Yet another early start revealed a fine fog had descended on the Montgomery Canal. The temperature was quite cool, and visibility was limited.
We had not expected this. But it was a very welcome way of keeping the blistering heat down. At least for a little while.
We breakfasted like kings, with another superb round of Eggs Benedict and cereal. Oh, and grapefruit for those that wanted it. Slicing and segmenting the grapefruit had been my job all week – and without a grapefruit knife at that! It’s a good job I’ve earned my grapefruit badge, otherwise it might have been a fruitless breakfast all week for half the crew, and that simply wouldn’t do.
Trevor conducted his usual morning maintenance, scooping out whatever gunk had been trapped around the prop, and generally making sure everything was as it should be in the engine department.
And then we were off, the plan was to motor along for as long as we had daylight, to put as much water under the hull as possible. You see, the Captain had a plan. She’d even worked out some speed / distance / time calculations to establish how far we should get today, and therefore how much we had left to do tomorrow in order to complete the entire length of the canal. It would be a gruelling trek of a day, but if everyone pulled together and mucked in we might just make it.
We trundled back along the full length of the Monty, taking it in turns on the tiller – I decided to steer the long, boring straight bits, which also happened to be the easiest. I did steer our boat, the Yellow Legged Gull (I don’t think I’ve mentioned her name yet… sorry about that) gracefully into one of the locks, all without bumping once and under the watchful eye of the Captain.
And as per the plan, we arrived at our morning mooring just before lunch, and by now the fog had burned off and it was to be another day of stunningly hot weather. So much so that Trevor decided to top up his tan, after a little housework that is.
I threw together a couple of pizzas at this point, so that we could eat lunch underway after departing the Monty.
With the sun beating down on us, Elaine and the Captain decided to lash an umbrella to the tiller, to offer some shade to the driver.
The top few locks in this little canal are padlocked shut each day, and only opened between 12-2PM. We were second in the queue to get out, but ended up fourth to go through the locks, as they operate a one-in-one-out approach.
I say “they” because these locks are manned by volunteers, one per lock today (yesterday there was only one volunteer in total). The Captain felt there were “too many chiefs”, and I must admit it did feel a little like overkill as each lock volunteer had a slightly different view on best practice: some kept us back in the lock, whilst waiting for the water to level out from the locks above, others just left us to move on as per usual. It was all a bit “fussy”, but we travelled through with patience and a smile, so it was alright in the end.
There was really only one incident of note during our final moments on the Monty: Trevor had been a little too enthusiastic and pushed the boat all the way forward in the lock, not realising (or so he says) that the gates in front were leaking ferociously. This resulted in two things happening at once: Water soaked the whole of the front of the boat, including the Captain (who was heard to let out a little scream), and Trevor’s flip flops (not on his feet, I hasten to add) flew off the back of the boat!
Both Captain and flip flops were rescued before we moved on.
Passing so slowly through these locks didn’t help our overall goal for the day, but it did give the pizzas enough time to cook, and so we ate them on the move.
Trevor knocked up quite a powerful cocktail, named “Trevor’s Quick Gin”, because it’s not slow. I’m not exactly sure what was in it, but it was nice.
The next stretch of the journey was the long haul back towards Grindley Brook (the staircase locks), which was our target for the day. This involved lots of locks and lift bridges, and along the way the whole crew had a chance to try a little bit of everything. All hands were definitely on deck, to ensure a smooth and efficient passage of travel.
But it’s fair to say that by now the crew knew their roles, with the Captain and Trevor mostly at the helm, and Elaine and the Ship’s Boy working locks and lift bridges.
Elaine and I had refined and perfected our technique by this stage, and were looking forward to Grindley Brook. Operating the staircase on our own (without any lock keepers) was what kept us going as we slogged away at winding mechanism after winding mechanism.
As you can imagine (not that you’d want to), we were quite hot and sweaty by the time we finally made it to the staircase, having travelled for the best part of 12 hours by this stage, and the calls of “put your back in to it” and “go faster!” from the two recently showered and fresh looking crew members onboard obviously helped us along tremendously. The way they absentmindedly kept driving the boat into the lock gates so that we couldn’t open them was also most useful. Their lack of attention, and general sparkly cleanliness just inspired confidence and motivation in us. Or, so they thought at least.
What actually motivated us was figuring out how to get the boat down the staircase. It involved both brain and body, as we had to work out the most efficient way to get the bottom lock empty, the middle lock partially filled (we called this one the pot noodle lock, because you had to fill it with water to the exact height), and the top lock completely full.
It sounds easy now, but at the end of a physically demanding day it took some doing.
But we did it, and it was very enjoyable. We had a real sense of achievement.
Two quick locks later and we were moored up and ready for tea: chicken, bacon, and cheese. It was delicious.
We decided to round off the night by picking up a few provisions at the local petrol station, and taking in a swift pint of cider at the local pub, The Horse and Jockey.
It was just about 10PM by the time we got to the pub, so it would have to be a very swift pint.
It was the perfect way to end what had been a pretty perfect day. Lots of great weather, great company, and great food. Seems a shame to think we only have one full day left.
But I can guarantee we’ll make the most of it. After all, the Captain has a plan.