Saturday, 3 November 2007

October Cruise -- Part Two

Monday 29 October

As the car was close by, and I needed to move it into the marina car park anyway, I drove into Southam to have a look round and buy a few supplies. There's a reasonable selection of shops, including a Budgens supermarket, and a free car park.

Back at the boat, I cleaned out the stove and polished the tiller arm white I waited for my parents to arrive. Once they'd loaded their things onto the boat, we set off in the direction of the Calcutt Locks, which we shared with a Canaltime boat doing the Warwickshire Ring. We turned left at Wigram's Turn towards Braunston. The weather was fantastic, bright sunshine and warm for the end of October.

After a short lunch stop, we reached Braunston and turned right. We embarked on the locks, with my father doing the work, and made good progress despite being on our own. There were several boats coming the other way which helped, but we met nothing through Braunston Tunnel. Not wanting to mooring in the cutting immediately after the tunnel we carried on, but the banks along that section are in a poor conditiona and not very good for mooring on. We ended up going round the tight turn at Norton Juntion and using the visitor moorings at the start of the Leicester line. It was cold by this time, so we lit the stove and ate on board.

13 miles, 9 locks (19, 15)

Tuesday 30 October

It was a bright sunny morning, and we were on the move at 8.30 after a cooked breakfast. There was only a brief wait at Watford Locks: one boat ahead of us, and one boat just finishing its descent. The lock keeper said it had been the busiest October he could remember, presumably because people were making up for the poor summer. The only problem came right at the bottom of the flight. The piling there is falling apart, with the top piece sticking well out. As I pulled away, a pipe fender caught on the metal and broke the eyelet on the roof that it's tied to. As the fender was jammed in the gap, I was able to rescue it. We were soon at the top of the locks, and moved over to the water point to fill up, and dump the rubbish.

Crick Tunnel proved to be extremely wet for the northern few hundred yards! The extension to the marina there is well advanced (and huge). We tied up at Yelvertoft for a lunch stop, then continued north. But conscious that we needed to be back down the Watford flight the next day, and the winter opening hours mean they close at 3.30pm, we made the decision to turn around before mooring for the night. We made use of the winding hole just before bridge 36 and began to retrace our steps. On the way we passed a bridge which appears to be on the verge of falling down. It's no surprise that this stretch of canal is to be closed over the winter for bridge repair works.

We moored up for the night in a nice spot just before bridge 27. The boat was beautifully warm, as the stove had been alight since lunchtime.

17 miles, 7 locks (36,22)

Wednesday 31 October

Thick cloud had been forecast, so we were pleased with the sunshine when we woke up. We slipped away from our moorings at 8.45, and during the hour journey to Yelvertoft saw no other moving boats. We tied up at Yelvertoft Wharf and walked into the village. There's a useful shop with a post office, and a little further down the main street an excellent butcher.

We stopped for lunch just before Watford Locks. At the locks themselves there was no queue, so we were allowed straight down. It was the last day of the season for the lock keepers there, and the one who'd been on duty the day before was just setting off in his own boat. The already fine weather had become even better, with plenty of sunshine.

We stopped for water at Norton Junction, then continued through Braunston tunnel to our chosen mooring for the night at the top of the locks. Another OwnerShips boat, Aylestone, was attempting to go down, but there seemed to be a problem. My father went to investigate, and the crew told him they'd been waiting ages for the lock to fill but the water was leaking out the bottom gates as fast as it was entering. He pointed out that they might have more success if they opened the ground paddles as well as the gate ones, and they were soon on their way!

13 miles, 7 locks (49, 29)

Thursday 1 November

Another forecast of thick cloud for the midlands, and another bright sunny morning.

Excellent bacon from the butcher in Yelvertoft for breakfast, then off down the Braunston Locks. We shared with an Ashby hire boat with three enthusiastic guys on board, which meant we had someone to go ahead to set the next lock. At the short pounds, I suggested to the steerer that we leave the lock together, stay close through the pound, and go straight into the next lock. He said he'd never done it before, but was impressed at how much easier it was (and seemed to think it looked quite impressive too).

As we approached the bottom lock, a boat which had just winded went in, quickly shut the gates, and started going down. My father was ahead at the lock, and discovered that the boat had just come out of the paint dock, and the owner was keen to go down alone as he had no fenders and wanted to preserve his new paintwork for at least a few minutes. I'd like to know what happened when he came to exit the lock, as the dry dock there was being emptied and the flow of water pushes you right over to the far side. I suspect he didn't manage to get away without touching the wall.

We tied up in Braunston and I got a replacement attachment for the fender from the chandlery. At Tradline Fenders, my parents bought a new doormat. Then we filled up with water, and set off for Stockton. There were lots of OwnerShips boats heading for Braunston. The boats which are having their winter maintenance this side of Christmas will be based in Braunston while the canal is closed at Shuckborough. We stopped for lunch before bridge 103, then turned right at Wigram's turn. We shared the top Calcut Lock with a Calcut based OwnerShips boat returning to base, did the middle one on our own, then waited in the bottom lock for Aylestone which was just coming down behind. We moored before bridge 21 (meaning I'd spent four of my seven nights on the boat in almost exactly the same place), and ate at the Boat Inn.

9 miles, 9 locks (58, 38)

Friday 2 November

After the final clean of the boat, my parents packed and left. I moved the boat the couple of hundred yards to the marina, mooring up alongside two other boats. Fortunately, the journey home was much quicker than on the way up.

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