A tricky end
With only five locks and two miles to cover, we timed our start to reach Bancroft basin between 10.30 and 11.00. We achieved our goal but it wasn’t all plain sailing. Our first job was to move the few hundred yards to the nearest water point and that was straightforward although the tap was slow and the tank was low so it took a while. While we filled, we watched the Anglo Welsh boat that had been moored behind us, pull into the side and then get stuck on the bottom. Fortunately enough, another boater was walking the towpath and he helped to get them afloat again but it seemed to take a lot of effort. This was happening about two hundred yards away so we couldn’t work out what the problem was. Once freed, the crew passed us and made their way to the lock. When we arrived ten or so minutes later, they seemed to be puzzling over what to do but knowing that they had worked the same eleven locks that we had the day before, we thought that there must have been something wrong with the lock. It turned out that the bottom gate had swung open and this had confused them. Andy and Shona were first time hirers and had been given no lock tuition at the base. They had been fortunate to benefit from other boaters helping them the day before as they worked down the Wilmcote flight. They insisted that we should go ahead as they didn’t want to hold us up so we accepted their offer and after we exited the lock, Sue helped to reset it and made sure that they were confident enough to keep going on their own.
The remaining four locks were a bit of a nightmare; the bottom gate on the first didn’t open fully so that involved a bit of a scrape through for Caxton. The next is built close to a road bridge and so one of the balance beams has a right angle built into it but it really could do with being a bit longer. Luckily for Sue a crew member from a boat coming up had appeared and told her that he would work the lock while she moved on to the next. I then watched the tall, thirty-something-year-old man as he struggled with the paddle first and then the gate. The third lock was alright but we got stuck as we passed through the bottom gate of the final chamber. In the end, our only means of escape was to leave Caxton in gear while I climbed up and added extra weight to the balance beam. Once clear, we edged into Bancroft basin and found a space to tie up.
That was enough boating excitement for us for one day so we showered and got ready to walk into town. As we left the boat, Andy and Shona’s boat appeared under the bridge so we waved them towards another empty berth. By the time we had walked around the edge of the basin, we could see that they were having trouble. They were up against the wall where the trip boat normally ties up and just seemed to be moving back and forth without changing direction. There was only one thing to be done
, we asked them if they would like some help and a moment later, I was reversing their boat across the basin and into the safety of a vacant berth. I made it look easy but it was all luck, for once the wind blew just right for me and the flow towards the Avon lock pulled us around in a beautiful arc.
Then we went into town!