Boaters have been left high and dry after a lock gate was damaged on Saturday, forcing the closure of the famous Caen Hill flight of locks in Devizes.
A narrowboat on hire to a holidaymaker got stuck on the lock gate while it was manoeuvring through the top lock of the flight. As the water rose, the boat lifted the gate off its hinges, damaging the anchor plate underneath.
All traffic on the Kennet and Avon Canal between locks 22 and 44 was halted and a spokesman for the Canal and River Trust, which manages Britain’s network of waterways, said it could be days before the flight, one of the longest in Europe, is reopened.
It hopes to have a crane onsite today to lift the damaged gate out of the water.
The spokesman said: “Timescales for reopening the flight are dependent on the extent of the damage.”
He added: “Fortunately, incidents like this are very rare but when they do happen they cause a lot of disruption. We ask canal users to be patient and apologise for any inconvenience.”
It is not known how many boaters have been stranded but the closure is bad news for Joseph and Sandra Huck from Texas, whose narrowboat has a permanent mooring at Gloucester.
Mr Huck said: “We have a flight back to the States booked for early September and if we have to retrace our steps back to Gloucester via London it will involve 200 miles and 216 locks, which will add two weeks to our journey.”
Mrs Huck added: “Our arrangements are so complex that if one goes awry, it affects everything else.” Cara Hodgson-Reed at Caen Hill Marina said that the closure has had a huge impact on her customers.
She said: “We’ve got boats waiting to come to us and they are very pressed for time. Boats that are normally moored with us left us for the long weekend and now can’t get back.
“When we heard about it on Saturday a gent was just booking in with us and we had to tell him he would have to wait a week before he brought his boat down.
“The Canal and River Trust is being very good at keeping us informed with regular emails. They will sort it out as quickly as possible but these things take time.”
It is not the first time that a boat has come to grief on Caen Hill. Last October a narrowboat sank after it got stuck at Lock 22 at the bottom of the flight, also closing the canal for a while.