Must Keep In Order! 25th August

Friars Mill to John Merrick’s Lake, Wanlip

Was that a boat? The noise and engine fumes suggested someone was on the move, but at 6:10am? I peeked out of the front door curtains, yep, someone heading to take up pole position for the lock queue. Half an hour later another two boats went past. Now there’s keen and there’s waiting for six seven hours! Each to their own.

We went back to sleep, maybe they did too!

If anything my head was a touch worse this morning, more pills required. Tilly’s incessant shouting at the back door drove me outside where Mick was listening to a one sided game of solar panel Top Trumps. More boats had come past, it was now 11am, I’d rather be moving ourselves round to the lock cut than being sat pinned to the pontoon. I sat in the bow for a while, then another boat came past, was that seven boats ahead of us now? Thankfully our neighbour soon united and pushed off, we followed suit, we’d be boats eight and nine.


Round the bend new housing has gone up, the route to the lock felt longer than before and sadly tags now cover the Frog Island mural as you arrive into the cut. Here we had to stop. Ahead a line of single boats led up to the lock, where we were boats were breasted up, if we reversed we’d be a touch too close to the weir. Word was passed to us that the boats ahead were going to breast up, in order of arrival, no pulling alongside a boat ahead and jumping the queue! It looked like most boats had dogs on board so had taken wall positions for ease of getting them to land during their six hour wait, now woofers were passed from boat to boat and up the high wall to go for a pee. I’d have managed it no problem, but I had to make do with my pooh box!

Lots of boats

The boats at the rear of the queue couldn’t be bothered to move up, we’d all be getting through the lock today, so last nights neighbour jumped into seventh position and we managed to now be sixth. There was still quite a wait to be had and within an hour there were another two boats pulling in behind everyone else. Eleven to go down today, how many to come up?

An early lunch, a little wander around Frog Island. More chaps in blue arrived, the first one had been here at 10am. The pickup reversed round on the off side, the fence was undone and pulled out of the way. The bottom paddles were lifted, the lock emptied then the chain winch pulled the bottom gate open that bit more until the water was level.

A chap with a clip board came to give us our instructions. We’d be going into the lock in order that we were moored in, only one person on the boat whilst it was in the lock and to stay as close to the bottom gates as we could.

Two boats came up, the second one hadn’t booked, they’d just turned up and been allowed through, not so many upstream boats today, in fact only three. The first two down stream boats pulled into the lock.

A new chap in blue arrived, we’d seen him at Stenson Lock a few years ago. He stood above the mitre on the top gates, took a photo chatted to Frank the volunteer. Then he checked one of the gate paddles.

Moving up

Boats above the lock now jostled to keep in their order of arrival! I suppose if you’ve sat there waiting for six hours you don’t want to loose your position. We’d be in the third locking. Once the third and final boat had come up the lock, we were told that it would be much quicker getting us all down now. We couldn’t be bothered to move up and cling onto a rope. Once the boats ahead were heading for the lock we untied, I stayed on the bank and Mick hovered waiting for our turn.

Encouraging the gates to close firmly

Once in the lock the chap from Stenson checked the positioning of the top gates before the bottom paddles were lifted. Presumably they sealed better being closed in a certain way.

Paddles lifted, water drained, water bubbling behind Oleanna and NB Somewhere Else, the chain on the winch was pulled, pulled again and again, the remainder of the water draining from the lock, the gates opened.

On our way again

THANK YOU! We were through.

Time to climb back on board and head to the next lock. Our locking partners were old hands, having lived aboard for nine years, then moved back to land, but this year they bought their current boat and hope to down size their house to spend time between the two.

Locking down

We worked our way through the locks, at Belgrave Lock there were the obligatory kids in canoes on the weir stream and plenty more by the centre. Wiggles round on the river, lots of Himalayan Balsam on the banks.

As we came round the last bend before Birstall Lock we’d caught up with the two boats ahead. There seemed to be a problem, one boat being pulled back into the lock landing. The other boat went into the lock whilst the weed hatch was lifted on the other. Large chunks of cushion filling were being brought out from below, this could take a while.

We’ve caught them up

The lady holding the rope apologized for holding us up. I offered the use of our propmate. Just give me a minute said the chap as he pulled more and more out from his weed hatch. Now if this had been us, we’d have waved the next boat straight into the lock, not knowing if clearing the prop would take a minute or twenty, more boats were going to be arriving after all. After quite a while Mick suggested that maybe we go ahead and free up some lock approach for the next boats to arrive. Reluctantly we were waved onwards, after all we’d now jumped the queue to forth position and when we left the lock we’d jumped into third!

Quick Go Go!

Not much room for boats below the lock, we planned to carry on for a more cat conducive mooring. Down Thrapston Lock and on to find a mooring alongside the lakes. We pulled in where there was long grass, nappy pins not easy to use in such a place so Mick got out the spikes. I stood holding the bow rope, my head not keen on leaning over. I flicked an ant off my hand. I looked down, an army of ants marching up my right leg and up the rope in my left hand. I was stood on a nest.

Mick finished mooring Oleanna up. I jotted down our position as I do every day and then gave Tilly the rules and allotted shore leave. I’d just opened the back door when Mick shouted we were moving, too many ants! Luckily Tilly had paused to enjoy the view from the stern across the cut and I managed to grab her before she’d headed off into the trees. She wasn’t impressed at being bundled back inside the boat.

We moved up a few hundred yards and tried again, shorter grass and more importantly no ants. Tilly was given ninety minutes, off she went.

Soon we were passed by the next two boats, a short time later the next two, a while later another one. The last two must have stopped earlier. We all got through no matter what order.

5 locks, 5.3 miles, 6 pills, 1 shouting cat, 6 plus hours wait, 7 men in blue, 9th to 6th to 4th to 3rd, 2nd moored, 2nd mooring, 467825 ants, 1 happier cat, 1 quiet evening.