Sunday 29th September
Up early for a cooked breakfast to fortify us for Caen Hill. Pulled pins before 9 and approached the first of the Devizes locks soon after 10, after negotiating the canoe club’s many craft;
A pair of boats was just starting down and we pulled in to wait with Tony and Jann on Kyakatina with whom we spent the rest of the descent. There were no boats coming up, so Jann and I had to turn every lock but we soon got a good system working and reached the top of the flight without incident as the first boat came up.
A little further on a coping stone had been dislodged some time ago when two boats had got wedged in one of the narrower locks, so boats had to enter and leave the lock singly. Kyakatina left first, passing a single boat coming out of the next lock, and Dave was just straightening up to leave as it approached at some speed and tried to enter the lock before he could get out of the way. The guy on the bank was waving to her and mouthing ‘slow down’ but she crashed into Chuffed amidships and forced it into the lock wall. She reversed off but gave no apology as the boats passed. Idiot.
Worse was to come. I was locking ahead at this point when there was a sudden whistle, a shout and Jann was frantically dropping a paddle. I rushed up, assuming the boats were on the cill so dropped the other paddle too – but no, Chuffed was stuck in reverse gear. Eventually Dave got it into neutral so we could continue emptying the lock, and he and Tony stuck their heads down the engine hole but could see nothing apparently wrong. But with no forward gear, and two ‘narrow’ locks coming up, we had to haul Chuffed through on the ropes – not difficult apart from slinging the rope under the footbridges – till eventually we could rope the two boats together.
Dave called RCR then joined the girls as crew. The pair of boats behind us were catching up now and had plenty of crew to give us a hand.
Meanwhile, Tony did sterling work piloting both boats;
As the RCR engineer was out on another call we carried on rather than stop below the main flight and I took the obligatory photo;
We got down to Foxhanger by 4.30 and stopped on the 24-hour moorings. We bade farewell to Kyakatina – many thanks Tony and Jann, you saved us a lot of hassle!
The RCR engineer arrived as they left, and quickly diagnosed a snapped gearbox cable. Luckily we had a spare so it was all quite speedily done.
We were astonished to hear that although he is actually based at Foxhanger Wharf, his previous call had been in London, and he lives in Wantage in Oxfordshire. There are only 7 employed RCR engineers to cover the whole network.
We decided to stay where we were for the night. A pair of boats pulled up behind us and we had a visit from their gorgeous little kitten;
28 locks, 4 and a half miles.