Friday, 15 August 2014

The Calder and Hebble - Variety In lock and paddle gear design.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)
Post for Tuesday 12th August

David demonstrates use of the unique Calder & Hebble hand spike.
We enjoyed our brief stay in Wakefield - it is quite unusual for us to turn up in a large town or city to find no other visiting boats at all, but despite being on moorings between two fairly major roads, and opposite a Marston's pub, we had a very quiet night,and had nothing more to worry about than preventing Odin eating any of the copious amounts of duck poo that had come from copious amounts of ducks.

Potential hazard - large overhanging walkway that boat can catch under as it rises.
Last night we had passed from the Aire and Calder navigation, with its massive mechanised locks onto the Calder and Hebble navigation.  The Calder and Hebble is a different prospect altogether, as it boasts some of the shortest locks of all regularly used canal or river navigations. Opinions differ as to the maximum length of boats that can traverse it, but anything over about 58 Feet for a narrow boat is definitely a challenge, (we have already watched enough antics to confirm that statement), and about 60 feet is only possible with a lot of shuffling the boat to make it possible to open or close bottom gates, (some locks allegedly only allowing this if the boat is in backwards).

Flood lock - gates normally open to boat traffic.
We had so far only passed through one Calder and Hebble lock, ("Fall Ing", which rather worryingly has a bridge over it labelled "Fall Ing Bridge").  To put it mildly it was a "bastard", and David declared that as he could barely work it, if all the others were similar, then we were in trouble.

Attractive pair of typical locks - closely space in this case.
Fortunately, as we progressed up the C&H, it became apparent that whilst some of the locks were hard work, most were fairly easy to manage.  The eccentric paddle gear, however, is something else.  Some of the older stuff you wind is encased in great cast iron cases, which to me reminiscent of some Victorian tomb stones.  Where it has not been disconnected, (and many of the ground paddles are), then it works well.  But traditional C&H paddle gear also features a unique type that is not wound with a conventional windlass at all, but instead used the "hand spike".  The hand spike is a large, heavy wooden handle, which inserts into a capstan type wheel and raises the paddle as you pull on the handle - but you can only get about a maximum of a third of a rotation of the gear, before you have to remove the hand spike - reinsert it in different holes, and take another pull.  It sounds awful, but actually works remarkably well.

A closer look at hand spike mechanism - opposite gate has conventional paddle.
Alongside these traditional types, other paddles have just acquired more "generic" hand winding gear, (mostly OK, though some over geared), but the horrendous hydraulic paddles, (which have been hated by many boaters for over 40 years now!), are also used extensively.  You have no idea what you will find at any lock, (so must always have the hand spike with you, as well as the windlass), and bizarrely, where gates have clearly been replaced in pairs, the paddle type on each may not match.  The most bizarre combination wit ll see a newly fitted hand spike operated paddle on one gate, and a "modern" hydraulic on the other.

Overnight mooring yields yet another full rainbow.
Another thing that we are no used to on what is a river based navigation are significant numbers of either flood locks, or flood gates, most of which are left open in normal river conditions, so you just motor through them.  Whilst the purpose of most as a flood defense of some kind or another could be guessed, there were some that seemed to protect nothing useful at all, even if closed, and we couldn't actually work out what they could ever achieve. (Maybe other things have been changedthat have since rendered some of them white elephants?).

I was rather taken by the C&H, but as I watched boats that were anything like the important 57 to 60 foot length try to use the locks, without filling one end or the other with water, I was immensely grateful that Chalice is only 50 feet.

Brighouse provided a good place to end the day, although the visitor moorings we used are a bit unusual, being in a short wide pound in a short flight of locks.  There are two good full sized supermarkets here, so when we forgot some items in one, we were then able to sample the other.

Wakefield to Brighouse (Calder & Hebble Navigation)
Miles: 15.5 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks: 15
(not counting about 8 sets of flood gates or locks, normally left open)

Total Miles: 561.5, Locks: 312

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