The day started out well, we were up early, I took Dudley for his morning walk then back to LJ for coffee before we set off. I walked up to the little swing bridge before Fradley Junction then it was a left turn onto the Trent and Mersey and straight into Middle Lock, the volunteer lock keepers had already arrived and were preparing the locks for approaching boats, we were soon up that one and also Shadehouse Lock which also had a volunteer helping out. He warned us there was only one paddle working on Wood End Lock (about half a mile away) so it may be a bit slow filling.
When we arrived the left gate was already open, I seemed to vaguely remember it re-opening when we have passed through it before. I opened the right gate and as James was bring LJ in I noticed the left gate wasn't completely open so went across the bridge and tried to shove it open, it wouldn't go so I shouted to James that it wouldn't open any further just as the bow was heading into the lock, he put it into reverse to stop but it just kept going long enough to get wedged and he couldn't reverse out. I went and opened the top paddle to flush it out and that worked. We then tried to clear the obstruction with our pole and tried filling the lock a bit then emptying to try and flush whatever it was out but no luck. After about half an hour and some help from passers by we still couldn't get the gate completely opened so I called CRT, being Sunday I had to ring the emergency number and it was answered within a couple of rings, I then explained to the helpful lady the problem and where, she said she would let the area supervisor know immediately and he would call me back. 45 minutes later no call and a couple more boats had arrived, then a couple of CRT guys arrived and basically tried what we had already done, we all came to the conclusion that the paddle holder had come loose and was sticking out preventing the gate from being fully opened and they thought it was probably still held on by one bolt at the bottom and that's what the problem was.
They asked a boat to come into the lock from the top, emptied it and then went on the bow to try and clear it, eventually the gate was able to open fully so they suggested to get as many of the waiting boats through as possible, they didn't know how long it would stay out of the way for, and then they would try and tie it up and bag the paddle out of use as a temporary fix as there would now be potential for the paddle to fall out of line. We were next in the lock and all was fine and we were on our way again. So well done CRT for doing a temporary fix quickly and getting everyone on their way again.
We continued on for a few miles and passed the Armitage factory where the loos are made, and then met a boat on a wide part of the canal that was right over our side, they passed by with us being right up against the tow path bank and them being about an inch from the other side. James asked if they didn't like their side of the canal but didn't get a response at all. Next was a boat just coming through a bridge hole on a blind bend, luckily the boat was going slow and James managed to get LJ out of the way.
|Three now waiting to go up, there were two waiting to come down|
On approaching Armitage tunnel, which has had its roof removed I jumped off and checked it was clear as you can't see right through, there was a boat coming so I signalled for James to wait, I walked through as James was coming through and a boat was approaching from the other way I signalled for him to stop but got no response, then LJ appeared and James had the tunnel light on so he could see it and eventually stopped. We have come through this way a good few times now, there are signs each end to send a crew member to check it's clear before entering and not once have I seen the crew of another boat checking.
We topped up with water after Hawkesyard Hall, just before a sharp blind right turn and bridge, James walked up to check if it was clear before pushing off and a boat was approaching so we waited until it past, then set off, just as he was about to sound the horn, just in case a boat was following, we heard one being sounded the other way and quick reverse again to get out of the way, the steerer of that boat said no-one was behind him so off we went again, sounded the horn only to hear one from the other way back so again reverse. Third time lucky and we were through.
We stopped shortly afterwards in Rugeley ready to do a big Tesco 'stock-up' shop tomorrow and head to the Post Office to post a couple of pen orders off.
8.5 miles and 3 locks
TOTAL 111 miles and 126 locks