We had predicted that we would need to cruise for nine hours today to arrive at Lock 63 which is where the time restrictions begin. We arose at the ungodly hour of 6.00am and were on our way by 6.45am in favourable conditions.
Our first unusual encounter for the early morning was with a bunch of cows who were not at all pleased with us. To get through this lock, we had to turn the swing bridge which was directly over the top of the lock and unwittingly we separated the cows from their owners who had just arrived with their feed. Vocally, they made their displeasure obvious to us.
Once through the lock we promptly replaced the bridge in its rightful position and once reunited with their feed source, the quiet lull of the countryside was returned to its norm. We have been seeing instances on this trip where animals have exhibited a degree of nouce and has been making Di think that maybe she might go vegetarian. There was a duck that got stuck in a lock with us and when the lock keeper reopened the door to let another boat in, it scurried out as soon as it heard the door mechanism activate. This involves thought processes.
Another unusual item we have reacquainted ourselves with is the tap tap tapping on the side of the boat that you hear early in the morning. It is the ducks going along the side of the boat eating the algae off the hull causing this sound. Inside the boat it sounds quite loud and can be extra annoying when trying to stay asleep.
As this photo depicts, we are going through picture perfect countryside. We are cruising very hard and not being able to enjoy it quite as much due to our deadlines created by these lock closures but we will be returning this way so have been keeping an eye out for mooring spots and little towns to spend some time in on our way back.
Initially we were informed that the lock restrictions were caused by a water shortage but it is a result of pumps being out of commission on the canal. The Kennet and Avon requires water to be recycled from the bottom of the locks back to the top and they have pumps that do this. Yes, there are water shortages also because of last year being very dry and this year also having low rain fall, but they also need these pumps to move the water to the right spots. There are two pumps that they require to handle this portion of the canal and one went out. They have been functioning on one pump causing these delays until the new pump arrived. The pump took a month to get here and installed but now they have to clear out all the accumulated silt before it becomes fully operational. We think that on our return that mostly it will be back to normal 🤞.
The gods were smiling at us as of the fifteen locks we had to do only one was going against us. By that we mean that all the locks were at our water level, so all that was required was for the bottom gate to be opened and us cruise in and then fill up the lock.
We arrived at our destination at 1.00pm which blew us away as we were not expecting to get in by about 4.00pm. It makes a huge difference when locks are in your favour and also the very little traffic that is on the canals. We passed only two boats all day and this would be because of these water restrictions. We also saw evidence of water level problems as passing moored boats towards the end of our cruising, there were many boats sitting on the bottom of the canal and some at a precarious angle. We pulled up just below lock 63 and whilst settling in a fellow boater came up and lifted one of the paddles to let more water in which really was a big no no! We were not prepared to say anything as he had a windlass in his hand.
We are right on transport!! We have the main south rail line to Portsmouth following us all day and it is at its closet where we have stopped for tonight. It has fast passenger trains as well as freight trains whizzing passed us all the time plus there is a pedestrian rail crossing just up the line which means they have to blow the whistle as they approach it. Oh well, our options were just a little more than just limited.
As we had some spare time in the afternoon we walked up the canal and visited the Crofton pumping museum. This museum is in fact the actual pump station that lifts water the final 40 feet to the summit of the Kennett and Avon canal which we will reach tomorrow. Without this pump station the canal could not work.
The original pumps built and installed in 1812 are steam powered Cornish beam engines built by Boulton and Watt. They receive steam courtesy of a huge coal fired boiler shown in the picture. The steam engines installed here represent the oldest steam engines in the world that are still working in the place they were originally installed and for their original purpose. They run 20 times a year on special “steaming” days. On other days a much newer electric pump does the job.
When we returned from our visit to the museum, another three boats had pulled up behind us so this is great news as we will have people to go through the locks with tomorrow. We have found out that the boat that will go through with us has SIX people on it so that makes for FIVE lock slaves – well, the gods are really smiling upon us!!!!