Courtesy and concerns on the T and M

4.25 miles; 12 locks 
     Imagine a courtly flourish. Yesterday afternoon Boatwif walked on from Red Bull Services to Lock 44, just ahead. A boat was just emerging, apparently crewed by one mature gentleman and one dog (its age unknown). The boater wound down the top paddles, stepped back onto his stern deck, bowed low and with a wide gesture and a twinkle said “It’s all yours!” How charming. Today during a much later start than usual (more later) Boatwif was positioned at the pair of Church Locks where a short pound of only about 70 feet separates the two locks.

A boat was approaching and a crew member duly appeared.  Gates, paddles and conversation were shared. “What’s good about locks is that you make a friend for three or four minutes,” he concluded.  Nicely put. In another act of courtesy and helpfulness Chris Moran of Aqueduct Marina has returned a call with a potentially helpful lead on Cleddau’s fridge problem…
      Aah, concerns. In 2002 a new fridge was installed by Devizes Marina. It is an Electrolux dual fuel (gas and electricity) model, normally very efficient. When operating off electricity it gets colder but it does drain the batteries. Normally during a cruise it is switched to gas. Since leaving home moorings last Friday the gas has failed to ignite and the Captain has become mildly obsessive about the percentage of remaining battery capacity each morning. (Now back up to 100%, he reports). So the search is on for a marine engineer who deals with gas…
     Of wider concern today has been water in wrong places (how familiar a moan is that!) A dank and drizzly morning was a deterrent to any early start. Boat jobs and admin were done. By about 1130 preparations began for the day’s cruise: boots, gaiters, caps, waterproofs, gloves… Yesterday, crisp against the black gunnel, had been this pretty flower.
      This morning the flower reached higher up the side of the boat

the water level was lower, much lower.  Boatwif walked a couple of hundred yards along to the lock ahead. Three boats were there. “Join the queue,” was the mantra, “there’s no water.”  The Captain dredged the boat along from the overnight mooring, failing to get the boat anywhere near the side. Gloomily the little crowd of boaters were gazing at a mud bank opposite,

willing the water level to rise. Eight boats there had been at the peak of the crisis, a C&RT man in attendance, orders issued to leave 15 minutes between each locking and rumours as to the cause of the waterless state swung between extreme carelessness and outright vandalism. A 75 minute or so delay for theCleddau crew; upcoming boaters reported three hours or so “stuck” without water.                The mostly dry spell became damp and then seriously wet. Tea was served in the insulated mugs, their lids keeping the rain out.

For once the Jam and Chutney lady was not at the Lawton Locks – maybe Tuesdays is her kitchen day!      
       Regular readers may know there is a long-term attachment to the Lock 57 restaurant.

It closed in the winter – and despite the now very fine mooring rings nearby, the sad sight of a skip in front of the building

and a strong wind bearing the endless roar of the M6 traffic the choice was to move on. Down then through Lock 57 (traffic roar), and the Captain called for a boathook. Lurking outside the lock was a rogue duvet, its sodden fabric and filling an ominous threat to a propeller. He hoiked it to the side but its weight was too great to lift onto the towpath…

Down then through Lock 58 (even greater traffic roar) and off towards the white painted brick bridge usually glimpsed when heading northbound on the motorway.

   

       The overnight mooring is past the white bridge on an open stretch. Behind the boat lies the always busy motorway and now that the skies are clearing the Mow Cop summit (accessible from the Macc) can be seen.

Another set of locks is not far ahead: remember, this is still Heartbreak Hill…. Tomorrow – perhaps as far as Middlewich.
 
     A Footnote: There was unexpected towpath entertainment earlier this evening. Right outside the front cabin window three cyclists came to a stop, dismounted and spent a good half hour with puncture repair kits.

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