I've got a boat test in the diary for tomorrow, so I came up to Briar Rose after work last night. (Adrian had work to do today and was also on call, so it wasn't as if we could have done much if I'd been at home). I left Television Centre at just after 10pm, and arrived at Brinklow at a quarter to midnight. The M1 was the quietest I've known it; I guess everyone was scared off by the dire warnings of long delays because of the closure of the motorway immediately after the M6 junction. Once I'd unpacked the car, the first job was to put the chimney on and get the fire going. Then I turned on the gas and put the kettle on, for hot water bottles for the bed, and a tea while I waited for things to warm up a bit.
This morning the weather was much better than forecast. Far from being dull and grey, there was a blue sky over the marina.
I topped up the water tank while I had breakfast, and decided that it would be daft to have a boat and not use it on a reasonable day. So I got the ropes out, put the tiller on, disconnected the shore power, and reversed off the pontoon at 10.15. There's no choice of which way to go to the moment as Bridge 34 is closed for repairs, so I turned right out of the marina. In truth, it was rather cloudy up ahead, but before long the brighter weather from behind me won through, so that by the time I was approaching the aqueducts at Rugby there was some pleasant winter sunshine.
On the approach to Hillmorton, I noticed some unexpected bubbles on the water down the side of the boat. A look towards the bow showed that I was pushing some branches along in front of me. I wanted them out of the way before I did my turn, so brought the boat to a halt in mid channel, rushed through to the bow, and used the boat hook to remove three large branches, probably ten feel long, from in front of the boat. At that stage I noticed there was a boat coming along behind (who probably wondered what on earth was going on), so I quickly went back to the helm and carried on. At Hillmorton, I turned in the winding hole with no drama -- just as well as I had an audience of the following boat and a number of fishermen who were using the lock landing. As the following boat came past, I realised it was Reckless, "The boat that Guy built" (or ruined, depending on your point of view). Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to ask if they've removed all of Guy Martin's contributions, but I can't imagine the steam powered shower is still on board.
It was 12.15 when I turned, so I decided to stop for lunch after Bridge 68, on a long straight piece of piling which is normally full of regulars, but today was empty. Mooring up when single handed always seems like a bit of a trial, and I could quite happily have stayed in that spot for the night. But I didn't want to leave myself too much to do tomorrow morning, so set off again at 1.30. It had clouded up a bit, but still wasn't very cold: I was glad of a hat, but didn't need my gloves. The return trip was uneventful, and I passed just one moving boat. I was surprised to see a Rose hire boat moored at Newbold -- it's the wrong side of the stoppage. I'd spent the outward journey keeping an eye out for a likely mooring place, close to the marina, and preferably with a chance of a satellite signal. The only one that fitted the bill was by Bridge 42A, which takes the railway over the canal. There's one boat length of piling there (the modern type, which takes piling hooks -- a bit further along it's the older type where the hooks won't fit), so I pulled in and moored up. The railway line is very close, but there haven't been too many trains so far (I waited ages to get a photo with one in), and I'd still rather be here than back in the marina.
Once moored, I had a great success with the satellite dish. I stuck it on the roof in what I thought was approximately the right direction, and it worked straight away. Then I checked the batteries, unscrewing the tops of all 24 cells to make sure they didn't need topping up. Now all I need is for tomorrow's weather to be a repeat of today.
11.5 miles, 0 locks.