What a long day! We set off from Chadderton at 7.00 and reached Lock 65, the BW meeting point at 8.35. We had been told by BW that the Rose of Lancaster mooring was about an hour’s journey from Lock 65 but there was no way that we could do it in that time. There was a third boat behind us and we waited for them to follow us through Lock 64 so that we all went through the Grimshaw Lane Lift Bridge together. We were getting into rush hour and there were huge traffic jams by the time Liz and Alan had closed down the bridge.
When we reached Lock 65 there were two boats already waiting ahead of us. They were boats that had gone up the Rochdale only to decide that they were, at 60 ft, too long for the locks on the Calder and Hebble so they had reluctantly returned. Apparently on the ascent from Manchester one boat had to be towed for 3 miles with a tyre around its propeller.
After hearing all these tales we were facing today with trepidation. However, although it was a dreadfully long day and really exhausting it wasn’t as bad as we had feared apart from the area around and including Lock 68. The canal was, for a time, very shallow and we were advised to stick to the towpath side of the canal at all times. Alan and I had swopped over as we took Lazy Days into Lock 68 and I was steering. When I tried to leave the lock the boat wouldn’t move. The lock was deep and the only ladder was nowhere near either boat. There was also a very strong smell of petrol (a mystery never solved). Robert came over and very gallantly went down our weed hatch and retrieved a vast feed sack and various other assorted things from our prop. We had another go and got nowhere. Robert then went down his weed hatch to discover a huge amount of netting and a long metal spike. We tried again and as we were still immovable Alan decided to wait until the following boat arrived at the lock when he would attempt to flush us out of the lock. They arrived at the lock bollards and he opened the paddles to no avail. We then realised that the lock was rather narrow and as we had tried to move the boats out they had become wedged. Alan took Robert’s centre rope and Robert got up on his roof with his pole and pushed into an indent and managed to move Blue Point back and I finally drove Lazy Days out of the lock. I swopped with Alan at the lock entrance as I had had enough.
The locks over the first half of the nineteen lock descent were difficult to operate. Some of the paddles were very badly designed, many didn’t work, one didn’t close and there were some chain operated gates which were tricky. Liz and I got into the pattern of taking turns to go ahead to set up the next lock, and the one left behind opened one of the top paddles for the following boat before leaving the lock. So it was very labour intensive and very hard work. We passed one boat ascending mid way along.
As we got on towards the last seven or eight locks things got easier (and in retrospect Alan and I should have swapped over). There was now an over abundance of water. It was flooding over the lock gates and by washes, the towpaths and neighbouring paths and parks. I changed to my wellies, fortunately, as under one bridge the towpath was flooded to a depth that nearly reached my knees. It accelerated our progress because we found each lock full and the gates often open. There were two waterways personnel waiting for us at the penultimate lock, which was under a road so that we had to crouch to open the paddles. The towpath under the bridge was covered by a flooding maelstrom of water. Then we were through the last lock and moored in Piccadilly Basin opposite a multi storey office block with all its busy workers. It felt like evening but was only mid afternoon. If we sat down we would never move again so we headed off to the pub for a very naughty feeling mid Monday afternoon drink.
Today we did 7.19 Miles, 19 Locks
Statistics so far:-
2681.26 Miles, 1675 Locks, 177 Swing Bridges, 90 Lift Bridges, 47 Tunnels