Monday, 1 September 2008

Day Thirty-One- Things are locking up...

Uxbridge- Hemel Hempstead

Grand Union Canal

16 miles, 25 locks

In which the Duck and its crew breast up to Warrior to be more sociable and allow more efficient lockwheeling, and as a result of pushing on manage to cover a large amount of distance over a long, tiring but fantastically fun day.

The alarm went off worryingly early and we set off at 8:30, with the boats breasted up for convenience sake; this way, one of us could steer both boats leaving two people free to work the locks, which was far more efficient and allowed good progress to be made.

We passed a very large number of old ex-working boats, some converted with full-length cabins, others unconverted and high out of the water, with Jim explaining the evocative names and types- Large Woolwich, Northwich Trader, River class, Star class... it really was a shame that Sarah, true working boat afficionado, couldn't be travelling with us to see them all.

We pressed on with a lunch of bacon sandwiches, cooked on the move and eaten at the tiller. By this point, Jim had let me steer Warrior and I was as happy as Larry; I steered for the majority of the 12-hour day, and it certainly is a lot harder work than Lucky Duck. Warrior, as well as having that fantastic National DM3 engine, has traditional controls; a small brass speedwheel for the throttle, and a big handle for the gearbox, for neutral, forwards and astern. Rather than having the throttle and gearbox controlled by one handle, as on the Duck's Morse controller, with Warrior you control each seperately. It's hard work, because the speedwheel, having a fine screw thread to control the throttle, needs to be would a lot- but this isn't as hard as the gear handle, which needs a lot of strength to push and pull it. It's a bit like dancing, sometimes, going into a lock and juggling speedwheel, gear handle and tiller- but, having got the hang of it quickly, I was soon enjoying myself greatly and doing a good job. Jim was happy for the exercise of doing the locks and I just loved feeling like a proper working boatman, bringing a breasted-up pair through all the locks and the narrow bridge holes- even if the boats were some 20 feet or so shorter, not to mention easier to maneauver than a proper pair!

We pushed on towards Hemel Hempsted through greyer weather and into the twilight, as we needed to refill and empty the various tanks at the sanitary station and waterpoint at Hemel, and as a result we moored up, finally, in the dark. It was a long day, with a great deal of locks;I'd spent most of it at the tiller, and Amy and Jim had between them worked 25 double locks. We all retired to bed tired but content, and looking forwards to the next day's journey.


  1. Keep it up you Ducklings. I suspect you are currently the canal version of Celebrities (please don't cringe, but do blush). We're all rooting for you. I log on constantly to check you out. We're on our way to Reading but still lagging too far behind to catch up with you.

  2. OK, so the cultural reference may be rather old (were James and Amy even _born_ in 1978?) but I think it would be fitting if the duck was temporarily renamed as "Rubber Duck" for the duration of the trip. We got ourselves a Convoy!

  3. Nope, I was born in 1985, and James in 1987!

    but anyway, we looked it up! I like this quote:

    Melissa: Why do they call you the Duck?

    Rubber Duck: Because it rhymes with "luck." See, my daddy always told me to be just like a duck. Stay smooth on the surface and paddle like the devil underneath!

  4. Hello! I've been having a browse through to see how you're getting on, and it looks like you're doing really well! Hope you're having fun, I must come and visit someday

    Feef xxx