Saturday, 24 May 2008

Lock Dilemma's.

4 Locks, 7 miles. Now moored at Priory Marina, Bedford, Great River Ouse

Just as well there is no shortage of water, this huge lock for one small canoe

Today started out fine both in weather and cruising. The first lock we reached went without a hitch but upon reaching Castle Mill lock we found a CANOE in the lock going up river. By the time he exited the lock and 2 GRP cruisers came down, the owners of which requested we lock them through, we had been waiting close on an hour due to the size of the lock. After all this it was finally our turn.

Kalimera was the first to go into the lock and this is where our troubles really began. First of all one of the bottom gates wouldn't shut properly. We thought that perhaps the weight of the water of a full lock would fix the problem, wrong, the lock filled to within 3 inches of the top and that was it. After waiting half an hour we rang EA to tell them of the problem and our plight. Their recommendation was let the water out, open and close the lock gates several times and it should correct itself. We did this without success so we then opened the gates, opened the top paddles and gave the lock a good flushing, bingo the gates shut nice and snug. The lock filled to within an inch and then stopped filling again. The EA man did say we may have to use a bit of brute force so with 3 of us on the lock gates, Derek on Kalimera bought the boat right up to the centre of the gates and excerpted 18 ton of forward momentum against the lock gates and we were finally able to prise them open.

Now it was my turn and the bottom gates opened and closed OK this time. The lock filled OK but then stopped short of the top again. Nothing for it but to excerpt some more brute force but only 16 tons worth this time. The whole episode took us 2 1/2 hours to get both boats through that one lock and we were knackered.

A reminder what the force this river can do, a remnant of the floods

Pushing on we had been told the next lock was electric and would be easy, excuse me while I fall off the chair laughing. We were the lead boat and the lock was open so we went straight in. One gate shut OK but the other only closed half way and then jammed. No amount of pushing or pulling would shift it. Nothing for it but to secure the boat, put it in forward gear and do some more water blasting with propeller wash, problem solved and the gate shut. Just as Dot was lowering the guillotine gate after I had exited the lock 2 GRP cruisers arrived from Bedford so we did the decent thing and opened up the gate to let them in. Once they had exited the lock after a faultless locking procedure it was Kalimera's turn. Into the lock without a hitch and then shut the gates behind him, not on your life, the same gate jammed half way again, I couldn't believe it. So we carried out the same trick I had done blasting water past the open gate and bingo it worked again. While all this was going on there was a thunder storm rumbling all around us.

It had been suggested that we moor on the visitor moorings at Priory marina as it was supposedly only 10 minutes from town. Well we pulled into the marina looking for the moorings but only found one on what they call the sales pontoon and the other is the water and pump out point. Ah well, stop here and go and talk to the marina staff. The 3 members of staff were all at a loss as to what or where the visitor moorings were. Eventually they shifted a pontoon pump out facility to allow us to moor in its place. However we are still both blocking the water and land based pump out facilities but that's where we were told to moor. We are beginning to wonder whether or not we have made the right decision as town is not as close as we were led to believe but a good half an hour away down a gravel track.

While moving the boats to where the marina staff directed us, the thunder storm that had been making it's presence felt suddenly became a downpour and in a matter of 5 minutes we were soaked.

1153 locks, 1603 miles, 41 Tunnels, 41 swing bridges and 19 lift bridges since Nov 2006

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