After a lovely meal out with family who we haven’t seen for a long while, we returned to find our narrowboat at a rather alarming angle. In the few hours we’d been away, the water level in the canal had dropped, leaving us grounded. There wasn’t much we could do about it at 11 o’clock at night, so extreme sleeping it was!
In the morning, John wandered up and down the towpath chatting to other boaters. It seemed there wasn’t much we could do about our wonky boat. We were well and truly stuck until more water came down the canal. We needed a few boats to come down through the lock above bringing water with them, or the Canal and River Trust to pump some water in.
We pottered around for a while, wondering whether we could go for a walk. However, we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to escape. Finally, at about 11.30, we noticed the boat begin to move as the water level increased due to a boat coming down from the lock just above us on the canal. Fantastic! We untied the mooring ropes quickly and John started the boat, as I pushed at the bank with poles to help free it. We had to act fast before the canal drained again. Thankfully we got away but, unfortunately the dramas continued!
Several other boats had also been grounded and had now broken free so the canal was busy with both moving and stationary boats. John bumped into another boat near the water station because it was so chaotic!
Next we entered lock 9 in the centre of Hebden Bridge. There were lots of people milling around as it was Sunday, and many watched as I opened the gates and John drove the boat into the lock. A cyclist stopped to help me with the gates and we chatted as we waited for the lock to fill. We waited and waited and waited. It was so slow! We worked out that the lock was emptying though the bottom gates faster than it was filling via the top gates. I checked the bottom gate paddles were shut properly, then that the top paddle in one gate was open completely. I couldn’t use the other top gate paddle because there was a metal box over it. We decided that John should ring the Canal and River Trust emergency number for advice. In the meantime, one of the spectators noticed that the metal box over the second top paddle wasn’t locked. No! Why didn’t I check that?! The cyclist helping me hadn’t thought to check it either so I don’t feel so bad because she has more experience of locks than me.
We didn’t really have time to calm down before the next two locks were upon us, Stubbing lower and upper, locks 10 and 11. This time I couldn’t budge the gates, even with the help of passers by. I didn’t need to open the paddles because the lock was empty but I did it anyway because I couldn’t think what else to do! It must have released some pressure somehow because the gates finally moved. Phew! John drove into the lock and I went to open the paddles in the top gates to let the water in to raise the boat. I then heard frantic shouting from below. ‘You haven’t shut the bottom gates! The water’s going straight out!’ John called. I ran back to the bottom gates, and closed them and the paddles, my pride a little dented! It was typical that this happened at the busiest lock! Thankfully, I didn’t have any problems with number 11.
After a rest and some lunch we got to lock 12. This one was also ok. Maybe, we’ve got this sussed now. Or maybe not! Lock 13 was a complete nightmare! John bottomed out in the middle of the canal just below the lock, while I was on the bank. Then, I couldn’t budge the bottom lock gates at all, even with the help of another passer by. John called the Shire Cruises office for some help and, once he’d explained the situation we were in and how low the water was, they agreed to come and help.
In the meantime, a pleasure boat came up the canal, to turn where John was stuck. I told him what had happened and he very kindly came to our rescue…. Our knight on a white charger… his words, not mine, but it felt pretty close! He told me to open the paddles in the bottom gates while he opened the ones in the top gates. The water flooded right through the lock, raising the water level in the canal below, and floating our boat again. Hurray!
The captain went off to turn his boat around, but our problems weren’t over. I still couldn’t open the bottom gates for John to drive the boat in, even with help from yet more friendly people passing by. We shouted to the captain again. ‘Push it open with the boat!’, he called. John said, ‘Really? Is that allowed?’ ‘Not really’ he replied and drove off. John followed his advice, easing the boat forward, and it did work, and didn’t damage the boats or the gates, thank goodness. Then I managed to open the top gates, so we got out at the other end. Phew!
Number 14 was the prettiest lock of the day and, thankfully, worked well. We also met another boat coming in the opposite direction so I didn’t have to close the lock again. The other crew would do that. We then moored up on a quiet section of the river, more than ready to relax. It had been a very long and difficult day, but it wasn’t all bad. We learned from mistakes and found out how to resolve some problems. We also met and were helped by lots of kind, friendly people, and we had a lot to laugh about!