As I have said, the Voga-Don Canal is a busy commercial waterway. But we have found the lock-keepers helpful, friendly and efficient. We squeeze past huge tankers, bulk carriers and barges with sometimes only metres of clearance. At the entrance and exit from locks our movements are supervised with skill.
Today we have been travelling in company with a 60′ lighthouse and buoy service vessel. The lock-keepers call us both “The Little Ones” and we are treated with maternal care and, dare I say it, affection. Huge bulk carriers are kept waiting while The Little Ones struggle to latch onto lock hooks which are sometimes only just low enough for us to reach, doddle along at barely 6 knots and are late for their entries, or just aren’t quite sure where to go.
We have just come out of Lock Number 9, which is our very last uphill lock for the entire journey. We have 12 or so more locks to go but, as they say, it is all downhill from here.
There are two good things about uphill locks. First, because you are entering a deep canyon, there is no wind, so that coming alongside without damaging the 3 metres of mast projecting forward from the bow is easy. Second, as you rise, a new landscape appears over the lock sides which comes as a surprise, whatever it turns out to be.
There is one problem with uphill locks. The floating hooks which rise on rails set into in the lock sides may not come down low enough when the lock is empty, so that when you enter and tie up you can find that your bespoke hook is out of reach. Getting a line attached requires a skill which few, other than Jenny, have mastered.