Wednesday 27 December 2006
We left Tunbridge Wells at about 11 o'clock, the road reports on the radio was very favourable with no hold ups on the M25. We whistled up the A21 and turned left onto the M25 where we found a car park in place of the motorway, we crept along with a slight pickup now and again. We decided to leave at the Stains tuning and passed terminal 5 of Heathrow on our way to the M4. The area was crawling with police and they were in the process of taking away a motorbike on the back of a lorry, at first we thought they must have caught a joy rider but then we came across more police cars, vans and motorbikes. The M4 was flowing freely and we were soon at junction 8/9 heading for the M40. Once on the M40 it was back to the stop start motoring but the sun did shine for a bit. We were glad to get to Banbury where we said good bye to these "high speed" roads to get back on the quite, slow lanes at between 50 and 60 mph. We arrived at the boat at 3-30 pm in the gathering gloom and the first drops of rain that we had seen since before Christmas. As usual we moved down to the lock to load the boat, we felt pity sure no one would want to come through tonight. The next decision was where to moor, we had considered just below the first lock but felt it would be better to warm the engine and water a bit so we headed off down the flight. The target was the pound above the bottom lock and by the time we got to the lock above it was quite dark. We had been passing signs saying "towpath Closed" and now it was as there was a large fence across right by the lock, not even room to pull in to work the lock and down below some one had pinched the towpath, so it was on down through the bottom lock and moor round the corner past the Folly pub for the night at 5-30 pm
Thursday 28 December 2006
Quite a bit of rain overnight but it was fine this morning and as the day progressed the weather just got better, The sky cleared to a beautiful blue and the sun shone brightly, even now the sky is clear and starlit so we may get a frost. Several boats were on the move before we started off, as we passed The Bridge at Napton there were John and Joan who were waiting for us as we
planned to spend the rest of the holiday together. We also passed "Black Swan" an Ownerships vessel, our other friends will betaking over on her tomorrow and we will all meet up at Stockton Marina. We had a pleasant cruise through to Braunston, Diana steered most of the way as I wired in 2 more LED down lights into the lounge. We have now replaced all the Halogen Dichroics in this area and saved lots of amps. The waterway was surprisingly busy for the time of year and there were only a few vacant moorings in Braunston. I stopped at the first water point and filled the tank while Diana walked into the village to buy a few odds and ends, she returned weighed down with two carrier bags. Mike and Krystyna were moored just before the water point so I had a short chat with them before heading down to the Marina to turn and wait for John to finish filling with water at the other water point. By then Diana had returned and we head back along the Grand Union to stop for a late lunch at the end of the puddle banks. About an hour later we were away again steering into the setting sun until we reached the farm just before bridge 103 where we have moored for the night. This is probably the best bit of towpath that we have seen since Napton Top Lock and the wear and tear is not due to the odd boater walking along, they are obviously very heavily used by walkers etc.
Friday 29 December 2006
Last night the weather changed quite quickly after the sun went down. The wind picked up and it started to rain. By the time we went to bed it was blowing a right holey. I should have taken the engine exhaust pipe off, but I didn't so it rattled around all night and woke me several times. When we were ready to set off this morning it was still raining a bit with a stiff breeze making things interesting if you had to wait for other boats at Bridge holes. I was hoping to fill with Diesel at Calcutt boats but unfortunately they were closed, but I should have enough for the weekend. The new basin at Calcutt is looking very smart now its open, unlike Ventner farm which is still just one big mud bath with some finger moorings and about 6" of rain water in it. We continued on down to the Boat at Stockton, mooring up just as Charles and Pauline arrived to take over "Mucky Duck" Chard and Carolyn weren't far behind them. After loading the "Mucky Duck" they retreated to the Boat pub for lunch before carrying out a car shuffle to Ventner farm. The reason being that Chard and Carolyn intend to spend the latter part of the trip with Joan and John returning to Ventner Farm.
Saturday 30 December 2006
Yet again last night the wind picked up as the sun went down, but by this morning things were much calmer. However at about 8 it poured with rain for a short time before getting out into a reasonable morning. I looked out just after 8-30 to see "Mucky Duck" leaving the pontoon, I thought they were going to slip away ahead of us and then ask if we intended to stay in bed all day. The truth of the matter was they needed a pump out and fill up with water before they set off, but by then I had the engine running and was ready to go. As there were three boats I set off straight way down the flight which took Diana and I exactly an hour, we then stopped and walked back setting the locks for the other pair. We carried on with this routine until we stopped for lunch at Welsh Road Lock when I let the others lead and we followed, as they had a crew of 6 on the 2 boats Chard held back and helped us through. As we sat eating lunch I could see the atmospheric pressure falling back, it had been rising since early morning and by just after 2 pm the inevitable happened and it started chucking it down. We arrived at Fosse Lock just as Oak and Ash were coming in the bottom so we had to hang around while they breasted, came up and then singled out again on cross straps to travel to the next lock. I sat there all the time this happened with no problem and then just as Martin started to bring them out the wind started to take me over towards the centre of the cut. I must have sat there for a good 5 minutes without moving out, even when they filled the lock I still sat there, but as soon as someone was looking it all started going wrong. Just prior to the next lock we could see the other two moored up. We knew they had stopped for the night as John already had his TV aerial up.
Sunday 31 December 2006
Last night we all ate on "Black Swan" and as the evening progressed the weather improved as the atmospheric pressure climbed rapidly, by 11 pm the moon and stars were out in a half clear sky. We set off at 9 AM this morning, Harnser drawing up the rear. The weather was calm and fine and the forecast reasonable. As we cleared Lemington Spa for some reason I was unable to get Harnser past Tesco. It stuck hard to the bank until Diana had been in to buy some odds and ends. As John came though the bridge just after Tesco a single hander piled with pallets and stuff pulled away in front of him and stayed there all the way to Cape locks where he pulled onto the lock mooring ready to go up with John, Unfortunately both John and Charles stopped for water so the single hander just went below. No attempt to set the locks. There were still like this when we arrived and we didn't see the chap until after Diana and Chard had the bottom gates open. he then appeared and followed me in and just stood on his boat. Diana and Chard worked us up and off he went without a word of thanks. Chard walked to the next lock and opened the near side gate but the single hander just decided to ram the closed gate open. as I came in beside him he attempted to close the gate his side with a branch, without success so he just stood there unit Chard walked round and closed it for him and worked us up, again no word of thanks and no sign of a windlass. We followed him out and up to Budbrooke Junction. I think he thought he was on to a free ride all the way up the Hatton flight, but we winded in the junction to start our journey back. We pulled onto the visitor moorings above Cape locks and all had lunch on Harnser. When we set off again it was definitely getting overcast and the wind was picking up, again we were to be tail end Charlie. Not long after clearing Cape locks it started to rain and by Tesco's bend it was blowing hard as well. We all moored for the evening at 4 PM at Radford Semele overlooking a very brown, fast moving River Leam just as the rain started to get heavy again. I wouldn't fancy the Warwick to Stratford link this weekend. Again the weather improved as the evening progressed and well before midnight we had clear blue skys with stars and moonlight. There were spasmodic fireworks going off during the evening and a couple of times the church bells burst into life. After dinner we all went to John and Joan's boat to see the new year in. As Big Ben sounded the hour there were fireworks going off in every direction we looked, some just small displays but in the distance there were some quite large ones. By 1 o'clock this morning things had quietened down and we were all off to bed.
Monday 1 January 2007 New Years Day
Early this morning the wind picked up quite squally but by 9 o'clock the sun was out and things had settled down to the makings of a good boating day. We set off about quarter past nine and it was really pleasant. we didn't see any other boats on the move until we met a boat at Fosse Wharf and then as we approached the next lock there were two boats just coming in at the top, one of them was "Virgo" with Guy and Connie on board. As they planning to eat with us tonight at the Blue Lias they thought it best if they winded and came back up with us. We tried to get Virgo round just below the lock but it was about a foot to narrow to get the bows round, Guy had to stick the stern into the shallow off side which didn't help .Had he have been going up we may have managed it, but as it was his only alternative was to carry on down the flight until he could find a point wide enough to wind, this he did below Fosse Top Lock We carried on up the flight and finally caught the others up at Long Itchington where they were both moored for lunch. We had just finished lunch when Guy came up behind us so we pushed off and joined him through the final 2 locks to finally moor on the lawns of the Blue Lias and await the arrival of the other two boats at approximately 2 30 pm
Tuesday 2 January 2007
Last night the 10 of us ate together in the Blue Lias, As normal the Christmas decorations at the pub were first class and Brian the landlord had done a grand job yet again. We finished the evening with Port and cheese on Harnser before all returned to their boats for the night. This morning started as another great day, John crossed the cut to fill with water before pairing up with "Black Swan" to work their way up the flight, again we followed up the rear with the others drawing the bottom paddles before moving on to the next lock. At Stockton Marina we said good bye to Charles and Pauline on "Black Swan" with Chard and Carolyn moving onto John and Joan's boat "Fringilla" for the remainder of the week. We carried on and stopped at Calcutt to take on a couple of hundred litres of diesel at 47p/lt. At this point Fringilla past us and continued on until the stopped for lunch just beyond Wigrams Turn and allowed us to catch up. After lunch the others were planning to stop at bridge 103 for the night , but as we needed a pump out we pushed on to Braunston Marina. The price of a DIY pump out is now £10 and their diesel is 52p/lt. I suppose this is only to be expected with BW setting their pump out price at over £12. We left the marina and headed back to Braunston Turn where we were going to wait until "Fringilla" came by in the morning, so we were somewhat surprised to see them mooring up just beyond the "Stop House". They had decided that bridge 103 was to early so came down to meet up with us for the night. Tomorrow we are off up the North Oxford Canal for a couple of days.
Wednesday 3 January 2007
Bit of a late start toad after filling the water tank and "Fringilla" doing a dunny dump. Just past Braunston Junction there is what looks quite a smart little boat sunk on her moorings, but how well loved she was I don't know as her licence is 12 months out of date. We met a couple of boats during the morning and then 3 in the Hillmorton Flight. We moored for lunch just below Hillmorton Locks. Shortly after setting off again I heard the sound of a steam whistle and a few moments later a steam train came chuffing along the line. Unfortunately as he passed us he was in a slight cutting and although I was standing on the front deck with my camera ready in hand all I could see was lots of steam and the top of a black funnel going along. We moored for the night on the visitor moorings just prior to Newbold Tunnel a few minuets after 4 PM
Thursday 4 January 2007
We set off at about 9 30 through Newbold tunnel with all the pretty lights. I would still like to know who paid for them. We winded at the first bridge north of the tunnel 48 in a disused arm, it was quite a tight turn back into the arm and I doubt anything over 60 foot would manage it. We then reversed back to Terry Yate's yard to have a look at the steam boat " Laplander" standing up on the hard. She is very round under the water line with a serious prop to push her along. We then headed back towards Braunston in some very strange weather, the sky would open up nice and blue and it would start to rain then the clouds come over, the sun would go in and the rain would stop. As we approached Braunston under bridge 89 the sunken boat now has had the floor lifted on the cruiser stern and oil absorbent pads floated on the oil that has leaked from the engine. We moored for the night just north of bridge 99 to a glorious sunset at about 4 PM. One point of interest is that of all the boats moored between bridge 98 and 99 only 1 is displaying a valid licence, even ours is 4 days out of date, the next is dated 08/06 and the rest have nothing. I wonder what BW recorded on this stretch when they did there check in November.
Friday 5 January 2007
This morning started with a very fine but wet drizzle but this rapidly improved with blue skys. We met a couple of boats on our way and were soon at Wigrams Turn where we said a final good bye to Pauline, Joan, John and Chard all on Fringilla as they continued on the GU to Ventner Farm whereas we continued south on the South Oxford Canal. I noted that Wigrams Turn are still doing pump outs for £12 and Diesel at 52p/lt. We continued to the Napton flight where we found all the locks against us and no sign of anyone coming down. In the first pound the contractors are still working hard to replace the towpath just below lock 9 and it is still necessary to drop a crew member off on the offside to work the lock. This could prove troublesome for single hander as there are no mooring posts. We just arrived back at our moorings as a few drops of rain fell but for a change we had had a dry run up the flight.