Sunday, 7 September 2014

Another day, another waterway

A floating apartment block passes us
After a couple of days of hanging around in Castleford, we've moved on. Not before time, really, Apart from a handy Aldi and a friendly local boatyard, Supreme Marine, the place hasn't a lot to offer beyond a decent array of boat moorings. But when it's peeing with rain outside, tucked up on a mooring in Castleford is as good a place to be as anywhere.
Today dawned misty but dry and within an hour the sun had burnt the mist away and started to turn the temperature gauge up. We were ready for the off ... but then Seadog Brian decided to fall in again in an over-excited leap from boat to bank. With him hauled out and towelled off, we headed through the enormous Castleford flood lock – as big as a swimming pool – and on to the Calder part of the Aire & Calder; the Aire disappearing up to Leeds. The locks are still huge but all we have to do is push a few buttons and hydraulics take care of the rest.
Pimp my lifeboat!
The big locks date back to the commercial barge days but the only water-giant we saw was one that had been converted to a live-aboard. What a monster: not so much a floating apartment, more a block of flats. There's an entertaining assortment of boats on this waterway; lots of barges of every size and condition, widebeams, narrowboats, fancy plastic cruisers and even a lifeboat which had been given a serious pimping up job.
At Wakefield we got a rude awakening: the easy-peasy electric locks came to a sudden stop at the manual Fall Ing lock – one of the heaviest and fiercest we've encountered anywhere. Wakefield looks a busier town that Castleford but the sight of a sunken boat at Fall Ing and a drunken woman sleeping it off under a bridge on the towpath doesn't encourage mooring. We pressed on and at Thornes Lock just outside of town found ourselves officially on the Calder & Hebble.
As far as the eye can see is lock – a giant flood lock on the Aire&Calder
Like the Aire&Calder, it's part river, part canal but it starts with a section of canal and a lock that sets the tone – heavy and decrepit. Not that I mind; the electric push button stuff gets a bit tediously easy. Thornes is also a chance to try out my 'Calder&Hebble handspike' (or scrap length of 3x2 timber). The gate paddles on this and some other C&H locks are levered up using this rather than the familiar windlass. It's a crude but simple technique.
My Calder&Hebble handspike gets its first work-out
A short length of canal and we were out through Thornes flood lock into the Calder river. These flood locks are usually left open in decent weather – just as well since there are plenty of them and some are huge. A mile of river and another rickety slow filling lock saw us call time, ready to watch the sun set and a full moon gradually take its place.

1 comment:

  1. and the weather did improve....looks a great cruise. When are you upsizing to a floating condominium? Just think all those skills honed on Star and Harry sets you up nicely for the next conversion job!!!! Cheers