Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Narrowboat Day Two

Walking the Aqueduct
This was the second day on the Narrowboat, and we went from England into Wales. We spent the night outside of a town called Chirk, and went to Llangollen. This was a particularly challenging section of the canal with two tunnels, two aquaducts, and two sections of single boat width canal. Only one bridge and no locks, but still plenty to keep us busy.

The canal we navigated today starts at Llangollen, and so all the water for the canal comes from here. This means that unlike most of the canals, there is current which complicates things at times. When the canals are narrow, the current will move the boat more than normal.
Underground in a Boat

For the uninitiated, an aqueduct is a bridge that allows the canal to cross a valley. The biggest, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, was built over 200 years ago with stone arches supporting the 125 ft. iron water channel carrying the canal 127 feet over a river valley. You come around a corner, the canal narrows, and you are suddenly floating in a narrow channel of water over 100 feet in the air. Although you know it is a bridge, and there is a walkway and rail on one side, on the other there is nothing. You actually have to peer over the side of the boat to see that you are on a bridge. I was driving the boat, but the crew was snapping photos and the folk walking across the bridge were snapping holiday snaps of us. I expect to see us on Youtube anytime now . . .
Traffic Jam! Bill got me through . . .

We navigated two tunnels, the longest 191 yards long, under a hill. These tunnels are arched brick lined structures barely wider than the boat. There are no lights but the boat has a headlight. Although I have never piloted tunnels, I have been through a few and knew what to expect as well as the principles necessary to get the boat through. Unfortunately the boat ahead of us did not really know what she was doing and went too slowly and ended up bouncing off the walls all the way. Unfortunately this along with the current flowing through the narrow passage made it difficult. If you maintain a certain speed you can get through more smoothly, but even our slightly claustrophobic crew member made it through, although I think I heard a sign of relief as we exited into the daylight at the other end.

Travel Gnome on the Aqueduct

As well there was about 700 yards of single boat width canal where the canal was cut from a steep rock hillside. Now a narrow canal is not really that hard, but this section twisted and turned making some tight turns that our 70 foot long boat could barely get around. These narrow sections require some planning, because you have to let crew ashore to go ahead and check for oncoming boats, and to stop any boats coming into the section while you are navigating it, because there is no passing room and it is almost impossible to back up.

It was a busy day, and mooring outside the town of Llangollen, I was happy to relax with a nice glass of wine as dinner was prepared from in the galley. 

Note photo four by Shelley Glover

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