The predicted storm blew in exactly on schedule at noon. Fortunately, by then we had cleared all the remaining locks and found a nice mooring in a remote spot a little way past Smeeton aqueduct. Once again, we are having a quiet evening of gentle conviviality while the wind howls outside. The connection with nature in its raw state is invigorating and rejuvenating. We both look and feel extremely well!
The day began at first light. We knew we wanted to get through the remaining seven locks before the storm came in. Things went pretty well, until the second lock in the Kibworth flight – the interestingly named ‘Taylor’s Turnover Lock’. The gate in one of the downwards paddles was wedged open, for some reason, and could not be budged. This meant that water was continuously flowing through the lock, with two potential consequences: we would become stuck in the lock because we couldn’t open the top gates and, if we got through, there wouldn’t be enough water left in the next pound to float the boat.
We narrowly avoided the first fate, by waiting for the precise moment when the water balanced on either side of the gates and then both heaving on the beam end to quickly force it open. However, we did not avoid the second predicament, and Andy found himself aground in the middle of the pound. The only solution was let water down through the lock above to re-float the boat. This of course drained water from the pound above, but happily, the top pound was deeper than the rest, so we were able to make it through. We phoned the Canal and River Trust to report the problem, and they will send someone out to fix it soon.
So it was with some relief that we finally reached Kibworth Top: the last lock on our voyage.
But the day’s challenges were not over yet!
Almost immediately upon clearing Kibworth Top Lock we had to go through Saddington Tunnel.
This took longer than expected. The tunnel is crooked and rough, despite being fairly short (880 yards). Apparently it is home to some rare bats.
For the first time in this entire trip we met a boat coming the other way. It is just typical that this happened in a tunnel! He also reported that he had only met two other boats on his trip: both of them in tunnels.
Still, this experience gave us an opportunity to use our tunnel lights for the first time. LED lights are very good, giving a clear strong light, and consuming little power. We have them throughout the cabin and our headlamp is also LED.
As we cleared the tunnel, the wind got up and the rain started lashing down. We traversed Smeeton Aqueduct (not particularly spectacular) and arrived in some open country with good pilings on the towpath side for mooring. We have had to bring in the plank on the roof, because it was beginning to bang about ominously. We had visions of it being blown into the canal.
So, with all hatches battened down, we have settled in front of the fire. Rosie has been running backwards and forwards all day, overseeing operations.
She is so confident now she stands with her paws resting on the outer edge of the gunwale as we travel along!
But all the excitement has exhausted her:
Tomorrow we expect to reach our home mooring at Market Harborough. The weather forecast is pretty rough, but not as bad as today. The end of the maiden voyage is in sight.