Thursday, May 08, 2008

Water, water, everywhere??? Anywhere???

We always knew that today was going to be interesting. We certainly weren’t disappointed! We had 2 and a bit miles, including a lift bridge and a lock, to travel before meeting the BW team who were unlocking the flight ahead of us, so we were away at 07:00 to get there for 08:30. The locks have to be chained up overnight to protect the precious water in the flight. If they were left unsecured the local “little darlings” would be draining pounds higher up and flooding sections lower down. More of that later.

The lock presented no difficulties, but it was the bridge I was dreading. The road that crosses it is a bus and commuter route and we would be arriving there at 07:30, right in the middle of the rush hour.

I trotted the 2 minutes between the lock and the bridge, so I could be all ready as they approached. When they were close, I checked for a gap in the traffic and pressed the button to close the barriers and lift the bridge. Then followed a very l o n g 4 m i n u t e s while the bridge inched it’s way up on its hydraulic rams. Why they can’t make these things faster I don’t know. The girls were ready, and as soon as there was sufficient headroom first Mags then Carol steamed through like the start of a power boat race. I dropped the bridge, still achingly slowly, till it latched in place and the barriers went up. I breathed a huge sigh of relief; no aggravation from work-bound motorists or behind schedule bus drivers! I counted more than 50 vehicles and a handful of pedestrians all waiting for me to press that little button. Oh, the power!!
The relief was so great in fact that I left my lock windlass on top of the console. I didn’t realise till we were into the flight heading towards Newton Heath.

Anyway, we met the BW guys on schedule, swapped phone numbers and set off down Lock 65 into Failsworth

Mills in Failsworth
All went reasonably well until we arrived at Lock 70 in Newton Heath. Since the lads had been down unchaining the locks that morning, some bright spark had opened the paddles at both ends of Lock 71, draining the pound in between.

Empty Pound
After a call for BW assistance, it was nearly 1½ hours before we had sufficient water to float down to the next lock. The upside was Carol spotted a windlass on the bottom cill, which would normally be covered by water. An improvised rod and we were in possession of a replacement for the one at Chadderton.

We continued on, and met 2 boats coming up at Lock 75. After they filled the lock and set off, we went down – and down. In fact so far down that the boats were sat on the rubbish in the bottom of the chamber when the levels equalised. Another ¾ hour spent flushing water down from the pound above and we scraped over the cill and into relatively deep water.

Stuck in Lock 75
At Royal Basin in Miles Platting we found all the water that had been let down earlier. The paths both sides of the channel were inundated.

So that’s where all the water is!
Out of Miles Platting (a bit like Beirut) and into the home straight.

Carol at Lock 82. Just one more to go…
And here it is
We moored just below the lock, at Piccadilly basin, at around 15:00. The stories we’d heard about the rubbish in this stretch were accurate. We each had to stop twice to clear props. On one occasion, Corbiere’s prop was so tightly bound that the engine stalled when it was put into gear! We had a bit of friendly banter from a group of chaps enjoying the morning in a canalside pub, and there were several people who commented that it was good to see boats on the canal again.
If more boats used it, I think it would get better. Yes, the locks are heavy, and there’s a lot of them. And yes, there have been reports of problems with the local youths. But there are the same problems elsewhere, too. You just have to take precautions. The moorings at the Irk Aqueduct and at the other end, at Ducie Street Junction (Piccadilly) in Manchester, were no trouble.
It’s a long day, and would have been easier with bigger crews, but very satisfying to reach the junction with the Ashton. Of course. This isn’t the end of the road. Tomorrow we’ve the last 9 locks (The Rochdale 9) to Castlefield. A doddle.

Locks 19, miles 6¾

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