Saturday, 24 September 2016

East Mids Exploration: Day 24

Last night, when it was getting dark, two boats came up the top lock. One of them told us a top gate had come off at the next lock down; the other boat had broken chains on its bow fender, which was dangling in the water. It seemed logical that he'd caught it on the gate, lifted the gate out, and then his fender chains had failed. I went down to have a look, and sure enough, the gate was at a strange angle. A boat which had been moored in the long pound had decided to come back up, so reversed all the way to the lock, and came up backwards. I helped open some gates and wind some paddles.

So this morning we knew we weren't going anywhere until CRT had put the gate's pin back in the cup. Fortunately they did that fairly easily by jacking up the gate. Then it was a matter of tightening the collar so the gate sealed.

We finally got under way at about 11.15 -- by which time there were quite a few boats waiting. We started sharing with an Alvechurch hire boat; the couple had been out for three weeks, doing the Leicester Ring.

By the third lock, we caught up with a lone boat which had been moored in the long pound, so we went with them. There were plenty of boats coming down behind us, so there would be a shuffling of partners. There were also lots of boats coming up -- and a couple of crews were a bit enthusiastic with turning locks, which didn't exactly help. It was also very windy, making waves on the canal. Added to that, there was an enormous amount of water coming down, making it difficult to make a level -- either full or empty -- in the locks.

The couple we were sharing with were a delight. We completed the flight in an hour and a half, which isn't bad at all. At the bottom our partners turned into Whilton Marina, where they're based.

During the morning, we'd seen two contrasting hoverers. At the top of the locks, a bird of prey of some sort; and down the locks, the police helicopter.

We carried on along the long Stowe Hill pound. Before Weedon, the earthworks for the new bypass have progressed in the past few weeks.

We stopped for diesel and a gas bottle at Rugby Boats. While I was in the office paying, a kingfisher perched on the tiller for a few seconds. We then just got the miles under our belts. It was pretty breezy at times, which made steering a bit of a challenge. There are now signs not just of Autumn, but of advancing Autumn: tractors ploughing and tilling.

As we approached Gayton Junction we'd almost caught up with the widebeam disabled trip boat, Mountbatten. At one bridge, Dolcie Blue was coming the other way, and said they'd had a bit of a close encounter with them! Mountbatten stopped at Gayton to offload passengers, who included a group of Chelsea pensioners.

It was about 4pm by then, so we decided to go through Blisworth Tunnel to Stoke Bruerne. In the tunnel we passed the Indian Chief restaurant boat, which had a couple of customers sitting on the roof -- which seemed a little unwise to me. At Stoke Bruerne there was no shortage of moorings. We stopped as far along as we could, which is fortunately out beyond the trees. It was about 5.30, so it's seemed like a bit of a long day.

16 miles, 7 locks. (393 miles, 174 locks)


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