I have found that locks can be stressful, especially when shared with cantankerous captains in commercial barges or leisure craft. Let me illustrate with one of my many misadventures…
Between Liege and Namur there are three relatively large locks. I was traveling this part of the Meuse with my mother as crew and Chester my Old English Sheepdog as mascot. We expected nothing less than the usual leisurely cruise and for the most part it was just that.
However, at the last lock of the day, a large peniche had to take evasive action to prevent colliding with another vessel crewed by an elderly couple. This pair were oblivious to the danger as they set about arguing with each other and other boat crews over precedence.
I was following at what I thought to be a safe distance but as the peniche applied full throttle in an evasive manoeuvre, the resulting turbulence sent Eileen of Avoca swirling back out of the lock like a leaf in a whirlwind.
Only sheer luck (I’m claiming copious amounts of lockmanship here!) prevented me from slamming against the canal walls as Eileen was unceremoniously ejected from the lock.
Who would have thought cruising these canals could be classified as an adrenaline sport?
I’d experienced the occasional bout of road rage (in no way related to my excellent driving skills), but I never thought “canal rage” had such a strong following in central Europe.
I witnessed several fine examples of verbal rampaging as yachts aggressively vied for position. I also found that the sport of pontoon hoarding has developed an ardent following at favourite stopovers.
It’s no wonder there were moments I could not wait to be free from the confines of the inland waterways. I was happy enough to arrive at a popular location if I could safely leave the boat at the end of a few days cruising, but until then I did my best to avoid the crush of yachtsmen.
It was best to push on unless forced to stop at a lock (closed for the night), or tie up by a quiet uncharted quay away from the traffic jams at guidebook stopovers.
Friends insist that I’m just plain antisocial. 🙂