Sowerby Bridge didn’t detain us; maybe it was wet was the reason that it lacked appeal compared to Hebdon Bridge, but we said bye bye to the Rochdale Canal, as we started onto the Calder and Hebble Canal. What an experience the Rochdale had been, stunning countryside, no hire boats, good company and great fish and chips. Do not be put off by the negative comments that can be heard. There are some water shortages and plenty of locks but after the nineteen or so coming out of Manchester and providing you are not in a hurry, it breaks down to about ten a day, that’s not a hardship, the wonderful scenery more than compensates and the BW guys were all extremely helpful.
Within two miles of leaving Sowerby the Salterhebble arm was straight ahead under a bridge and we had to execute a 90deg. turn to the right to enter the first of three locks. The wind took control and I ended up facing the way I had come, Jacquie pushed the bow into the entrance to the lock and applying full rudder and plenty of power I pivoted SKYY into the lock.
The surrounding area was now very attractive and the last of the three locks was exited via a guillotine gate. The top gate paddles of many of the locks from now on can only be operated with the special wooden handspike, although some of these old mechanisms are being replaced with a hydraulic arrangement. We bought our handspike for £12 in the small chandlery at Sowerby, but it could be made easily from a 3ft. length of hardwood 3in x 2in with the edges rounded off and one end shaped to make it comfortable to hold. It must be a substantial piece of wood as you will have to put all of your weight and strength onto it to get some of the paddles to lift. There doesn’t appear any way of letting the paddles down gently, you just pull the spike out and the paddle drops with a thud.
These locks only just accepted our 57ft length. The sill is V shaped and after we lifted the front button fender and took the bike off the back of the boat and reversed SKYY right into the V with the rudder at 90 degs., could we get the bow passed the opening bottom gates. You certainly couldn’t do this with two same size boats in the lock, it might be possible with a 60ft foot boat, but you would definitely need somebody in the bow with a pole to keep it centred whilst the gates are being opened.
Another six locks through rural countryside and we arrived at Brighouse, a large warehouse converted to apartments on our right and an extremely convenient Sainsbury store on our left funnelled the wind down this stretch, but otherwise it felt safe and secure. And we decided to leave exploring the town until tomorrow.