If like me, you thought canals were lovely European affairs with houseboats and great cheese, this post is for you. I knew we would be doing canals to get to the Bahamas. I knew it, as I know a lot of things. As a fact I had stored in my head. What I was really low on was the details. And it turns out there are a few.
The closer we got to the canals, for example, the more people asked me if I had gloves – “you know – for the slime”. Not surprisingly, My Beloved creatively withheld any mention of slime until it was too late. Thank goodness, me being me, I had packed gloves sufficient for sewage work if needed.
Now let me describe for you how canals work from my perspective:
First, you approach a lock and radio the lockmaster. He is likely a lovely bloke, but he may be preoccupied by fixing a lawnmower, and he may not answer your call. So you can either bob around between hazards, fighting currents and winds until the gate opens, or you can resign yourself to bringing your boat up alongside a wall to tie up and pay him a visit. This sounds like a pretty good option, unless you are me and you have to jump from a moving boat onto a treacherous wall with a line to fasten.
Then the gate opens, and you hastily don your gloves and in my case, run to the bow (front of boat) with a boat hook. If you are going up, things work like this:
You find yourself at the bottom of a square metal box, about 4 stories deep. There are several slimy ropes dangling down from the top. You are frantic to get one. You snag one with a hook and pass it back to your partner. You grab another for yourself. Since they are all that stops your boat from ricocheting around the lock like a billiard ball, you hang on to the slime for dear life. At the bow, I also use the boat hook to keep the boat away from the wall. That means I have stabbed desperately at the walls of 30 locks.
Then the gate behind you clangs shut, and water starts to pour in. At first it looks like champagne bubbles. Then it looks like a lace tablecloth spread for tea. Finally, it comes to a thick rolling boil, like candy-making. (Mmm! Candy!)
Eventually, you find yourself at the top of the lock, level with everyone else on earth. It is quite a trick, and a fun ride. Then the gate in front of you swings open, and off you go!
If your lock is taking you down, you will find yourself starting at the top, and riding the water down. It is a bit like being in a giant bathtub that is draining very fast. Of the two, I definitely prefer going up!
I now have an official “canal ensemble” that is basically a series of black layers and a pair of once-white crocs, coupled with giant green rubber gloves. I would scare small children in this get-up.
I am writing this post as a public service to those of you who rely on your partners for information and don’t do your own research. To be forewarned is to be forearmed -with gloves!