Another early start saw Jerry and I walking to the bin with a big bag of rubbish, whilst everyone else negotiated the boat through a very, very low bridge (the Captain had to sit on the deck to avoid knocking her head off) to reach the turnaround location. Our plan for the day was to leave Manchester behind and head south again, to leave the urban canals and return to the countryside.
Having turned gracefully around, and slipped back under the low, low bridge again, the boat was fast approaching Jerry and I, it was time to get back on board.
The canals in this area are infested with geese. They’re everywhere, and clearly our security officer had an issue with one in particular, as just before getting back in the boat there was a splash and some feathers and Jerry dashed after one of the daft birds.
My world slowed down, all I saw was Jerry sprinting away at full pelt, and his lead in my hand. I looked down to see a small plastic ring attached to the end of the lead. This ring had, until that point, been attached to his life jacket. Now Jerry and his jacket were speeding towards the goose.
Slightly shocked at his unexpected freedom Jerry didn’t quite know what to do with himself. The goose wisely dashed across the water. Jerry didn’t. So, still a little excited about what just happened he came instinctively straight back to me, a big smile on his face. I didn’t even need to call him. He’d saved us all from whatever evil scheme the goose had been plotting, and we should all be thankful for that.
Despite these pre-breakfast shenanigans, today was to be a more peaceful day all around, a chance for us to actually enjoy trundling along the canal, rather than endure it. But before we could get to that, we had to repeat all of the locks from yesterday, only in reverse.
All of the hopping on and off the boat through the day yesterday, as we worked 26 locks made Jerry a little unsettled. He had so much to keep an eye on, so many moving pieces, that he didn’t quite know how to cope. Keen for that not to be the case today, Trevor the Dog Whisperer had a word with our security officer, giving him some life advice and words of encouragement. The two of them seemed to come to an agreement, and Jerry was a lot more settled for the rest of the day.
We adopted our tried and tested lock approach, with one person scouting ahead to the next lock, whilst two others worked on the first one. This made getting through the urban locks a much smoother and faster process (something we were all grateful for).
Upon seeing some one cycling along the canal, all wrapped up in a jumper and coat, Dr Trevor dispensed some advice as to why they’d need so many clothes on such a very hot day – “they’re low on blood.” Studies into blood levels / human body temperature are still ongoing.
Manchester itself was much quieter today. Gone were the crowds following the Great Manchester Run, to be replaced by office workers and children walking to school. There were still a few people around though, and at one point we even managed to pick up a follower; a woman who was fascinated with the canal boat. She hung around for a while, until she realised just how slow canal boating actually is.
We also had a crowd of onlookers when we arrived at Lock 92, the last lock before leaving Manchester behind. This is the lock next to the pub, the one where yesterday we had hordes of people watching us. Today’s crowd was smaller but equally as interested.
Lock-keeper Trevor chose to scout ahead for this one, it was the last lock, and his first chance to scout ahead.
He had already guided the boat into the lock by the time Elaine and I arrived. In fact he was showboating for the crowd, running from one side of the lock to the other, clambering precariously across the lock gate itself to dislodge a small tree that was wedged in there (he got cheers from the crowd for that!).
There was really nothing for us to do, he’d worked his socks off to make getting through this final lock of the day, this most public of locks, as quick as possible.
So it was a mystery then as to why the lock wouldn’t empty.
Despite doing everything required, the water just wouldn’t go down enough. There was too much coming in from the back gates, Trevor had assured us that sluices were shut as far as they could go. We would just have to wait it out.
So we waited, and waited, and waited… Some locks can be very slow.
The crowd began to grow.
The sluices at the back really were letting in a lot of water. For such a prominent lock, right in the heart of the city, you would have expected it to be in better condition. This was the leakiest lock we’d encountered so far.
We waited some more. The crowd got bigger. It was lunchtime now, and we were the most interesting thing going on in the area.
Was the water going down now? Maybe? It was hard to tell.
What were we going to do if the lock didn’t work? How would we get out? What sort of emergency number would you ring for a canal-based problem?
Those sluices really were stuck open, they must’ve been quite stiff if Trevor couldn’t wind them shut—or, as it turned out, he just hadn’t closed them down at all. Trevor!
A few quick turns of the handle, the sluices were shut tight, the leakiest lock was leaking no more. The water instantly dropped to the right level, and we were underway again.
I’m fairly certain Trevor left them open deliberately, he was having such a good time playing to the crowd.
In terms of progress, it wasn’t our finest hour. In terms of entertaining the people of Manchester, we were a hit.
Also, Trevor has now been banned from working all further locks.
Now that we were through Manchester and out the other side, we had a long, hot, but event free journey south.
We stopped for ice cream and we stopped for water. No dramas, no antics, no worries.
The next bit of the journey is a little fuzzy to me, I hear from the rest of the crew that it may have rained. I couldn’t possibly comment, I was too busy snoozing at the time.
I hear that Weatherman Trevor had advice for Elaine on how best to keep her feet dry when in the wet deck, “fold your toes up.” I’m not sure Elaine ever figured out quite how to do that.
Having escaped to the country, we were spoiled for choice when it came to mooring locations. Finally settling on a reasonably quiet section away from any other boat.
After eating some excellent steak pastry-parcels we even had time to play a few board games before settling in for the night.
This is the life.