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The Lock Keeper

Lock keepers have been working on Britain's canals for hundreds of years, often living by the lock and collecting tolls. Tolls were obviously a major part of the job and the money was serious enough that a lock keeper would have to have surety in case he defaulted. These days lock keepers are volunteers who help to look after the waterways, assist boaters, and maintain historic locks. But more of that in a bit.


Since the last blog we've travelled south as far as Linslade stopping firstly to get a pump out for the poo tank. It looked like the tank was approaching half full and therefore that we might or might not have made it back before it was full. For the avoidance of doubt, an over full tank is a very bad idea. On a yacht, which also has a poo tank that needs emptying, the emptying is by gravity through a small hole in the hull. It's very easy to block. So the rule on a yacht is, if you haven't eaten it it doesn't go down the loo. On a narrow boat the poo is sucked out of the tank with a pump. In case you're struggling to work out the implication, you can put toilet paper down the loo on a narrowboat, a real luxury for Ellison and I.


Enough of loos. After a shop we turned the boat around to start going north again using a winding hole, which are essential as otherwise turning a boat around in the canal would be impossible. They're basically an extra wide 'blip' in the canal. The only snag with using a winding hole and turning the boat around is that you have to go backwards as part of what is essentially the equivalent of a 3 point turn in a car.


In general boats are designed to go forwards but are poor at going backwards. They lack the traction that a car has on the road and only start to steer once water flows over the rudder and you have some momentum Then there's a phenomenon known as prop walk which basically shoves the boat to the left or right as the propellor starts to spin. So with a yacht, once you've over come the prop walk, you can generally get steerage after 10-20 meters. Narrowboats going backwards are like a 3 wheeled shopping trolly with a wheel stuck. If you start going backwards in Birmingham you might get steerage by Milton Keynes. Thus the backwards bit of a 3 point turn on a narrowboat doesn't advance the turning part of the manoeuvre much. The answer is tiller hard over and plenty of beans going forwards and they turn quite well going forwards and which direction you going backing up is no biggie.


We've ended up today just south of Three Locks awaiting a visit from our lovely Grandaughter Marigold, so she can see Nonna and Pops going through the locks. She then helped us fill up with water. She wasn't keen on the lifejacket, and she's not yet convinced the boating life is for her..


Back to the Volunteer Lock Keepers. There were 3 on duty today, we had a good chat with Robin and Adrian who also works at Stoke Bruerne. Meet Robin.

Also, meet future Stoke Bruerne Volunteer Lock Keepers, Vaughan and Ellison.

I'll finish with a picture of Three Locks taken first thing this morning. If you're local and haven't been, go, if you're passing by stop for a look, it's a top spot.

More soon.




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