Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Day Forty-Five - Cratch Bang Wallop!

Woodford Lock - Warmington Lock

River Nene

18 miles, 10 locks

The bad luck continues- today we knocked the cratch board on a very low footbridge, scratched the side of the boat on a protruding pipe, and later- more seriously- seriously bashed in a corner of the roof on the medieval, small-arched Fotheringay bridge.

BUT despite these further blows (ha, ha...) we're still happy; these things happen with narrowboating, and the Duck has proved itself to be exceedingly tough.

The day started well enough, but coming up towards Islip Footbridge (marked 2.4 metres headroom in the guide- the heights given by Imray are, at best, fanciful!) the helpful gauge boards showed the headroom as more like 1.7 metres- or too low for us to get under easily. I put Warrior into hard reverse and slowed down enough so that we only lightly knocked the front of the cratch board; I tied the pair off to a tree at the back so we could stay in position, Jim held the boats back, and we put the cratch down, took all the chimneys off, and with Jim and Amy in the well deck as ballast (!) we managed to squeeze through with about 5mm to spare between the top of the roof at the front of the boat, and the top of the pigeon box, and the bridge above- precision narrowboating!

The rest of the day was glorious, really; the sun shone and we pressed on. James and Emma of Kestrel were, we knew, going to be on the move also and we looked forwards to seeing them for the first time in a month or so, hopefully in a pub!

Some of the locks were rather hard work. The Nene locks have vee gates at one end, and a guillotine at the other, and so as to help discharge water, there is normally a flow over the top of the vee gates. When the levels are high- which they were at Titchmarsh lock, for example- and the water level a foot or so above the top of the gates, an extremely foamy and powerful Niagara is created- it was just like being in the lock with all the paddles open.

The second misfortune of the day occurred when I was taking the pair through a narrowly-arched bridge. I really, REALLY dislike these bridges! The navigation arch tends to be off to one side or really inaccessible, so you have to turn the boats around obstacles to get through, or go through at an angle. At this particular bridge, I had to turn the boats as we went through and caught an awkward protruding pipe which I hadn't seen with the left-hand side of the Duck- there's now a nice four-foot long scratch, an inch wide in places.

However, that scratch pales in comparison with the wallop we took later on.

Approaching the particularly narrow Fotheringay bridge, we saw that we wouldn't get through breasted up, so with difficulty pulled into the bank and separated the boats out. We hastily tied cross straps on, and set off for the bridge.

And that's where the trouble started. The problems with navigating these bridges, whilst towing the Duck astern, are that in order to keep the pair straight in the stream- and the stream is extremely strong in the narrow bridgeholes- you have to be using a fair bit of power and, hence, going quite fast. The idea is that the front of the Duck is tied on with rope to the stern of Warrior, and prevented from moving from side to side, so that it follows on exactly.

Unfortunately we hadn't tied the rope on with as much care as we should have, and approaching the bridgehole, the Duck's bow moved sideways and ended up nearly alongside Warrior's stern. There was nothing Jim, who was steering at the time, could do- the front of the Duck's cabin hit the side of the arch full on.

This was an extremely scary moment- the boat tilted crazily over- maybe 30 degrees from the vertical!- there was a loud crunch, followed by the sounds of books, plates, crockery and all kinds of things falling. The boat did right itself, though, and we made it through in a cloud of brick dust and swearing.

It looked extremely bad- bits of bricks, bare and twisted metal- the corner of the roof was completely bent in, with twisted beading. It's made of 5mm steel and took a huge wallop. The photo above shows it after being bashed back into roughly the shape it was before.

We thought it was awful, but on inspecting the damage realised that it wasn't too bad. The cabin itself wasn't penetrated or deformed- just the cosmetic corner to the overhanging front of the roof. It looks horrible, but it's easy enough to sort out; 5 minutes with a club hammer got it back into roughly the right shape, and final filling, tweaking and painting will completely repair it.

Everyone was extremely shocked by the incident, and so we moored up as soon as we could- on the river bank just above Warmington lock, some 4 miles short of our target for the day. Amy was also not feeling well, and we stopped and sorted ourselves out. We spent a good hour or so cleaning the exterior of the boat of chunks of brick- the bridge came off worse than we did!- and putting the interior back to rights. Amazingly, all that was broken was one plate, having fallen off the kitchen counter- everything else was unscathed.

We thought that stopping here would put us too far away from Kestrel, especially after hearing from them that they only left Peterborough at 5pm or so. At about 9 o clock, we got a message- they were considering pressing on! I tried to contact them for nearly an hour, but they had no phone signal and, at 11pm just when we thought they must have given up and stopped further downstream for the night, I got a call from Emma.

I waited at the lock with my torch and, at twenty minutes past midnight, I saw their navigation lights and tunnel light come towards the lock. I helped guide them in, Amy joined me, and we saw them safely through and moored up behind us.

"Dr. Howard, I presume?"

It was late, but it was an epic feat to do so well at night, against the stream- and it was fantastic to see them again. We had tea in the Duck, inspected the damage, and came to the conclusion that it wasn't too bad at all. Bedtime was at the extremely late hour of half one- but it was very, very worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment