Sunday, 11 September 2011

Autumn Cruise - Day 2

Last night, we had a great evening with Kath and Neil from Herbie.  We hope they found their way back along the dark towpath to their car.

The moorings by Bridge 10 were very quiet, but for some reason we were up early.  It was a lovely morning -- blue skies and sunshine, and much calmer than had been forecast.  We were soon heading through the bridge to the junction, and on to the top Buckby lock.

The lock was full with its gates open.  We (possibly rather cheekily) decided that as we'd been up at least an hour and had seen no boats heading for the lock, that would count as our one hour waiting time, so we headed down alone.  The second lock was empty, but the subsequent ones all had their top gates open, and in most cases paddles too.

When we got to the fifth lock down, a lock keeper came along and asked us to moor up.  The pound below was extremely low -- the couple on a boat moored in the pound said they'd fallen out of bed when their boat settled on the bottom at an angle.  The lock keeper (who'd just asked us whether we'd waited for another boat to travel with) then started to run water down to refill the pound.  It took a while, so we had enough time to make some tea.  The boat which had been grounded joined us for the final two locks -- the bottom one had water weiring over the gates, and there were four boats waiting to come up.

The next stretch of canal has the M1 close by, but then veers off so becomes much quieter.  It's also surprisingly pretty.  We came this way four years ago, but we didn't remember much.  Weedon was busy, and we passed the base of William Piper Narrowboats.  We remembered Bugbrooke, where last time we stopped at the pub for lunch.  Not today though.  In an increasingly strong wind we carried on until we spotted a stretch of piling just past Bridge 42 where we stopped for half an hour for lunch.

Gayton Junction, where the Northampton Arm goes off to the left, came next, then Blisworth with it's nicely converted mill building, and the tunnel.  We thought we'd make some tea before the tunnel, but when I'd filled the kettle, the handle fell off!  There was water all over me and the floor, but at least it was cold and not boiling hot.

We passed three boats in the tunnel, including the trip boat.  The other trip boat, which goes to the tunnel mouth, pokes its nose inside, then backs out and turns, confused us slightly at the far end.  Until we realised it was the trip boat, we wondered what on earth was going on.

Stoke Bruerne was its usual chaos.  There were gongoozlers everywhere, a boat coming up the lock, a boat in the middle waiting to go down, and the trip boat was winding and coming into its mooring.  There's also a backpumping scheme, which sends a jet of water across the canal above the lock.  All this meant that I ended up in a less than ideal position to get into the lock.  However, Briar Rose's ability to turn came into its own again, and I did the sort of swing into the lock that makes it look as though you know exactly what you're doing!

While in the lock, we were being photographed and filmed from all sides.  Also, a woman introduced herself as the owner of Braidbar boat No 102, Up Spirits, which she said was moored down below the second lock, where we also planned to moor.

Once we'd moored, we walked back up to the top lock and had an ice cream from the museum shop (which doesn't stock kettles!)  When we returned from our walk, another boat had moored in front of us.  It turned out to be Nuggler, yet another Braidbar boat, and we had a chat with the owners and their dog.

We seem to have made very good progress today.  It was only 3.30 when we moored up, and we're already half a day ahead of schedule.  This may turn out to be a very good thing: the forecast is for even stronger winds tomorrow, so we may not go too far.

16 miles, 9 locks.  (32 miles, 18 locks)

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