So it’s been a few months since our last post. Towards the end of last year, we had a period away from the boat, whilst a job we’d had done previously was rectified, well to a fashion anyway. Our arrival back at Yelvertoft was further delayed, due to the winter stoppage at Watford Locks, so we only arrived back on our home mooring, the week before Christmas. Over the winter months, we have put right a few of the issues we had, and today, finally, we were ready to commence the annual cruise. The boat is ship shape with a few additions, including anchor and life jackets, as we plan to spend time on the Thames this year. This morning after breakfast, we unplugged the umbilical cord from the mains electric, and reversed off our mooring into a fairly breezy Marina. Turning left, we headed south towards Crick and its wet tunnel. The winter has been very dry, and we did not get the usual drenching, we were expecting. The transit through the tunnel was unopposed, and it was a few hundred yards further on, that we spotted a lamb in the cut. It was barely able to keep it head out of the water. After a bit of manoeuvring we managed to get the rear of the boat within a couple of yards of the lamb then using the boat pole lifted it onto the bank. The lamb did move its legs a bit as we were lifting, but it was clearly exhausted, it was however still breathing. On arrival at the top of Watford Locks, we had a short wait whilst another boat ascended the staircase.
We took the opportunity to have lunch, then on down the flight and passed Watford Gap services. About half an hour later we picked up a mooring at our usual spot just prior to Norton Junction and the Grand Union mainline Canal. We have no hard and fast plan this year, other than we need to be back in early October. So we will just have to see where we end up.
Finally, we have had to set up a new blog site as the older one does not function well. It can still be accessed to look at old news at firstname.lastname@example.org
I just knew even entering the canalware shop by lock 8 would be a mistake, as I would be bound to see something I wanted, and so it was. Yesterday during our walk with four legs down the Buckby Lock flight, I was drawn in and purchased a brass oil lamp we had seen the previous day. I even knew where on the boat it was going to be installed. We arranged to collect it on the way back from our walk, once we had visited the garden centre at the bottom of the flight. Back at the boat armed with a bradawl and a screwdriver, the lamp was fixed in our back cabin.
Brass Oil Lamp
Today as planned we wandered off to the New Inn P.H. to reacquaint ourselves with their roast dinners. We were not disappointed. The afternoon will be spent relaxing, in readiness for the ascent of Watford Locks tomorrow morning. We expect to continue past our winter mooring at Yelvertoft, and end up somewhere near bridge 28, as we are not quite ready to stop cruising just yet.
We departed Norton Junction at about 9.30 this morning heading towards the Watford lock flight. As we approached it became apparent there was a queue, and we were number three. There was also one more boat in the flight going up, and three more on their way down which we would need to wait for. Still, at least it was warm and sunny. About an hour later we were on our way up. The flight was manned by volunteers, who helped with our progression through the central staircase section. We had been close to the M1 for a while, but once through the top lock, we passed beneath the motorway and soon left the noise behind us. Although we’d had a bit of a wait, it is nothing like the wait people will have in a couple of weeks time, when all the Crick Boat Show traffic is on the move. It is one of the reasons we have returned to the summit level a tad early. Then it was Crick tunnel, wet as usual, but not as bad as it has been previously. Passing Crick Marina we were soon on familiar water, rounding Cracks Hill and Yelvertoft. We passed our winter home, noting our usual berth is currently empty, and then stopped for water by bridge 19. Whilst waiting we had a bite to eat, then it was on again, about half a mile to our intended mooring spot.
Mooring by bridge 20.
We don’t have any hard and fast plans now until the Crick Boat Show, so will spend a few days here and there on the summit level, before returning to Yelvertoft Marina.
Today, we finally disconnected the electrical umbilical cord, and made a break for the marina exit. We had blue sky and sunshine for our first journey of the year, although it was still a little chilly. Crick Tunnel was wetter than ever, and as we travelled through we caught up with a boat ahead, that appeared to be travelling exceptionally slowly. As we exited the tunnel this boat pulled over allowing us to pass. It turned out that it was a crew under instruction, and they were performing drills as they went along. On arrival at Watford locks we were ushered straight in by the lock keeper, then had an uneventful descent down the flight. At the bottom we carried on and picked up a mooring at our usual spot, on the straight just prior to Norton Junction. We quickly secured the boat, then it was round the corner to the New Inn at Long Buckby for lunch. Our intention is to remain here one night only, as we have an appointment at Calcutt Boats on Monday.
Norton Junction, where the Leicester branch of the GU and Grand Union Canal meet.
We stayed a day longer in the marina than we had planned, due to the high winds that had been forecast. It turned out to be a good decision. We had our winter neighbours round for a farewell curry on Wednesday evening, and then Thursday morning we set off for Norton Junction. The day was as forecast, overcast but with very little wind. We passed Crick Marina where the annual boat show is held. We won’t be going this year, as we are moving further northwards. It wouldn’t be the same for us either as this year there will be large hole where Hudson Boatbuilders usually had their boats. Beyond the marina was Crick Tunnel. A boat was just exiting, and I could see through to the far end that it was clear. What I could not see was that it was dripping, virtually all the way through. Obviously last time we passed it was at the end of the summer and so was fairly dry, this time the end of winter and I got a soaking. The crew I should add were inside the boat, so remained nice and dry. Emerging from the tunnel we were surprised to see the sun had come out. This had not been forecast and the day just got better. Shortly after the tunnel is Watford Locks. This is a staircase locks, so we checked in with the duty lock keeper and were instructed to pass through the first lock, then hold whilst boats coming up passed us. There were four to wait for. This seems to be a pattern for us as we were also held at Foxton in this way. Still it was an opportunity for a cuppa and a toasted hot cross bun.
Held in the winding hole below the top lock.
Once through the locks it was not much further to Norton Junction. We passed the Watford Gap Services, and began to move further away from the M1 and all the noise that it brings. We passed numerous fields now full of lambs and as we turned the corner towards the junction with the Grand Union Canal Main Line, we saw a long line of moored boats. Fortunately there was one gap and it was just big enough.
Moored in a line of boats at Norton Junction
Later during our afternoon walk we saw even more boats moored up beyond the junction so it looks like we found our spot just in time. It was always going to be busy here over the Easter weekend and a large number of boats have passed us heading towards the locks. Some of these have been the old historic boats on their way to Foxton for an Easter weekend event. The museum there has been refurbished and is due for a grand reopening. We will stay here till Monday at least with Sunday lunch at the New Inn, Buckby already booked.
We stayed put today for our day of rest. It started by us laying in till 10 am. After breakfast we decided to walk to Whilton Marina as they have a chandlers there. The walk took us down the Grand Union mainline passing the 7 locks of the Buckby flight. At the marina we found the chandlers well stocked. On the counter by the till was a large bucket of hose connectors with a note saying ‘carry a spare’. Clearly I am not the only one to misplace this thing, so I bought two. I have also decided to try and limit my visits to chandlers in general as they are like toy shops for grown ups, and I always seem to spend more than I intended before entering. After brief refreshments of an ice lolly each we returned towards Long Buckby. At the top of the flight is the pub we visited yesterday, so a return visit today for lunch seemed a good idea. The day had warmed up so on return to the boat the afternoon was spent lazing about in the sun.
Tomorrow we plan to set off early to tackle the staircase locks at the Watford flight, which happen to be very close to Watford Gap services on the M1, and Crick tunnel, which I believe leaks so raincoats at the ready.