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Grand Union Holiday begins

Hurray! It’s the first day of this, our third boating holiday of the year. We moved on to the boat on Thursday evening after which we visited Daventry and did some shopping so that we were ready for departure on Friday afternoon. There was the small matter of me going to work of course so after getting up at six o’clock the following morning, I left Sue and went to Coventry. I was back at Braunston for a quarter past one where Sue was waiting with a tasty lunch consisting of fish, new potatoes and some mixed vegetables – delish!

We sat in the boat as it rocked in the wind, the rain came, light at first and then heavy with the strong wind behind it but we couldn’t sit forever so just after two, we untied and attempted to leave our mooring. As luck would have it the wind was blowing in the right direction for us so as Phoenix III nosed out into the marina, nature’s bow thruster worked its magic and pointed us in the direction of the bottom lock. When we reached said lock it was full and needed emptying. Once in it and with the water starting to refill the chamber we saw that another boat had arrived ready to begin the ascent. For reasons best left unsaid we decided that we would rather not work the locks with them and so we tied up between locks one and two and had a cup of coffee. Half an hour and three boats had passed before we untied and resumed our journey. The rain had almost stopped and so we made our way up the hill towards the tunnel. I have run out of ways to describe Braunston tunnel so I will keep it simple this time. We went in following a boat, we passed two oncoming boats, the first of which wanted to keep to the middle of the channel which is impossible in a fourteen feet wide tunnel! Some quick thinking by Sue who went to the front and pushed the bows apart saved the day.

When we left Braunston tunnel we entered a different land, one with blue skies, white fluffy clouds and sunshine. Had we just passed through a tunnel or through a wardrobe into a Narnia like existence? One of our new centre ropes had come undone in the fifth lock so as we made our way to Norton junction I retied both ropes and fixed them securely with a couple of tie-wraps.

We treated ourselves to a drink before we reached Buckby top lock, there was no one else around since the boat that we had been following had turned left at the junction so we were left to drop down through the flight on our own. Most of the seven locks were already in our favour, some even had the gates open but it was still a bit of a slog. The gates are big and heavy and they all leak which probably explains why there were restrictions here during the drought period which by the way included the wettest four months since records began!

We plugged away at our task and by half past seven we were tied up just below the bottom lock and outside Whilton marina. The vessel in front of our mooring? It was our old acquaintances Michael and Geraldine on The Cheese boat. It seemed impolite not to say hello and it would have been downright rude not to buy some of their excellent wares so we visited them and then returned to Phoenix III with three cheeses and a jar of chutney. Cheese, chutney and few crackers made for a nice supper which we relished as we sat and relaxed for the evening.

And that was it really, we had had a good start to our trip, we had found ourselves a nice mooring and although it lay between the M1 motorway and the west coast main line, the constant drone of the traffic soon became a soothing background noise interrupted now and again by the odd Virgin pendolino train.

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August 2012
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