Tuesday 6 October

Rugeley is an excellent place to food shop as at Bridge 66 you have the choice of either Tesco to the right or Morrisons to the left with Aldi just beyond. We stocked up yesterday and so with full cupboards we set off this morning towards Great Haywood and hopefully as far as Stone.

Storm set off ahead on foot with Max who ran backwards and forwards between us both, much to the amusement of a lady cyclist who was surprised when Max completely ignored her and just thundered past her with his ears flapping.

Once back on board Storm went below to do some drawing work while I steered the boat. I have always fancied trying to operate the boat and narrow locks solo and so I asked him to stay below at the first lock.

I arrived at Colwich Lock and made the boat secure and headed up to the lock where I was met by the guy who lived in the lock cottage there. He asked if I was on my own and I explained that I wasn’t but that I was trying to operate the lock without any help. He tried to dissuade me, saying that ‘locks aren’t for women to do. Any idiot can steer a boat!” I resisted the temptation to say anything at this point. He went on to say that he’d worked on the boats most of his working life and he’d never allowed his woman to operate the locks as he thought she’d had enough on cooking and looking after the kids.

Well as I’ve done that too, undaunted I steered the boat into the lock just as another boat was exiting and climbed up the lock ladder and closed the bottom gates.   By this time there was another boat at the top waiting to descend the lock and their crew had already started to operate the side and gate paddles so I didn’t actually get to use the windlass at all. I helped open the top gate and then got back on board and steered the boat out of the lock, thanking everyone for their help.

I continued on to Heywood Lock and here the lock mooring was busy with a class of school kids who were busy trying to haul their canoes out of the water so I hung back giving them to do this without causing them to panic.

Once the lock mooring was clear I moved forward and Storm stepped out on deck and he jumped ashore with the windlass just as another boat exited the lock so I steered straight in.   As I waited for the lock to fill the heavens opened. We debated whether we should moor up here but then the rain stopped as quickly as it had begun and the sun came out again so we continued on.

We passed Great Heywood Junction and continued northwards.

At Hoo Mill Lock, again we met another boat exiting the lock and Storm leapt ashore with the windlass. When he was back on board I asked if he’d finished his drawing work. He admitted he still had more to do and so he disappeared down below again.

I approached Weston Lock and made the boat secure at the lock landing and went to prepare the lock. Here the coal boat was entering the lock from the top and at 72ft he was a very snug fit in the 72ft lock. He lifted his nose fender up to ensure that he’d get caught on the bottom lock gate.

I helped him with the bottom gate paddles by doing one side, leaving him to do the other. Once the lock was empty, we opened the gates and he exited. I returned to the boat, untied and steered toward the lock.   As the nose entered the lock, I put the boat into neutral and I stepped off the boat at the bottom of the lock steps, knowing that the momentum would take the boat into the lock. I closed the bottom gates and went ahead to open the ground paddle, only half opening it so the boat didn’t move much in the lock and only when the lock was half full did I open it fully and then the gate paddle. By this time Storm had appeared on deck and he steered the boat out of the lock.

Well,today I’ve done all the various components involved in going up in a narrow lock, just not all at once!

Shortly after passing through Weston on Trent, the heavens opened and we decided to call it a day and moored up near Salt Bridge and spent the afternoon in front of the stove drying off.

By 5pm the sun was shining again and we took Max for a walk through Salt Village and towards Enson before returning to the canal at Sandon Lock and back along the towpath.

Height envy

Height envy

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