Victor: Putting it in perspective

Published: Sunday, 08 October 2017

I REALLY must congratulate Jimmy Lockwood on his article 'The law of unexpected circumstances', sensibly explaining the reason for so many lock failures and putting it all in perspective.

Proving beyond doubt the reason for the latest failure of Bagnall Lock at Alrewas on the Trent & Mersey that can at present only be operated three hours a day by Cart personel, due to its broken balance beam, for which, alas, many boaters, me included, are responsible.

Bagnall LockBut not boaters' fault, I hasten to add, but that of the bottom gates that are not balanced properly and so swing open before boaters can get to the top gates to let water in.  The only answer—before attempting to close them, open a paddle on the top gates so that when you close the bottom ones they stay closed.  Usually coming together with a thump as they crash together by the force of the water.

Doing them no good at all, in fact as shown time and time again, shortening their life. But with only one person operating the lock, as is normal, there is no other way. 

Cart's answer, was not to have the gates properly balanced, but to install two struts to hold the gates closed, but of course they only lasted a few months, and so the first balance beam has failed, and no doubt the other one will quickly follow.

Those at Cart obviously realise the problem, but after getting rid of the workers that knew how to balance gates, is there anyone now capable?  The contractors, having no prior knowledge, certainly aren't.

Though the bottom gates are the worst, it is a top gate balance beam that has broken, the one that swings open after the boat goes into the full lock, and thus gets the 'slamming' treatment.

Bishop MeadowNow epidemic

This problem of having to first allow water into a lock to hold bottom gates to keep them closed is now epidemic, as it is no longer a case of a few unbalanced gates, but hundreds.

On our last trip along the Leicester Section time and time again whoever was operating the lock had to first open a top gate/ground paddle to make sure the bottom gates would remain closed, the crash as they come together obviously shortening their life, and I might add, the life of the cills as the gates whack together.

The picture shows the bottom gates of Bishop Meadow Lock that swing open, with the constant crashing of the gates to hold them closed resulting in leakage from the cill and the sides, in addition to the now usual 'hole' where they meet.

Pretty pictureAnother hold-up

Whilst on the Leicester Section, the three hold-ups on our trip—three days waiting for Whetstone Lane Lock to have two strips replaced; stopped at Foxton Flight for two days owing to traditional boats using it; the fence pole stuck in Birstall Lock—there was a stoppage notice telling us the Soar from Belgrave Lock in Leicester to Redhill at the Trent on the Monday was closed until further notice, and the Monday and Tuesday were the days we were using it.

The notice told that the red lights were activated and therefore no navigation.  Luckily for us, it was the usual Cart cock-up of not knowing its backside from its elbow, as the red lights were definitely green and the flood had subsided!  But what would they know, eh?

Anyway, above is a rather pretty picture of a pair of locks gates from the Leicester trip.

Have they thought?

I expect the idea of now installing electric hook-ups for continuous cruisers on the moorings in London to reduce pollution from stoves was from the 'greens', obviously knowing little of what they were suggesting.

Have these people ever enquired how many boats have, or even could, heat their boats or cook by electric and how much extra it will cost to have a hook-up?  Most hook-ups will not provide enough power to heat a boat, most only allow about six amps, enough to run a kettle and television with a few lights but not an electric fire etc, and who carries an electric fire or cooker anyway?

Providing electric hook-ups will have very little effect on the amount of coal and wood that is burnt by the boats moored there.

No luck

I expect my regular readers will be aware that after being clouted in Husbands Bosworth Tunnel by an hire boat in dead centre, we are in need of a replacement green navigation light.

green lightArriving at the boat last week it was not much good trying Sawley Chandlery, all is closed on Tuesdays, so it was another trip to Mercia (why the hell won't Jan let us moor there, a lot more services and cheaper too, I don't know) to visit Midland Chandlers. But no luck there either. Yes, it had plenty of port, red, navigation lights, but ner a green one.  Stocktaking I reckon must be somewhat lax.

Not deterred, it was then to Stenson Marina, that we learn is now much better organised having being taken over. Alas, we were told the chandlery has not yet been set up, so no navigation light.  However, a decent meal from the Bubble Inn was some recompense.

So what do we do?  Amazon Prime of course.  Delivered the following day—even on a Sunday. And the chandleries have only themselves to blame.

Victor Swift