Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Canal Camaraderie

Working the Locks

Although some of the books on Narrowboats and the English canals, do not speak rather fondly of “Hire-boat” people (That’s us, BTW), but we have had nothing but pleasant experiences with the people we have met so far.

You meet people when you are working the locks, and generally everyone co-operates and you help each other when more than one boat is going through. There is a certain polite protocol with how you use the locks and if you follow this you get along fine. To conserve water you always let a boat that can drive right in use the lock first even if you arrive there first. On the last trip, the locks were big enough for two boats to fit in side by side (As in the picture I included in the post on the locks), but on this section of canals, the locks are only big enough for one boat at a time. Consequently if you meet another boat coming up when you are going down or if you are in a queue for a lock going in the same direction, your lock workers hang around and help the other boat. If there is only one or two people on the boat they appreciate the help working the locks. Standing around waiting for the clocks to fill or empty is a good opportunity to find out what is down the line. Other boaters are more than happy to suggest pubs or good mooring spots.
Waiting for the Lock

Today we followed another boat down through the locks for a while, and we had a good chance to chat with them about the trip. One day when Bill was working the locks, a man with two children showed an interest in how everything worked and Bill suddenly had two eager pupils who even followed him up to the next lock to “Help” work the gates.

Quite the Audience.
Today I did my first “down” lock, and unbeknown to me, I ended up with a very rapt audience of keen observers. There was a group of about 15 hikers who had arrived at the lock and were very interested in how it worked. Regis, Bill and Margaret were working the lock and I was piloting the boat. Everyone was listening to explanation about how things worked and of course they all turned to watch me bring the boat into the lock. Fortunately I did this one very well, and eased it in smoothly (If not as fast as Bill can do) so I expect I looked okay. This was the first time our Canada flag was commented on, so the group knew we from “Across the Pond”.

Even the wandering bands of teenagers hanging around under the bridge by the tunnel were quite friendly. 

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