Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Very regular locks, but nothing like enough water.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Wednesday 24th May

The decision was to take Flamingo to Berkhamsted, at laest for a while, whilst we sort ourselves out, and hopefully work out what can happen to Sickle.  I was now back with the boat, so with only one boat and three crew life should have been a bit easier. (But read on!...)

Apsley - almost unrecognisable from when Cath and I worked there.
I always reckon that on the Grand Union, south of Tring summit, as you pass down through Berkhamsted, Boxmoor, Kings Langley, Cassiobury, etc, you can broadly reckon on 2 locks per mile.  A few are in closely separated pairs, but the majority have maybe anything between a third of a mile to three quarters of a mile between them, meaning they can really only be set up in advance if the lock wheeler has a bike.  Today's stats, I note, work out at nearly 3 locks per mile, but the total distance travelled of little more that 5 miles fails to tell the whole story.

Mind numbingly stupid features to add to a lock that is in active use.
South of Berkhamsted, except in periods of real drought, water levels should not be a problem, as rivers flow in and out of the canal, and also the treated outfall from Berkhamsted sewage works contributes thousands of gallons.  However things seem to have deteriorated, and pounds that in the past would have been brim full, are now regularly very very low.  We encountered three very low pounds in a row once we had passed through the attractively named "Sewer", (or "Sewerage"), lock.  We reckon they were in order about 20", 16" and finally 21" down.  With an "historic" boat like "Flamingo" this can be a major issue, and at best we were stirring the mud throughout, but at worst grinding through bridges, and getting almost stuck mid channel. Time and time again we were near halted on the various rubble and other obstructions in the channel.  Frankly at times it was ridiculous.

Attempting to clear lock cill where gates not sealing.
These were not the only hazards of the day.  At the bottom Winkwell lock, David reported there were some 50 or more steel bolts that had been let into the masonry of the offside lock wall!  These were each projecting some two or 3 inches into the lock chamber, turning a wall that a boat should be able to slide up and down freely into a major hazard where a descending boat could get hung up, or an ascending boat could get held down.  There were no warnings, and although workmen's rafts and tools were present the workmen were not.  Until this point we were sharing locks with another boat, but clearly putting 2 boats in to this lock together could be a major hazard, so we elected to work through singly.  This is frankly the most mind boggling stupid thing I have seen happen on CRT waters  in many a year, and unsurprisingly we were not the only ones making urgent complaint.

Barely enough water for Flamingo to float in.
Some other locks on this stretch are in a very run down state, and leaking exceedingly badly - no doubt a major cause of the very low pounds.  However we though the bottom gates at Rising Sun lock so bad that we though something must be blocking them, and that the lock looked unlikely to seal enough to fill.  I spent some time with a shaft attempting to find obstructions on the cill, but locals at the pub assured us that it genuinely always was this bad.  In the nd we worked through it regardless of the huge amount of water being wasted.

Multiple reports about problems encountered were sent to CRT that evening, but I doubt much can be done about any of it whilst so little maintenance and repairs are being carried out.  All in all a rather depressing day, as we watch our most local canal getting steadily worse every time we make a trip this far South.

Apsley to Berkhamsted
Miles: 5.4, Locks: 14
Total Trip Miles: 144.7, Locks: 99

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