After seeing the weather forecast for the weekend, we decided to make the most of the good weather predicted for today, and head back to our mooring before the wind and rain forecast for tomorrow arrives.
We woke to sunshine and blue skies and were underway before 9am. Max and I walked from our overnight mooring site to the two Swanley Locks which we had to fill to make ready. Well, to be fair, Max ran the distance several times over as he kept running back to check on Storm’s progress and then back to me. After all his exercise he was quite happy to sunbathe for a while.
I don’t know whether I have mentioned before that Storm is a member of the Pylon Appreciation Society but he spotted this slightly different one this morning! (If you join their society, you get a badge!).
At Hurleston Locks we realised that the sun was encouraging lot of other boats out and most of them seemed to be heading towards us. Thankfully, this meant that we headed down the locks quite quickly. As we got to the bottom of the four locks there was something of a log jam, rather than a lock jam, as boats were hovering in the entrance, all trying to get as close to the lock as possible making sure that no-one jumped the queue.
Storm struggled to find somewhere to pull in to pick me up but he turned left and he managed a nifty no stopping, bow-in-bow-out to the tow path manouvre at which point I leapt back on! There was a steady stream of boats heading towards us and we were hoping that the Chester branch would be a bit quieter, seeing as how its a dead end. No, not today! Most of the boats though were still heading towards us.
At Bunbury staircase locks we joined a queue of three other boats waiting to do down and six boats waiting to come up. The queue had formed because there was a guy from the Anglo Welsh hire base at the bottom of the locks trying to ensure his outgoing boat crews were completely confused about how to use a lock as he showed them how to do the ‘Bunbury shuffle’.
I have described the Bunbury Shuffle move before on this blog so I won’t bore you again.
Anyway, after about an hour’s wait we ended up following NB Lock N Roll down through the locks (both of us had gone down alone so that two boats could come up). We arranged that they would wait for us at the bottom so that we could share the remaining four double locks ahead. This plan worked well. We even risked sharing Beeston Iron Lock with them, all the while keeping a close eye on the two boats as they went down in the lock to make sure they weren’t left hanging. Beeston Lock is made of cast iron and its shape is irregular and changes shape depending on the weather apparently. It is recommended that boats pass through one at a time. We threw caution to the wind today and passed through together easily with at least six inches of clear water around the boats! We got several scowls from boats waiting in the queue to come up in the lock as they had been waiting for about two hours for their turn.
The half mile stretch of visitor moorings at the Shady Oak were full – we’ve only ever seen two or three boats moored here before and the pub was doing a roaring trade. We’ve heard the pub has recently changed hands so that might explain it, or it could just have been the sunshine.
Anyway, we were keen to return to our home mooring and we finally pulled in at about 4pm having done 12 locks and approximately 14 miles.