All Shapes And Sizes

Challenges Come In All Shapes And Sizes - Wrenbury lifting bridgeChallenges come in all shapes and sizes as we all know. However, few can come much bigger, physically, than the Wrenbury lifting bridge. A lifting bridge is, as you might imagine, a bridge that can be raised to allow the narrowboat to pass underneath. Unlike any other lifting bridge we encountered, this one had a fairly main road crossing it, and had to be controlled by hydraulics, rather than by winding.

As the newbie to cruising canals amongst our group, it was just another piece of canal hardware that needed to be learned, but no one else had seen this type of machinery either. So when I was despatched to open the bridge as we came into Wrenbury, I took a windlass and set off to crank away as usual.

However, there was a shock in store. No winding gear, no instructions at all, apparently, just a motley collection of battleship grey boxes next to the bridge. Finally I found the control panel. The instructions might as well have been in Egyptian hieroglyphics and the buttons to operate the hydraulics were hidden under a Perspex cover that had been lovingly polished with wire wool, making it almost opaque.

Then I realised that I needed the British Waterways key to activate the panel, and that was on the boat key ring, in the ignition, back on the boat, a hundred yards back up the canal. It also transpired that the barrier that blocked the open side of the canal, while the bridge was up, needed to be closed manually before anything else would function. A proper contender for a test on the Krypton Factor if ever there was one.

Fortunately, Steve, who had been in the shower when I left the boat, had now joined me on the towpath, so while he man-handled the barrier, I ran back to the boat to get the key. Together we got things sorted, the bridge opened, the ignition key was returned to the boat, and the challenge was met.

At the time, I was a little flustered by the whole episode. Not only did I feel that I had let my shipmates down a little by my incompetence, but I had also held up the traffic longer than was comfortable. But on reflection, and having talked through the debacle with the gang, I felt better about the situation.

When we meet new situations, we need to use a combination of wisdom, courage and compassion, in varying degrees. I would like to think, and the guys seemed to agree, that given the circumstances, I did ok. At least when we need to raise the bridge again on our way back, we will be better equipped to make a better job of it.

So another challenge met, another lesson learned, more poison turned into medicine and another step taken on the path to enlightenment.

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