Victor tells it's gone mad!

Published: Wednesday, 08 September 2021

MAD indeed.  As from very few moving boats to a great many after the tunnel.

I just don't get the point of CaRT's decision to book passage through Harecastle on the internet, especially as there is no need to do so up to noon.

harecastleYou can go though without booking providing there is not the maximum number of eight boats going through.

All that the booking is doing is causing mayhem at Stoke locks, as within an hour of leaving the tunnel we passed 12 boats all heading for it, with those we talked to telling that they had a booking.  With a very slow boat at the front allowing water in most steadily, actually opening the ground paddle when the water was just a foot from the top. Making sure that many would obviously not make it. 

As in fact did the boat we travelled through with, who missed his booking the previous day.  Surely, as Harecastle is operated all day the best method is to let boats through when they arrive, just waiting for it to clear.

AdvertisingSignSeems to me like it's yet another of those ill-thought through ideas obviously by someone with no practical boating experience whatsoever.

Cruising through Stoke we came across a rather worrying, obviously expensive blue CaRT sign actually advertising Middleport Pottery.  Is this still another trend to spend our money?  Wouldn't be surprised.

Good for us

One thing though, all these boats were good for us, as every single one of the locks we approached had a boat coming out—a definite change from those on Heartbreak!

At Summit Lock a speedy fella with a windlass, who when we had the boat in the lock had a paddle up and over the gate to the next paddle before one of us could get off it to windboth winds a bottom lock paddle when descending.  Then he was on his bike to open the gate for the boater coming out of the lock below, helping us then dashing back to help that boat.

StokeLockRibbonA lady we met who cruised the locks often, told it was just someone who liked helping and not an official volunteer locky, as there aren't any on those locks the paddles being so stiff, with Jan adding that he moved too fast, actually running, to be a volunteer!

We met this lady at Cockshutts Lock, that had one of its bottom gate paddles wrapped-up and out of action, with Jan remarking it was like that some three years ago when we passed—with the lady confirming. At the time attempting to get the windy crew at the front of what proved to be a very long queue coming up,to get a move on.

The way to do it

A fairly long boat hardly needs nursing up a narrow Trent & Mersey lock.  All it actually needs is taking slowly to the front of the lock, and as many of you are obviously aware, simply stays there whilst both paddles are wound up fully.

Being ground paddles, the force of the water passing the boat then swirling back holds the boat against the gate with the metal fixed on the gate preventing it getting stuck.

Yet there are the wimps who slowly wind up a paddle a couple of notches, then a couple more, and so on. What on earth do they imagine will happen to their boat—it can't go anywhere with the water holding it firmly against the gate.

StokeRustyOut of the locks along the waterway by Bridge 110 and still all those boats on the water without licences, counting 13 with only one amongst them—dated 2016.  How the hell do they get away with it, especially as some are obviously lived in.  After all it is us legitimate boaters who are subsidising them.

Still there

And so to our usual overnight moorings opposite Stoke City Football Ground, where last time there was an application for a massive development of the vast area of open ground, so beloved of our Ridgeback, Rusty.

Yet though the opposite side is now a vast area of warehouses and the like, that ground is still in its original state, but not for long we were told, with houses, shops, schools and everything else being planned.

BycyclesChandlery gone

So the Stoke chandlery by Lock 29 is no more, now dealing in custom cycles, with the rest of the old chandlery windows papered over, as possibly nothing to see.

A pity really as it was a proper chandlery, one we have used, not like so many that consist of just a couple of shelves.

Black Prince woes

Trentham Lock, that had broken, but had been quickly repaired was still okay, so on to Stone and its two flights where we met the Black Prince Boat Odette and its crew, and most certainly wish we had not.

We first espied Odette moored outside Festival Park Marina waiting to be picked up by its hirers, then the next time as it came charging past us where we were moored by the football ground, the only boat to rock us!

Then we were coming out of Lock 32 on Meaford Flight when we discovered the pound was a good 18 inches down, but walking to the next lock we finally met the crew of Odette and certainly wish we had not. They just hadn't a clue.

OdetteIt was obvious they had been very lucky with the locks so far by having help, as they just were not capable of working a lock.

When Jan arrived there she discovered there was a top lock paddle wide open together with two on the bottom gate, hence the emptying short pound, and a man attempting to open the bottom gates, actually pushing the wrong way, and telling that it would not move the other (correct) way!

There were three crew with just one working the gates, and telling they could not open the other top gate paddle as it would not stop up—they did not know about the ratchet!  It was lucky they did not as otherwise the pound would have been completely drained!

Then we had the 'pleasure' of following them down to the bottom lock in Stoke, but moored before it walking down later to find them firmly tied-up on the lock mooringsand those nearest the lock!

NoVistaMooringsWho is to blame for this state of affairs?  They were sent out with obviously no knowledge of either the courtesy of the canals or the working of locks whatsoever.  They were a danger to themselves and the system.  Black Prince should certainly investigate.

All okay

Another bit of good news was that all the paddles down the two flights through Stone were in working order, though some perhaps somewhat rather stiff, but let's by thankful for small mercies, eh? (Jan says they are all working because they are in view—that's why!

We met that energetic helper again in Stone, he telling he rides all the way from the junction with the Caldon right down to the Star pub, and I reckon he will be very welcome.

So on to an easy cruise to Shugborough, but just could not understand the CaRT's 48 hours moorings along the Trent Valley, complete with rings and mowed grass, pictured above.

HeavilyDisguisedFor as all who have cruised this section must be aware of the many places where it is easy to moor with attractive vistas along the way.

So why moorings blocked off on one side by a high hedge and trees on the other, so you you cannot see a thing?  Little wonder it was empty.

I quite realise that people living on boats may like a bit of greenery on their roofs, but do wonder that it sometimes must affect their line of sight.

The one in the picture, to me, seems to have gone to the extreme with the multitude of bushes the boat is carrying.  Perhaps in this case a disguise, as you must agree it blends in well with the background.


So down to another favourite mooring at Shugborough, to be met with a most unusual empty moorings with ner a boat in sight.

But not for long, as we soon had the Lace Boat joining us, with the man telling they have been selling the most intricate designs of lace created by his wife since 1980. But at the moment there is a shortage of the type of cotton they use, that is causing a problem, though they hope to be able to solve it.

Coming off the Staffs & Worcs, even with just a 20 inch draught, they became grounded through lack of water in the pounds, so perhaps be aware.

Victor Swift