I Wedge & Hang My Narrowboat in a Lock

Good morning. It’s still quite early so I’m
making sure I’m going lovely and slow past any moored boats because they’ll be fast asleep,
but it’s lovely and fresh this morning. And hopefully, it’s going to be a nice day, and my objective is to get through Wolverhampton and out the other side. [Birds singing] Leaving Hatherton Branch behind I continued
to head south on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Travelling under the M54 motorway I
pass through a very narrow cutting. Autherley Junction leads onto the Shropshire Union Canal
to the west and Aldersley Junction where the Main Line starts to the east. With Dunstall Park Race Course neighbouring
the canal I travel through the suburbs of Wolverhampton. I was due to meet up with some
friends at Wombourne and Bratch Locks are just north of the town. I stayed the night just south of Wombourne
and proceeded to get stuck in Botterham Staircase Locks early the next morning. Very hot weather was forecast, so I was eager
to continue south where I moored up in a dense wood, shading us from the sun, just south
of Prestwood Bridge. [Boat running sounds] As I come down into Wolverhampton, just up
ahead there is a very narrow cutting and it’s only just about wide enough for one boat. Here we go. Hopefully I won’t meet anyone
coming in the opposite direction because I can’t see because all of the trees have grown
down over the canal. It is a lot narrower though and only just enough, wide enough for
one boat. There are little passing places like this
dotted down this stretch but I’m so pleased I’ve chosen to travel along this section really
early in the morning, because I really wouldn’t like to meet another boat coming in the opposite
direction. Because you’d probably have to reverse quite a lot and get into one of these
passing areas, but I haven’t met anyone yet, thank goodness! Just to the right here is the Shropshire Union
Canal maybe one day I’ll actually finish that one! [Music] You wouldn’t think we’re just on the outskirts
of Wolverhampton would you? This stretch of canal is really pretty and very quiet.
It’s got lots of cyclists and lots of walkers, and dog walkers. It’s quite busy with the boats
today, virtually every single lock there’s been another one waiting to go up or down.
But that’s what nice weather does for you! So here I am at Wombourne. It’s just sort
of south, southeast of Wolverhampton and I have arrived at Bratch Locks. There’s three
locks back to back and it’s a flight of locks. There is a lock keep on duty, which is a blessing
because they’re very deep locks. [Slightly worrying music] Okay, I’m at Botterham Staircase Locks. I’ve
never had this before and we’ve got a bit of an issue. The boat is ever so slightly
angled in the lock and because of that it’s wedged and it’s a good foot above the water,
hanging above the water. To try and explain what has happened, here
is a rather rough diagram. Alice is currently sitting in the top pound,
or the canal before the lock. As both locks were already full, I opened
the top gate and moved Alice in. I closed the top gate. All good so far. As per the instructions at the lock I opened
the gate paddle on the very bottom gate. This is when I made a huge error. I then opened
the gate paddles on the middle gate thinking I was clever and I’d get through the staircase
quicker. Both lock chambers have the same amount of
water in them. Instead of waiting for the bottom lock to fully empty and closing the
bottom gate paddle, I let too much water out of both chambers. So when that lock emptied, because of the
angle of the lock Alice got wedged in the lock and I tried moving up, I came down the
ladder and tried moving forwards and it wouldn’t move and I thought why is it not moving? And
then I looked down and the propeller was virtually sticking out of the water and I was like,
ah right okay. So effectively, this lock hadn’t got enough water in it to let it drift straight
through. So I stood there and wonder what on earth I should do. Open those gates so
I had the full channel and the only thing I could do is open a ground paddle, ever so
slightly on the top gate and let a bit more water into both and eventually because of
that, Alice rose in both locks and was able to move forward. Here’s what I should have done. I should have opened the bottom gate paddles
and emptied the bottom lock chamber completely. I should have then closed the bottom gate
paddles before continuing. I could have then moved Alice into the top
lock chamber and opened the middle gate paddle. As both lock chambers have the same amount
of water in them, the level would have equalised correctly, and I could carry on down through
the second staircase lock and onto the bottom canal. I’m sorry to say, filming all of this wasn’t
my primary goal here. Alice could have at any moment become un-wedged and dangerously
drop down into the chamber. If one end had stayed wedged, I could have very quickly and very
easily have flooded the boat and destroyed my home. So I needed to act quickly. It was a bit of a scary moment when your boat
wedges in the lock and the water of the lock is lower than your boat. Follow the signs and don’t open the middle
gate to try and speed things up. Empty this lock, close the pedals then deal with the
next lock. That’s all I can say. It was literally 20 to 30 seconds, enough time for me to get
up there open both pedals and come back and of course you don’t know until both are level
and then you realise how, hang on a minute, there’s, you know couple of foot or a meter
or less than a meter less water in both locks and because of that, Alice got wedged. [Music] Well that was an interesting way to start
the day and it’s not even 9 o’clock. Oh dear. [Music] So I just came up the last lock. That was
a really good example of how being nice and polite, and making nice comments helps you. It’s something in life, in general really. Lots of garages will have ths special #### tax.
I’m going to have to bleep that word so I apologise. If you turn up to a garage, or you just turn
up to a lock and ignore people, then they’re not going to help you. Back at that lock there were two Canal & River
Trust members of staff. They were busy cutting the grass and making the place look good.
And I went up, said hello, thanked them for their work and said it looked much better,
because it did. And I got into a bit of a conversation whilst
the lock was filling up with water. Because of that, at the end, they could see I was
on my own, and as I was climbing back down onto the roof of the boat they said “don’t
worry mate, we’ll close the gates for you”. So it’s just a bit of nice, a bit of pleasantry
goes a long way because otherwise I’d have had to stop the boat, get out and close the
gates again. [Music] As record summer temperatures were forecast,
it was great to be able to move my entire home under the cover of these trees, protecting
it from the suns heat. It turned out to make a huge difference to the temperature onboard
and something I shall remember for the next heatwave. Until then, I’ll see you later.


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