Today would be a long day by our standards. It was again misty, with a bit off a chill in the air, but this would be favourable for the crew, who had two lock flights consisting of, the seven narrow locks at Watford, and the six wide locks at Braunston to work. On arrival at the top of the Watford staircase we met the on duty lock keeper. He had seen us coming, and was already preparing the lock for us. He wasn’t the most talkative soul, in fact I think he only said two words during our transit of the flight. He did however make up for his lack of chatiness, by working us down the entire flight. This is a first at this flight, and as such our descent only took about 30 minutes. We then headed towards Norton Junction and the Grand Union Canal mainline. Turning right at the junction, we headed towards Braunston and the tunnel. As we were approaching the tunnel entrance, two boats pulled away in front of us. You could almost see them rushing to untie their ropes as we approached. The reason is, the flight of locks ahead, would now all be set against us, rather than them. Our transit through the tunnel was uneventful, with only a single boat opposing, and then we arrived at the top of Braunston locks. So now, not only did we have two boats ahead of us, but it was also apparent they were both single handed. This was going to be painfully slow. It was however nearly lunchtime, and the Admiral Nelson PH is located by lock three. Decision made, we tied up and walked off down the flight for lunch.
After lunch we returned to the boat, and as luck would have it three boats we making their way up the flight. This meant three locks were ready for us as we approached them. Once through the bottom lock we chugged along on tickover, passing numerous moored boats, and as we approached The Boathouse PH we saw the crew of nb Castallan. We slowed for the briefest of chats, then it was onwards passing Braunston Turn and the Oxford Canal heading off towards Napton. Just a mile outside Braunston, adjacent to the village of Willoughby, is a lovely rural spot and this is where we stopped.
The views above are from the side hatch, however as I write this the sky has turned black, and the sound of rolling thunder can be heard in the distance. We are not sure yet whether to stay put here for a day, or push on to Brinklow and All Oak Wood tomorrow.
- Totals 8 Miles 13 Locks 1 Tunnel
- Running total 37 Miles 15 Locks 2 Tunnels
This morning the hills around the Marina basin were shrouded in mist, the wind turbine on the top of the hill, completely obscured from view. Today we would leave Yelvertoft for the summer, there were a few jobs to finalise before setting off. The crew returned to the boat around lunchtime, so after a bite to eat, we manoeuvred from our berth onto the service dock. A little after two o’clock we were underway. Turning left this time from the Marina entrance, we could just about feel the sun starting to break through. We rounded Cracks Hill, a regular walking route, and passed Crick Marina, famous for its annual boat show. The moorings restaurant appeared shut, and then we could see the gapping mouth of Crick Tunnel ahead. In the distance within the tunnel, was the telltale tunnel light of an approaching boat. As we entered the northern portal, we got a thorough drenching from the constantly leaking roof, passing the boat we had seen on our approach. There would be a further two boats to encounter, during our transit of the tunnel. Our intended spot was just prior to bridge 9, about half a mile from the tunnel southern portal. It is always a gamble as to whether your favourite spot, is also someone else’s, but today we rounded the bend, and saw it was vacant. We have used this spot before, so we know it is good for the satellite and phone signals. As we secured the boat, the sun finally won its battle with the mist, and now we are in a great rural location, settled for the remainder of the afternoon.
As the photos show this is a great mooring, which is why as I write this another boat has pulled in just beyond the bridge. We are now just half a mile from the top of Watford locks, which we will descend tomorrow as we head for the far side of Braunston.
- Totals 4 Miles 1 Tunnel
- Running total 29 Miles 2 Locks 1 Tunnel
Having spent a wet, and very windy Monday at Welford, it was time to move on. After breakfast we had the opportunity to test the reversing capabilities of our new axiom propeller, as we needed water and the water point was three hundred yards to our rear. I would like to report that I was able to reverse the whole distance, including rounding a slight bend, without the use of the front rudder aka the bow thruster, but alas it was not to be. Still whilst filling with water we were logged by the CRT boat checker, possibly for the first time this year, and then at 11 o’clock we were underway. The sun was shining but there was a slight breeze which was bitterly cold. We negotiated the single lock, and continued on towards the junction. We had considered turning right and popping along to Foxton for the day, but the weather tomorrow is not looking good. At the junction it was left, on a return journey towards Yelvertoft. We however were going to be stopping before then, at a frequent location of ours, near to bridge 27. Both the crew hopped ashore at bridge 33, in order to provide four legs with his exercise. Not long after, he was seen to be examining something in the hedgerow a little too closely. This usually means he has found something disgusting to stick his nose into. However on this occasion it turned out to be coiled grass snake, sunning itself in the spring sunshine. On arrival at our intended spot, we found we were alone and so had our choice of mooring. During the afternoon several boats have passed by with none stopping.
The views from our side hatch over the canal, show what a pleasant rural spot this is. It was on a visit to this spot over the winter, that cost me a propeller, so I am hoping whatever we hit has been moved since we were last here.
- Totals 7 Miles 1 Lock
- Running total 22 Miles 2 Locks
This is our first post of 2017, having spent most of the winter in the relative luxury of Yelvertoft Marina. We have had a few jobs to sort out prior to commencing our travels on the waterways, including, changing the primary fuel filter, replacing a noisy and temperamental fresh water pump, and servicing our hurricane diesel heater. We have also had one or two days when the weather was so nice, it would have been criminal not to take the boat up the cut for a spin. It was during our last cruise a couple of weeks ago, we developed a bit of tiller wobble, well in fact more than a bit, it was quite a lot. Once back on our berth, it was down the weed hatch for the first time since the boat was built, to remove whatever had attached itself to our propeller. It couldn’t be anything more serious than rubbish round the prop, as we had not heard any noise of the propeller striking a hard and unforgiving object. How wrong. As I felt the prop whilst perched upside down in the weed hatch, it was quickly apparent that the prop was no longer the shape it should be. Today, it was round to the slipway to be dragged out by tractor for the new Axiom prop to be fitted. This was also the first time I could see how the hull was looking following our zinc treatment at Debdale Wharf. The hull looked as clean as a whistle. The prop however was a bit more bent than I thought.
The prop needed a bit of encouragement to free itself from the shaft, then it was time for the nice shiny new one to be attached. All in all the whole process took 15/20 minutes.
Shortly after lunch we were relaunched, and we made our way back to the berth. One of the claims made by Axiom, is the design of their prop allows for stopping in much shorter distances. I tried this, and it did seem to be the case that we stopped much quicker than previously, and also maintained a straight line. We will give it a proper trial later in the week, when we set off on our eight month journey.
- Totals 6 Miles
- Running total 6 Miles