Sunday, 15 September 2013

Twenty three locks later

Devizes is a nice little town but after a week there cabin fever had started to set in and then there was the looming possibility of the mooring warden arriving with an overstaying warning.
It was time to move on, but with the forecasters warning of heavy rain and winds we decided just to head down a few of the six locks that provide a sharpener before the main 16 lock Caen Hill flight.
The worst is behind us
After three there was a pub - but it didn't look very promising. (Tripadvisor reviews speak of a 'grumpy landlady' and word seemed to have got around). So we went down three more to the moorings just above the flight. But they were full.
There was nothing for it; we had to go all the way down. So at 1.00 pm we started in drizzling rain and at 4.00 pm we finished in drizzling rain. In between we enjoyed a three hour weather window of dry weather and probably the easiest flight of wide locks we've ever done.
The flight was almost empty and since the last boats had come up the locks were all set in our favour. It was just a question of driving out of one and into the next.
It's a remarkable flight: massive side pounds store the water that empties out of each lock chamber ready to re-fill the next one down so none is wasted. They seem to over-spill back into the locks to keep the chambers full so there isn't the need to keep topping up water lost through leaking bottom gates.
The only irritation is that many of the paddles have ludicrously low gearing so you have to twirl away with the windlass to get them up and down.
Half way down...
...and we're still looking cheerful - if a bit wind blown
We were the only boat going down the flight and only passed one going up. And we were quickly into a rhythm. Vicky came in; I closed one gate behind her, she steered across and pushed the other shut if it had partly opened then joined me in opening the bottom paddles before hopping back on board. (I'd previously nipped down to the next lock and opened it ready for Vicky to drive straight out and in.) As she went out, I dropped the paddles and closed up. And so it went on, 16 times.
At the bottom the moorings were again full so we went on through the next lock and moored in the long pound after it. Twenty threelocks in a busy but enjoyable afternoon. Then time for a fry-up tea and the second half of Southampton v West Ham on Radio 5 Live.

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