Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Role reversal

Day 28, Broxbourne to Clapton

True to my word of yesterday, I did all the steering today, eight hours' worth, and have a whole new set of aching muscles to show for it (my locking muscles now apparently being in peak condition). I negotiated eleven locks, including setting down and picking up Jim at many of them, and nothing terrible happened. I have a new bete noire: people with narrow boats who open both gates and then leave them both open for me. If I can get a boat through one gate, then surely anyone can, and these Lee gates are absolute bastards; big, badly balanced and with relatively short beams. I think Jim was a trifle taken aback at what being not-steerer involves; not only locks locks locks but also in between making tea, making lunch, washing up... I did make dinner though (lentils again).

Stonebridge Lock, as we discovered on the way up, is semi out of comission while BW investigate water loss issues. It's one of three or four paired locks, of which one of each pair is electric. At Stonebridge, the electric one isn't working, but the manual one is. But it's not ordinary manual, it's all windlass-operated hydraulics, including the gates. Each paddle was eighty-five turns in each direction, and I never even counted the gates. At least on the way back it started in our favour - albeit with both gates open - unlike when I did it on the way up. The next one, Ponders End (Yes! It's a real place and it has a lock), is a similar set up. When we got there, trying to remember which side to use, a broad beam was just going in on the manual side. They told us that they had been in the electric one but had to reverse out again because it wasn't working. I didn't like to go and check straight away in front of them, but we knew it was working the day before yesterday, and the thought of doing another one, and having to turn it first, was too much to bear so I went and had a quiet poke about. Well, it seemed to me to be working OK, so we bravely sailed in. And it did work. It's just that once you press the button for the paddles, they take their own sweet time. I'm afraid it was a nice feeling sailing out after five minutes past the broadbeam who had been in there half an hour (they weren't particularly pleasant people).

So here we are in deepest Hackney; well, Clapton, we reckon, which I believe is very much on the up and the new Hoxton, so that's OK then, as long as the demolition works don't start up again too early tomorrow morning.

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