this was not even a consideration.  The two men scuttled off to move a car and Fliss and I sat in the sun watching the amazing Fell Runners finish, I can't help wondering if some of them should be running in Rio!  On their return with the car,  Fliss and Leon drove off to visit his grandad who lives in these North Staffordshire Moorlands and were back in time to eat dinner in the Kings Head pub here, (Another recommendation from Denise and Steve thank you both).  
I have to say Reader the food was good and fellow craft beer enthusiast Leon, liked the beer too.  I had fish and chips again even though I usually say once a year is enough, but twice in one weekend and even here so far from the sea the fish was very fresh.  I had pecan pie for dessert with custard.  I do love that you can get custard up here in the north.
Sorry, North Staffordshire Moorlands.

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