Sunday, 2 August 2015

Hungover at Hatton

A daunting sight – especially with a hangover
What better way to get rid of a hangover than to sweat it out lockwheeling up a flight of hefty locks? You can probably think of some but this worked for me today as we tackled the 21 locks of the Hatton flight.
The ex-Nobbys whose new vessel is even smaller
Harry's crew were feeling a little secondhand as we had spent the previous evening in the company of our friends Allison and Ian who were trying out their new camper van (sorry motor caravan) at Warwick racecourse caravan site just around the corner from us. Like a lot of boaters, the Nobbys have swapped life on a narrowboat for something even smaller and the ex-Nobbys are enjoying every minute and looking forward to getting to the places narrowboats can't reach.
The Hatton flight is not lightly tackled: its big, heavy locks start off at modest intervals then close up into a steep, sheer climb just as you're feeling the strain. And then, when you think you've reached the top at the waterways yard and the pub, oh no – there are four more hidden just beyond the bridge.
While the skippers of Yelvertoft and Harry chat
Their lockwheelers step out along the path to the next test
Fortunately, just as we were heading into the first lock on our own, Nb Yelvertoft hove into view so we waited and went up together. Two boats and two lockwheelers make everything a lot simpler – so long as they are slick operators and the couple on Yelvertoft were certainly that.
The flight was relatively busy so we had our share of easy out-and-in lock changes but as the locks get closer to each other so the lockies have to speed their work, getting one lock closed and the next prepared.
When you get into a rhythm, it's easy and everything works smoothly but it's surprising how inexperienced crews (that's a polite way of saying 'hireboaters') never seem to grasp that and all leap back on board for a trip of 100 yards rather than sending a couple forward to work the next lock. Ah well, maybe by the end of the flight they will have twigged.
You can't make mistakes in front of the Sunday spectators
As we neared the top the sunny Sunday gongoozlers were out in force so things had to be done extra efficiently with spectators watching. The place was teeming with them: such a pity then that the C&RT 'welcome' office was shut – it's manned by volunteers and, presumably, there weren't any. Shame.
Our enthusiastic young lockwheeler takes up the challenge
By now we were starting to wilt but we picked up an enthusiastic assistant lockie, a young lad who threw his whole small frame into shutting the lock gate and refused help even from his dad - "it's my lock, dad" he insisted. Then he was winding the paddle, throwing himself down on the windlass to force it round while yours truly relaxed in the supervisory role. And after that he sprinted like Usain Bolt up to do the next lock. That's what you need for a day's locking; a ten year old boy - just fill him with food, switch him on and watch him go.
Another daunting wooden boat project above the locks
Three and a half hours after starting the flight, we were done – in every sense. After that exercise, we pottered gently along the summit pound, through the short tunnel and finally moored at the little hamlet of Turner's Green, a mile short of the junction with the Stratford Canal. Where we will spend the next couple of days going back downhill again to reach Stratford and the Avon.

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