Yesterday, with a crew of 7, we had to keep stopping for a break. Not because we were tired but because we were getting towards our destination too quickly! With the efficiency of a military operation we sped through the locks between Long Itchington and Wigrams Turn. How could these big locks fill and empty so quickly? Well, there's no getting away from it, it must because of those gert big paddles I've been complaining about.
Capt Ahab commented that they weren't hydraulic as I had thought, but had within their rather massive cast iron bellies a worm gear. I suspect he is right. Apart from opening a very big hole for the water to pass through, they have another redeeming feature. Once fully raised, you can whip off the windlass and let them close themselves under gravity. Not with a rattle and a clang like normal lock gears, but with a sedate descent, doing no harm to themselves.
For those unfamiliar with these beasts, here is a picture of our lovely model Bob (Who's a pretty boy then?) posing alongside one to show the scale.
Coming through Braunston today we were back to "normal" lock paddle gear, and I have to admit that the locks took twice as long to fill. In fact, thinking about it, the locks with the big paddle gubbinses probably fill as quickly as little single width locks. You can get through one in five minutes.
Having flogged yesterdays crew through a lot of these big locks and having forced them to stop regularly for tea and cake, pickled onions etc. (thanks R and M), we all got our reward with a splendid meal at the Folly at Napton. Should anyone warn you off this pub, check first if they have been there recently. The new landlord has wrought a great transformation in terms of ambience and food and the beer is good and prices very fair.
After the crew departed, leaving Kath and me in the pub to recover, we got a special treat. In the other bar a group of musicians of considerable virtuosity were holding a session.
Most people could be forgiven for not even recognising some of the the instruments, but being an anorak for these things, I can tell you that they were:
Guitar (of course.) a nice one made by Rob Armstrong ( I told you I was an anorak).
2 Piano Accordians (played a lot better than normal)
(Now it gets interesting)
Portative organ (bellows blown with little pipes like a church organ)
Shepherd Pipes ( an English pastoral bagpipe)
An intriguing folding xylophone
All played "real good".
We're only a day from our home mooring now, having crossed the remote plain between Napton and Braunston with its strange view of bridges to come seen across the winding hedgerows.
Passing through Braunston we found ourselves crossing paths with Nb Balmaha whose blog we often read. Quite funny really, each of us pointed the other's boat name, gave a surprised "Hello you" smiled and parted company like ships that pass in the night. Another time we'd like to say hello properly.
When we're back I have some stories saved up to tell including one about a magical windlass.