Downhill duo

Friday – Hatton Top Lock to Saltisford Arm, Warwick: 3 miles, 21 locks
          “Early start,” said the Captain. “Get down the locks before it’s really too hot.” 

So, before 8am the boat was waiting at Hatton Top Lock for a cruising partner.

 Nothing and nobody was moving.
           A van turned up to try to deliver supplies to the cafe – but no staff had yet arrived.
          Water tank topped up.
          Breakfast dishes washed and put away.
          Still no movement.  At 9.20 the crew agreed to start the descent. Down lock 1,

cruising past the cafe to lock 2. A glorious smell of bacon being cooked was wafting across the canal.

Into lock 2.
          Then the Captain espied an arrival at the Top Lock. Cleddau was paused, to await the second boat. Down it came. “We’ll breast up,” said the longer boat’s skipper, “it’ll make things quicker.”  Now ‘breasting up’ is not new: Cleddauwas tied to Markland years ago to be rescued on the River Avon. At least three times she has gone up or down a lock flight tied bow and stern to another boat. The colours on nb Ocean Princess looked rather familiar,

the colours of the Wyvern Shipping Company based at Leighton Buzzard, but this boat wasn’t part of the hire fleet..
           The skipper tied the boats together,

bounded back up onto the lock side and wound up the paddle. How was this going to work then, thought Boatwif, she stranded in a lock in charge of two boats…?

 A system emerged: co-boat’s  Skipper dealt with front paddles and one lock gate, the Captain always kept ahead to prepare the next lock, co-boat’s first mate dealt with closing up the locks while Boatwif saw to her back gate and kept the boats clear of the cill. The skipper, blessed with long legs, agility and boundless energy, re-joined his boat once the gates were open and off the pair would go. Fast, really fast, between locks 2 and 3. “Think I frightened your wife that first time,” the skipper later confided to the Captain. It was certainly alarming… It was still cool and the slick operation proceeded.
           “Best not to count the locks,” came the advice from Ocean Princess,” just keep going.”
            As forecast just after 1030 the cloud thinned and the sun began to burn through. Upcoming boats began to appear.  “Why are they tied together?” asked an onlooker. “Is one boat broken down?”  Thankfully no!
           Down the boats went. There was little chance of back deck to back deck conversation at first as the locks are so close together. Details of each other’s itineraries were swapped, the Skipper keen to hear about the Droitwich Canals. The Captain however, managed several joined up conversations.
           The final lock gates were closed on the bottom lock at 1128: the Ocean Princess crew had descended the Hatton Flight in less than two hours. They set off, bearing left at the bend,

towards Leamington Spa while Cleddau negotiated her way into the welcoming Saltisford Arm.
          Look again at the photo.
          Spot anything unusual? Nobody on the back deck? Of course not, for that boat has not one, not two, but four steering positions.

This apparently is the owner’s boat – the owner of Wyvern Shipping, that is.

           The Saltisford Arm, less than a mile from Warwick’s town centre,

welcomes visiting boaters. There are wonderful facilities here for boaters – and plenty of space tonight to set up a table outside on the grass for an outdoor dinner.            As you descend the Hatton Flight you see quite clearly the distinctive square pinnacled tower of a major Warwick Church.

It is St Mary’s. Inside today it was cool and calm: while a flower arranger tweaked the floral displays a hidden organist practised some pieces.  The Beauchamp Chapel is breathtakingly splendid and visitors should not miss it.

            Among Warwick’s buildings are some twentieth century monstrosities but you are more likely to remember the pretty black and white timbering such as this (note the Lebanese Restaurant),

or  ancient pathways

to the castle or Warwick Castle itself…

            Windlasses and mooring pins are being put away again for a few days while there is a planned recall to Bedfordshire. After that… probably the Grand Union continuing south before a swing back east and then north…


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