Maiden Voyage – Part two The Tale of Seven Locks

I’m trying my best to create epic sounding titles, I hope you are all appreciating them. So with the last post we covered our first 500 yards of drama filled travel. Now we were brimming with fuel, James had, somewhat skillfully, navigated us out of Whilton Marina and we were on the Grand Union, in the open and ready to chug down some miles.


Then we were hit with it, our first lock! Terrifying hey? It turns out the canal system is the true definition of Britishness, yeap there is a queuing system, when we had finished filling with diesel, and I’d had a mini panic over the lock number, we discovered there was in fact a queue to enter the locks. As well initiated British Citizens we happily joined the back of the queue, where we met our lock buddies.


Alison and John were waiting with their stunning narrowboat, Frogmore, to go through the locks also, and for some reason (again probably the crazy Polite Britishness of the Canals), a reason they probably still regret now, they offered to be our lock buddies!

They were also planning to scale the seven locks before mooring somewhere at the top of them for the night, as these locks were wide enough for two boats, and more hands make light work and all that, we had ourselves a convoy.

Alison and John were incredible, lovely, friendly, and whats more patient, with the fact James struggled 5 times out of 7 to line the boat up where he should, and that I didn’t quite understand what the hell a lock did or how it worked. Other than it being a terrifying water vortex which may decide to submit your boat to a watery death should you not sacrifice enough lock keys to it’s murky depths.

So lining up for our first lock, I made a dreaded discovery, it was numbered Lock 13. Now I am not a superstitious type, but this terrified me, when I was already flaming terrified, James’ Dad and Alison went up to open the first lock while I remained with Fantine’s ropes, keeping her safely tied to the towpath. Then we got the wave, it was time to put our lives in the hands of the lock gods. You will be pleased to know we made it, there was the odd bump, scrape and for ducks sake uttered, in fact the entire journey carried on in that vain.

All was going well, we were starting to get the hang of these locks, we had a system going and it was working well. James’ Dad was an amazing help with the locks (In fact I dread to think what would of happened had it just been the two of us), I was helping Alison with the other side of the lock and then skipping ahead to meet James to moor him up ahead of the next lock.

Sounds ideal right? Well it was, until the one time I couldn’t get ahead from the lock to meet James with the centre rope to pull Fantine to the Tow Path before entering. He attempted to do this himself, from 100 yards back we thought he was doing a great Lorraine Chase impersonation and was going for a canal bath, he narrowly avoided this, although it may of been the better option, given the chipped elbow he’s now sporting from crashing himself onto the concrete of the towpath!

After his near dunking experience we had one more lock to navigate, which went really smoothly, before we all hopped aboard and bid farewell to the wonderful Alison, John and their stunning Frogmore as we continued up the Grand Union taking a Right to follow the Leicester arm.


This meant we had a mile or so of lock free cruising, which was just wonderful, time to take in the views and enjoy the tranquility and sunshine before the next terrifying lock leg. It also gave a chance for the all important lunch break, with sandwiches, pork pies and jelly babies (Whats a picnic without jelly babies) a plenty, along with a chance for me to consider whether drinking a bucket of gin would be acceptable (It was past midday after all)

By this point I thought I was fine with locks, but stay posted for the final journey installment which will cover the Stairway to Heaven and the Tunnel of Impact.

James & Kirsty



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