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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Disaster averted...twice

It's been an interesting day, if not a little frustrating. Setting off by 8.30am we were again lucky to meet another boat by Pilling's flood lock   This time a day boat full of kids, mums, dads, grandmas and grandads, complete newbies and looking forward to a day out.

Pilling Flood lock and the day boat in front
Before we reached Barrow Deep lock we had to go through a bridge with two main arches scanning the Soar. Either arch could be taken but we choose the right arch. Bad, bad mistake and I must warn anyone doing the Leicester section of the Soar to take the left-hand arch. Unbeknown to us several boats had been stuck on something under the water, the last one by several hours. We almost came a cropper as FS reared up, slipped sideways and then righted herself. A local moorer explained that a large lump of concrete had been dumped over the bridge causing a real hazard and danger to boaters. Ian did no more than report it to C&RT who seemed very surprised to hear of it! I would have thought with the stuck boaters previously this would have been reported many a time.

looking back
Anyway, we eventually get to the lock and the day boat was already there. Now, this is where things could have turned disastrous. When we turned up they admitted they had very limited knowledge of what to do. They got the boat in, roped up and, because they thought we had to get in behind them, pulled forward to the top gate. Ian came in behind and put the bow of FS next to their stern (this lock is long!) I was closing the bottom gate when the top gate paddle was suddenly wound up. Blooming 'eck...the water gushed out of the gate paddle and over the day boat.  I screamed at the chap opening the paddle to drop it quick. Thankfully he did just that and then went quite pale when I told him he may well have sunk the boat with the family in it as the water had only just stopped short of pouring over the front and into the lounge area! So the question I asked myself was did the hire company tell them how to do the locks safely, or did these hirers not bother to listen properly? For good measure, I also explained about keeping the boat forward of the cill on their way back to base. Didn't want them to get hung up on that!

Easy to flood this dayboat judging by the design. Most of the kids trying to haul the boat back toward the side. Another dangerous moment !
Before Mountsorrel lock, we came across these guys. Looked to be spraying some sort of weed killer along the bank and it was only as we passed that we realised they were trying to get rid of the PennyWort.

The day boaters stopped above this lock deciding they needed a pint at The Waterside Inn. We carried on to Cossington lock and it was here that I found the top gate paddle left up. But trying to drop this paddle was impossible. It could be neither opened or closed meaning we couldnt get to equalise the water and open the bottom gates. In the end, Ian had to nudge FS to the gate and try to drive the boat forward. It worked and although we dont normally open gates this way, it was all we could do to use the lock. Another phone call made to C&RT!

For one paddle to be out of sync with the other must mean a major problem for C&RT to sort out. Another stoppage perhaps?
The rest of the journey to Birstall was made in the rain and a very welcome sight when we found the visitor moorings free. Early start for us tomorrow. We must get through Leicester as quick as possible (bandit country) but on the plus side, the Leicester Waterways festival is also going on so this may help keep the undesirables away!

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