Friday, 28 March 2008

Spring Cruise - Part Four

Day 6 - Wednesday 19 March

We woke to blue skies, bright sunshine, and birdsong, although it proved to be still cold. After breakfast, which included the fantastic bacon from Welford, we left our moorings just before 9am.
First stop was Yelvertoft, where we made use of the water point just before Skew Bridge. While Adrian grappled with the hosepipe, I walked into the village to continue our policy of using local shops. The little Post Office and Store had all the veg we needed, while the butcher further along the main street provided the meat.

Back on the move again, I got off the boat at Bridge 17 to walk up Crack's Hill. At the top is a beacon and a plinth with a brass plaque on top showing the direction and distance of nearby places. It turns out that Rugby is much much closer than I'd realised -- from the top you can see a big Royal Mail depot, and the masts at Hillmorton. The canal looks tiny, and it took Debdale ages to come back into view. I got back on board at Bridge 13.

We stopped for lunch at Crick Wharf, then went through the tunnel and on to Watford Locks. A boat was just coming in the top lock as we arrived, so we went straight down followed by Mad As A Hatter.

As we got to the bottom a construction boat was wanting to come up, but they were too late. Well, it was actually 2.40 and the last entry into the locks is supposed to be 2.45, but the lock keeper had already started padlocking the locks at the top of the flight. The crew didn't look too disappointed at knocking off early.

We turned right at Norton Junction onto the GU Main Line. Before Braunston Tunnel, several working boats were moored. I suspect they were on their way to the Easter Boat Gathering at Stoke Bruerne. At the Braunston end of the tunnel, the land slip which happened last summer has been cleared of vegetation, but still looks very unstable and is still blocking half the channel.

We moored at the top of the locks. Mad As A Hatter went past us, and continued down the locks, and were surprised by the width of them.

15 miles, 7 locks. (71, 45)

Day 7 - Thursday 20 March

Rain had been forecast to arrive overnight, so we were pleasantly surprised to wake up in dry bright conditions. We set off down the locks at 8.30. The first three were against us but then we started meeting boats coming up, so we completed all six in little over an hour.

We moored up and went for a look at the boats for sale in the marina. However, we can't afford one, and even if we could none of the ones there at the moment appealed. By now the wind had got up, and it was bitterly cold. The next part of the journey was hard work. Sometimes we seemed to be making very little progress thanks to the head wind, while turning a corner meant we were being battered from the side. There were waves on the canal. We stopped for lunch in a sheltered spot just before Napton Junction.

After lunch, we turned right at Napton Junction and battled the wind to get onto the waterpoint at the top of the Calcutt Locks. Another OwnerShips boat, Goosemoor, arrived and asked if we'd like to go down together. So we packed up the hosepipe and joined them in the lock. The wind made the exit from the bottom lock rather difficult, and a boat waiting to come up was pinned to the side by the wind.

Back at Stockton Top, we moored on the front of the marina at the foot of the steps to The Boat Inn's car park. Later in the evening, we made the most of the proximity of the pub for our dinner.

9 miles, 9 locks. (80, 54)

Day 8 - Friday 21 March

It was just a matter of packing, cleaning, and leaving. Unfortunately it'll be a while before we're back on board Debdale. we have a fortnight booked for September, when we hope to do the Avon Ring.

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