Thursday morning, I found it a bit hard to get up. I’d been awake most of the night which isn’t unusual, but I’d fallen asleep at just the wrong time. So we were under way by the time I was dressed and Mig was opening the first lifting bridge by herself, which I was sorry about. Only one person at a time can do it but we usually take turns. I don’t mind them as much as she does, so I did the next couple myself.
We went through the final staircase of three locks plus three more and were told of a hotel boat, or rather two boats, one pulling another. We were intrigued. There’s only room for one at a time in the lock so the second would have to be pulled through manually. Neither Mig nor Barney had ever seen this being done, so we all wanted to look – unfortunately, we were so eager that no one remembered a camera and so, apart from a single snap on Barney’s phone (we’d left those on the boat too, me and Mig) there is nothing to remind us.
When we arrived, the lead boat was coming through the first lock gate. We suspected that the second boat had been brought as close as possible and tied to the lock. The water level was raised and the lead boat went through and was tied in place, just beyond the second gate. Then the water in the lock was lowered again and they had to start pulling the second boat through. A young man and a young woman were on top of the boat, pushing against the top of the lock whilst the man in charge, a rangy, capable bloke with a broad-brimmed hat, pulled the rope. Then, as it came through – once it starts, of course its own momentum brought it on – the girl got off and took the stern rope, ready to tie it again, so that the boat wouldn’t press against the second gate as it opened.
Are you with me so far?
We knew that she was quite new to this job as the older man was calling instructions to her, but she was so nimble and prompt that she was clearly experienced on a narrowboat. The Top Bloke tied the bows to the second part of the lock. Then the water level was raised, he backed the lead boat to be joined to the second boat and they chugged through. It was really worth watching, we were glad to have seen it – and amused ourselves thinking of the palaver of getting through the stairway of three adjoining locks.
Later, I steered again for a lot of the way, taking us through a lock unaided at last, just to show I could do it, while Barney and Mig operated the lock. Barney did a final couple of locks and I found operating them exhausting, I’ve pulled a muscle or something in my tum. Frankly, I didn’t know my stomach had muscles. Anyway, I didn’t feel it at the time, just that my arms were struggling, but I have since. It’s getting better.
We arrived back at the marina, filled up with fuel and got ready for the evening. We were having dinner first and Zoë and Richard were joining us for a drink afterwards. They are both delightful, we had a lovely hour or two chatting together and I’m sure we will meet again – I’ve offered them a place to stay here of course, any time they want to come to Norfolk.
The next morning, Mig and I packed while Barney cooked breakfast and then we cleared everything away while Barney washed the outside of the boat. Inside, they use a valet service except for the windows, funnily enough, which I cleaned. On the outside, doing the side not against the wharf was interesting. I had to balance on the gunwale, which is the width of my foot, and bend down to clean the window. I didn’t fall in.
And then we said goodbye and drove home.