And this is where the photo-story ends and the written description has to take over… Because for the next 10 minutes I had my hands too full to chance taking any photos…
Claire raised the lift bridge. The usual gongozzlers gathered, mainly mooching husbands abandoned to the canal by shopping-focused spouses… We entered the pool above Town Lock… only to find the bottom gates wide open and the top paddles fixed in the open position and sealed with C&RT ‘DO NOT TAMPER – DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE’ notices.
The canal had in effect backed-up at the lock and, in overflowing the towpath, was threatening to enter the adjacent shops… The C&RT solution had been to open up the paddles to increase the flow of water, in the process they had effectively utterly stopped navigation.
Whilst I was taking all this in, our Eileen was being pushed inexorably forward by the ‘flow’ of flood water churning against the lock that was impeding it’s downstream flow.
Why oh why hadn’t I checked the online stoppages notices before we’d set out???
We found ourselves suddenly, to put it mildly, in a bit of a pickle!
Unable to turn around, unable to steer in reverse using the engine, as the water in the narrow basin was creating of swirling vortex of water determined to trap the boat across the width of the basin, and – of course – an increasing crowd gathering.
Claire raced back to the lift bridge, and after several false starts to let people cross, raised it… I leapt from the boat with the stern rope to attempt to tie-off the boat and stabilise it’s rotation… That achieved I loosened the rope, and began to stern-haul her against the flow towards the narrows of the lift bridge.
An 11 ton boat, in flowing flood water against 1x sodden rope & 1x straining bloke… it was no contest!
I immediately found the boat getting away from me… I was being dragged by the current. Happily, and to my huge gratitude and relief, a number of grand blokes, seeing that I was genuinely struggling to keep hold of the boat, leapt to my aid and, grabbing the mid-rope, helped me manhandle the boat through the constriction of the lift bridge and secure her to bollards opposite Tooley’s Yard. Yes!
And the moral of this cautionary tale?
- Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by any canal, they have a tendency to suddenly turn and bite you!
- Respect flood water – it’s frighteningly powerful.
- Wintry sunshine doesn’t always mean you’ll enjoy a relaxing day on the water!
- Read the stoppages update before you go out winter-boating.