Well, we are back on the Coventry Canal heading towards Fradley Junction. It really does take you through some beautiful countryside as well as some bits round the back of towns that I’ve not been so keen on.
We came down the Atherstone flight, 11 locks that are a bit spread out in places. After looking at Google maps we decided to do the first 6 locks and then stop for lunch and get some shopping. It is always good to find a shop within very easy walking distance of the canal because you have to carry all the shopping back…. I’ve been using one of my backpacks and some shopping bags. Our “normal” routine during these COVID times is that I’ll take all the bags I think we will need and go and get the shopping (complete with face mask). When I get to the checkout I phone/message Phill who walks up with the dogs to meet me. We then both walk back with backpacks and bags. I have seen some people with pull along trolleys and they do look like a good idea but that is dependent on the tow path being suitable…. Maybe I’ll just buy Phill a bigger backpack…
Anyway, back to locks. I still have limited experience with locks having never been on a narrowboat until we moved on board. Each one seems to have it’s own quirks, every gate is different and the “ratchet” bit that stops the paddle just dropping straight back down also seems to be different every time.
One thing I can tell you is don’t pick a fight with any woman that regularly operates locks, I think after a month or two of doing this regularly I’ll have muscles to throw a hefty punch !
Looking ahead on our route it looks like locks are going to a very regular occurrence and I either need to get fitter or learn how to helm the boat (a bit more on that in a minute) before we get to some of the longer flights of locks…. I think the 21 locks on the Hatton flight could be hard work….
Helming isn’t easy !
Anyway, back to my helming. I am determined to over come my nerves about boat handling. Up until now I’ve only sailed sailing dinghies and they have a tendency to capsize if you get anything wrong. They also either sail away on their own or capsize as soon as you untie them from a jetty…. Also, up until I learnt to swim a couple of years ago I was also absolutely terrified of water so I do have a bit of “baggage”.
Phill has been very patient teaching me how to helm. I’ve managed to get the hang of steering the boat in the right direction (I also have problems with co-ordination…. it took me a long time to learn to drive !!) so the next stage was to operate the throttle and the tiller… Everything was going really well and I was going past moored boats and avoided hitting boats coming towards us. Then we came across a fallen tree on the canal. It had been cleared so that one boat could just about squeeze through. I lined us up and started going through the gap. All I can say is there must have been something under the water because there were some awful scrapping, clanging noises. This scared the dogs and Millie decided at that moment her safest option was to abandon ship for the safety of the tow path and Honey wanted to join her….
I could see boats moored ahead and boats coming towards us (now I could actually see round the tree !).
At this point I decided it would be prudent to hand control back to Phill….
Phill took over, moved us over to the bank so Millie could hop back on (she just thought it was one big adventure) and then manoeuvred us through all the other boats, bridges and bends…. I thought a nice cup of tea was needed.