“Do I get onto the roof? Do I get onto the roof?” Jgirl18 shouted with a tone of panic growing in her voice.
“Jaala, get on the roof NOW,” MamaBear shouted, or perhaps even screamed. Ordinarily screaming does not help in an emergency, but in order to be heard above the roaring torrent of water cascading into the bow section where Jgirl18 was standing the boat the instruction giver resorted to LOUD. Panic SLOWLY, the boat hire trainer had told us. I am not sure how slow we had been
Jgirl18 has no recollection of asking the questions, but she jumped onto the roof like a scalded cat (giving herself a decent bruise in the process) all the while heroically holding on to the end of the rope that was tethering the bow section, and FadaBear pulled the boat back so that the bow section was no longer under the deluge rushing into the lock. It was all over in less than fifteen seconds, but those seconds had ticked by very slowly, and in the process we gained a first hand lesson in lock safety.
It had all started when we edged our 70 foot boat into what appeared to be a 74 foot lock. There certainly was no room to spare, and to complicate matters further, this lock had flood paddles that were actually in the lock gate themselves. This means that when you open them to flood the lock, the stream of water often bounces off the cill (the flat concrete base at the bottom of the lock gates) and fountains upwards. This lock had been more extreme than the others, and we had even taken pictures of the fountaining streams of water that arced in front of the bow of the boat – safely in front of the boat at first….
This lock we had changed over responsibilities, so the older boys were on paddle duty and the two girls were on rope duties. This subtle change, combined with the high risk lock flood paddles provided just the variables for near disaster. As the lock fills with water, the boat often surges around the lock unless securely roped off around the bollards along the side of the lock, and the people on rope duty need to continually take up the slack from ropes which is introduced as the boat rises with the water in the lock. This time, the inexperienced ropers didn’t manage to keep the ropes taught, and so the boat started to surge forward. This was not really a problem at first as we only had the paddles open a crack, so water was spraying into the bow but not enough to pose any real threat. One of the boys on the paddles was asked to close the paddle completely so that the water spraying into the bow would stop. However, inexperience meant that the paddle was actually opened wider instead of being closed off. Suddenly, the inconvenient spray turned into a rushing torrent of water that was surging directly into the bow section of the boat, buffeting Jgirl18 and threatening to swamp the boat. We were told you have two minutes until the boat sinks in these circumstances – not a statistic we wanted to test. FadaBear jumped on the end of the middle tether rope and managed to pull the boat back in the lock within a few seconds, and the torrent of water stopped coming into the boat. There were some very nervous and shaken-up pilgrims – poor ERgirl6 was a bit frightened by the whole episode and the emergency-toned shouts that were being made! It all gave us a very good object lesson as to why we get everyone off the boat for lock passing, and why we only have one person giving instructions at locks! Thankfully we didn’t end up in any real danger.. and we will certainly be keeping our wits about us for future locks! Given that we typically pass through ten locks a day this will be most of the time .
Tags: 1, 2012, postcard: England