Last night we had a lovely sunset -- just about the only time we'd seen the sun all day.
Today we've had a really nice relaxing day. It was pretty chilly this morning, and when we set off at 8am there was a bit of mist rising off the water.
We timed our arrival at the first lock of the day just wrong. When we got to Stenson, a boat was just going up (it was the Kate Boat we'd seen several times yesterday). It's a huge lock, wide and more than 12 feet deep; there were a couple of volunteer lock keepers on duty, and they were properly taking the filling of the lock steadily. Then it had to be emptied before we could go in. Once in, one of the lock keepers lowered a rope with a loop in the end, so I could pass up our centre line, which he kept hold of the whole time.
The significant amount of time we'd spent at Stenson Lock meant it was very nearly 10am when we arrived at Mercia Marina. We turned in, found the visitor moorings, reversed in, and then had some debate about how to moor on such a short pontoon. We were at Mercia to meet regular blog commenter KevinTOO, who lives just a few miles away, and friends Jayne and Stephen who live on a boat in the marina. We went to the Willow Tea Rooms and had just about the most complicated coffee and tea order it was possible to get, with all five of us having something different. We sat outside, the sun came out, and we had a good couple of hours chatting. It was a really enjoyable morning.
The other reason for going to Mercia was to get diesel. In the end, Jayne came with me on the boat round to the diesel point, which is by the entrance, while Adrian went to have a quick look in the Boardwalk shops with Stephen. We managed to get 150 litres of fuel in. Mercia has a clever little credit card reader which links to the phone of the staff member, and also emails a receipt.
It was about 12.30 when we finally left. The entrance to the marina has a fairly tight bridge, particularly for pedestrians using the path through, who get an amusing bit of advice.
We turned right out onto the canal and went through Willington on tickover because of the number of boats. At Bridge 24, which is at a funny angle, I sounded my horn in good time, and heard nothing back. Then when I was nearly at the bridge hole a boat was coming the other way, and was already half way through the bridge -- at which point they sounded their horn. I managed to come to a halt and get out of their way, but it took quite a lot of doing.
Just before Burton-on-Trent we crossed the border into Staffordshire, which I guess also means we're now in the West Midlands rather than the East Midlands. At Dallow Lane Lock, the first of the narrow shallow ones, there was a queue in both directions. The boat waiting above was Hang Loose, which was the subject of a boat test. Further on, I always like the little bridge over the entrance to Shobnall Basin.
Branston Lock is in a nice countrified setting, as the busy A38 moves away from the canal temporarily. Again, there were boats going up and down.
After the lock there's a huge construction site on the offside, with another one before Bridge 34. We continued through the bridge and moored up at the Branston Water Park moorings. We went for a walk around the lake, having an ice cream on the way.
We haven't gone very far or tackled many locks today, but it was really nice to see new and old friends, and have a very laid back sunny day.
12 miles, 3 locks. (287 miles, 135 locks)