Sunday, 5 April 2009

Sunday 5th April 2009

We woke up to bright sunshine – Alan got up and started to make coffee. The boat was cold, and bed was warm so I languished, stretching out into the warm space vacated by Alan. A few pointed comments finally got me up, but we were later starting than the last couple of days. It wasn’t very warm outside, but it was bright and sunny, and we had four or five miles before the Stoke Bruerne flight. I made up some seedy brown bread dough, and put it into a warm place to rise.

We worked up Stoke on our own, with the birds filling the air with their song. In particular the see-sawing song of the Great Tits – like a squeaky bicycle pump. There were very few other boats moving. That is one thing that has really surprised us – the fact that so few boats seem to be moving yet. A couple of locks up the Stoke Bruerne flight I went on to help at the lock above, where we did see two boats were coming down - one of which had blues music playing very loudly. While I was there Alan had a problem – we had broken the loop for the centre line – a big problem, as we use the centre line a lot. After some discussion we decided to press on to Braunston and hope that someone there could do a repair for us.

Blisworth Tunnel seemed wetter than we have seen it previously, Alan was very wet at the end of it, despite a Barbour coat and a Tilley hat. While he steered I shaped the bread into small rolls, ready to cook when we were out again.

We ate lunch on the go again – hot rolls stuffed with melting cheese, and we kept on through the many lockless miles. At around five pm we got to the bottom of the Buckby flight, only to see the lock ahead being filled.

I walked up to the lock, to find an apologetic middle aged couple who had waited for an approaching boat for some time, only to have it turn into the marina – so they turned the lock, thinking that they might wait all day for a boat travelling up the flight.

They turned out to be an excellent couple to work up the flight with, the woman went on and set all the locks ready for us, and we steamed up. They headed off towards Watford Gap and we turned towards Braunston. I persuaded Alan that if he wanted any food before midnight then we had to moor this side of the tunnel – which we did. There is major work going on from the top of Buckby nearly as far as the tunnel to upgrade the towpath – with ‘no mooring’ signs the whole way, so we moored just short of the tunnel.

Tomorrow, Braunston and beyond.

Since Leighton Buzzard I have been retracing the journey I did 40 years ago at Easter, when my family, and some friends hired the 8-berth 50-foot Olive from Wyvern Shipping and got as far as Banbury on the Southern Oxford, before turning back again. In those days there were still some working boats around (Alan has published some of the photos of these on the Internet). I’m hoping that it will be possible to work out some of the locations from the transparencies that were taken then. Olive’s water was gravity fed from a galvanised tank on the roof – it must have been quite revolting on a hot day.

On the topic of water, the calorifier that Alan fitted is working very well, we’ve got hot water when we want it, and the showers are good – the only person who has complained is David (6’ 2”), who says that the shower head needs to be higher up. As it is as high as it can be I think that he just doesn’t know when he has got life easy – he could have had Olive from 40 years ago – with no showers, and only limited amounts of lukewarm water from a roof tank.

Distance: 23.1. Locks: 14 locks
Total distance:55.8 . Total locks: 39 locks.

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