Europe 2012 travel blog

Bev and Alyssa operating the lock gate

opening the gates when lock water level is the same as upstream

going into the lock

going into lock.

In the lock

the water entering the lock through sluice gates

off down the canal

waiting our turn for the tunnel

the Chirk tunnel approaching the end

bend ahead

I'm not going to be able to do the canals justice. But here's my effort: By the end of day 2 we had had 6 lift bridges, 11 locks and the Grindley brook staircase lock (3 locks together) other days were not as busy. Tunnels became a bit more frequent and the canal narrowed at the end requiring some good team work and sometimes a sense of humour

Before the locks, the ratchet handles are grabbed and at least two people (if you have that many. If only one, they have to get backward and forward across the river/canal)

If the lock gates are open you manoeuvre in, push the gates closed, use the ratchet to close the sluice gates (at the bottom of the gate) Then use the ratchet to open the sluice gates on the other side so that water enters your 'dock' and you are lifted up to the next level, when the water is equal on both sides of the gate, they can be pushed open and out you go.

All sounds very easy, but things can get confused.

I was guilty of opening the sluice gates at the bottom, when they were closed. The water coming in wasn't filling the lock as fast as it should and then someone realize the water was going out through my opened, bottom sluice gates! There was a bit of yelling before I twigged what was wrong and got the sluices closed. I was also one of those early on who forgot that if you let your hands off the hatchet, the cog mechanism immediately starts unwinding and the handle spins madly. Fortunately I somehow had my hand JUST out of the way so no broken bones. Close call my hand could have been smashed! Whoever the other person was (and I'm sure there was one other! their hand was grazed as the the ratchet spun so they too were very lucky. After that we all knew the correct procedure. Pushing to open the gates had to happen when the water levels on either side were the same. Pushing before that was extremely hard work! Even with the levels equal some of the gates required hard pushing. Easier if you put your butt against it and bent your legs to push

You may wonder why there are no photos of the barge leaving the lock. Its because at that point everyone has to be back on board, otherwise you walk to the next lock or some part of the bank where the driver is willing to pull over. And while Bev and Pete could spring on and off like mountain goats, I was a bit more cautious, which meant I usually missed the one second timing I needed to have!

We had one staircase lock on the trip. This had 3 adjacent locks so only 4 gates. However this lock also had a lock keeper who liked to have all 3 locks filled with boats at the same time, to conserve water. He also went off and his lunch when he felt it was time to do so. You were allowed to continue on your own, but evryone got a bit edgy incase he came out and you werent following his rules. Lift bridges were easier to manoeuvre. We just needed to make sure traffic was clear, drop the barrier across the road raise the bridge, let the barge/s through and then lower bridge. One of these bridges was operated electronically. It was our most confusing. By the time we'd worked out which button to push, the queue of cars was building up, mostly patiently! The bridge was on one occasion a problem. They were low enough for the barge and a bit of gear on the top to get through. We had two bikes and at one point Robbie's pusher. Going through a bridge one the bikes touched and was pushed back which lifted the pram a bit higher. As we went under the bridge the pusher went in the drink. No photo of Bevan just about falling in himself as he leant from the bank to rescue said pusher!

AS we neared Chirk we had a longer than usual tunnel. It was only one boat wide so we had to ensure that there was no light showing from the other end before we entered, with all our lights ablaze.

It was at this point we discovered the spotlight that was part of the boat, didn't work. Panic, but as always Matt had thought of everything. He just happened to have a powerful torch with him, which was held at the top of the boat by the navigator.

There was another long stretch of one way canal near Llangollen. This was trickier as it went around bends and was much longer. People ahead of us had two way radios so the one walking ahead could give the all clear. Once you were on this section of the canal, others could follow behind but not enter the canal from the other way. One of our 'miscommunication' occurred here, with a signal given but not recognised as an all clear.

Along the way there were mooring places, some with taps to refill water tanks. There were also canal arms. These not only had watering points they had places where the sewerage from the boat could be discharged. The only place we used an 'arm' was at LLangollen. For a start it marked the end of the canal so was easier to get to town from here. Because we were such a long boat, and our hose wasn't overly long, on the day of departure we had to go out and then return backwards to our berth to fill the water tank. Sewage made it to the end of the trip, though I must admit there was getting to be a strong smell of Lysol in the toilets near the end. Our first sight of viaducts near Chirk was exciting. But more of that later

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