Friday, July 10, 2009

On the strange practices of locks

Before Herbie gets home we have another 82 locks to pass through ( and interestingly, 82 miles!). I don't mind locks, they are the punctuation marks in the day, a chance often to meet other boaters, to chat to gongoozlers, and a way to get some healthy exercise.

(There now follows a discourse which non boaters will probably fail to comprehend, because its all so complicated)
However I can never understand some of the local practices. On the Ouse they have locks with a guillotine at the upstream end. On the Nene they have locks with a gullotine at the downstream end. Why they should be different I haven't a clue. When you leave these locks you have to leave the guillotine open, presumably to allow the passage of flood water. On canal locks with their vee gates you are supposed to shut the gates when leaving, except on the Lee and Stort ( and I think the Wey, but I might be remembering that wrongly) when they tell you to leave them open behind you whichever way you are going.

When you are approaching a lock on the canal, what you want to see is a boat coming the other way, meaning the lock is in your favour. On the Nene if you are going upstream, you want to see a boat approaching the lock from the other direction so you don't have to empty the lock as instructed. It all takes a bit of getting your head round.

It has to be said that the Ouse and Nene locks, although very often in a beautiful setting, are a pain. For a start the gullotines are so slow to lift and drop, and should you pause when raising the gate for any reason and accidentally press the lowering button for a millisecond when you resume raising, the flipping safety timer starts again and makes you wait another two minutes before resuming. And I haven't mentioned the half dozen locks which required you to spin a big wheel two hundred times to raise the gate and the same again to lower them.. Lovely.
Then there are the landing stages. These never seem to be in a good place. By the time you have stopped there to let off the crew, you are inevitably well out of line with the lock and have to do a sort of slalom to enter the lock. Worse still is the task of getting to the upstream landing stage when exiting the lock. Consider this diagram. (actually it's rather worse than I have drawn it.)

There's the boat in the lock waiting to come out. The landing stage is at an angle outside the left of the lock. The probem is that you can't begin to turn the boat until the back of it is past the extended lock walls, because the back needs to swing out to get the front in to the landing stage. So by the time you can turn the boat you are already half way past the stage. So what you have to do is,

1. Exit the lock pointing the boat away from the landing stage

2. When you are in the clear, do a 90 degree (or more) left turn to get the front into the bank. (you are now at right angles to the landing stage with the front of the boat touching the bank.

3. do a full 90 degree turn on opposte lock to swing the back in

4. Reverse back to get the boat back alongside the stage

All while the current is pushing towards the weir which is often on the right. All very good steering practive and I have to say that both Kath and I got quite good at it!

Or you can go on the Ashby canal which has no locks!


Sue said...

Yep that works just fine as long as it isn't windy!!!!!

VallyP said...

Sounds like quit a learning curve altogether!

jonali said...

Yep, that's one of the problems I found and then as you exit the lock you see that all the local fishermen think that these handy hard standings are for them.