Sunday, 7 May 2017

Good bits and bad bits.

(With both boats - posted by Alan)

Approaching middle Seabrook lock - two boats, but one engine and one steerer.
Slow steady progress today.  If the waterway in the area we had travelled through were kept properly maintained, it would have been a delight.  This is throughout a picturesque part of the Grand Union, but a length which these days feels increasingly neglected by British Waterways and its successor, the Canal and River Trust.

Cath following me - sometimes dictated by how we close up the locks.
Many of the lock gates are in such poor repair that even if boaters follow instructions to close gates at both ends of each lock, much water is still lost through them due to severe leakage.  Unfortunately though, often boaters either don't close all gates, or if they do, they don't stay shut as you boat away from them.  If the one set of gates holding the water back is also the leakiest set, then water losses can become very major indeed.

This looks somewhat  like an "artists impression", rather than the real thing!
If water is continually lost through leaking gates, then unless topped up, the water level in the pound above the lock falls.  If that pound is a short one, because two locks are close together, then it doesn't take long before levels are severely down to the point where deep draughted boats like Sickle and Flamingo struggle with insufficient depth.

At least we saved the crane (and the carpenters workshop) - could have been worse!
We didn't travel far before we hit the first issue.  At the two locks at Ivinghoe, the water level in the pound between the locks was down a full twenty inches.  That's a lot, and we know that's the right number, because David measured it.  This is because the bottom of the two locks leaks so badly, (and has for several years, so it has not been treated as a priority fix).  We did eventually get through, but had we stuck firmly aground anywhere we would have been far too far from the bank to get off and do anything about it.  If CRT can't actually repair the gates, then they need far more people allocated to water control duties to be on hand to top up pounds from which the water regularly goes missing.

Working hard on the trickiest of the Marsworth pounds for breasted boats.
Towards the end of the day we went through the 7 lock flight at Marsworth - a flight I always considered a delight to boat through when I returned to boat ownership about 12 years ago.  Now unfortunately they are regularly very much less of a delight to work .  The gates at many of the locks leak appallingly, and the levels in the pounds (particularly at the top of the flight) are regularly alarmingly low.  Again CRT seem not to have the resource to either fix things (the best solution, obviously!), or to at least keep putting water in as it leaks away.  The latter should not be too hard, as a series of by-washes at the locks should make it possible to run water down from the top until most levels are restored.

Easier, but need to go round tight on the very outside of the bend.
The day ended with a passage of Tring summit, where fortunately levels were pretty good.  We moored the boats in not quite enough water at Cowroast - if the levels drop there, I suspect it may be a major fight to "unstick" the boats from the bottom, and continue our journey.

Waiting for david to get second gate open - hard work for lock wheelers!
But I headed this post "good bits and bad bits", so what you may ask were the good bits?  Well, actually we have got pretty slick at working the two boats breasted together to form an irregular object 72 feet long and 14 feet wide.  We did OK down Stoke Bruerne a couple of days ago, so I decided to see how we would get on at other places.  We couldn't try at Ivinghoe, because the levels would have defeated us, but through the three locks at Seabrook, which incorporate some bends, all went swimmingly.  I had apprehension about the Marsworth flight, as (particularly) the pound with two sharp reverse bends is fairly well known, but we got through all of it with a text book performance, even managing the pounds that were well over a foot down.

How can gates like this hold water? They are as shut as the top part allows.
The sole problem proved to be a lock with debris behind both bottom gates.  Fortunately David had warned me that the gates were not fully opening, and my cautious approach meant we could get the boats reversed back, and singled out to go in one at a time.  I suppose that's another one for the "bad bits" list - in an ideal world CRT would remove accumulated debris that prevents lock gates fully opening.

Slapton to Cowroast
Miles per boat: 8.1, Miles both boat: 16.2, Locks: 15
Total Trip Miles: 95.2, Locks: 32

1 comment:

  1. Looking good there, Alan! And the worst of the GU surely can't hold a candle to the worst of the BCN...

    See you in Braunston hopefully


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