Is paved with good intentions, or so they say.
Our intention this weekend had been to stay in the marina so that we could wash and polish Caxton. We changed our minds and decided to go out and take advantage of the warm, sunny weather. We arrived at Braunston just after four o’clock and emerged on to the cut less than an hour later.
The weather was absolutely glorious and perfect for boating. The Boathouse looked busy as we passed by but once again the pub moorings were completely empty, very strange. As we turned left at the junction, a Napton boat was just passing under the other bridge, heading north on the Oxford – or so we thought. The boat went straight across so that the bow rested on the opposite bank where a crew member jumped off and started wrestling with the bow line. Perhaps they had intended turning towards the locks and taken the junction like a road junction? We’ll never know because neither they nor the boat that had been travelling towards the turn from the north appeared under the arches of the cast iron bridges by the time they were out of view to us.
We plodded on until we reached the spot where we had moored the previous Saturday. We soon located the rings and secured Caxton’s mooring lines to them. We ate dinner in the cratch and enjoyed the evening sun until it disappeared and the air became chilly.
Saturday, the longest day of the year dawned and as the sun rose, the boat started to warm up so we got up and dressed and then prepared for our departure. In contrast to the stillness of Friday, a welcome breeze accompanied us as we journeyed towards Wigrams turn. Sue made me a nice bit of bacon and egg and then took over the steering while I sat down to eat, a good Captain knows how to get the best out of her crew!
The top lock at Calcutt was full and as we descended, two boats left the middle lock heading up so we made easy passage. The same thing happened for us in the middle lock, one of the boats ascending was a Willow Wren training boat but we didn’t get a chance to witness any instruction. We had to close the bottom gate of the third lock as there was nothing approaching it but we had been lucky and despite having no other boat to partner us through the locks, we had passed through very quickly.
Once we were clear of the last lock, Sue took the opportunity to stretch her legs with a walk to the next bridge where I picked her up again. We motored on until we reached the recently renovated Nelson’s wharf and the home of Willow Wren Training. We made use of the wharf, winding Caxton and then reversing to the nearest available mooring spot with an unobstructed view of the canal. We sat in the cratch, partially shaded from the strong sun, listening to music and just basically lazing the afternoon away. At six o’clock with the fierce heat of the sun having subsided, we wandered down to the Blue Lias and had dinner in the beer garden there. On returning to Caxton, I crashed out on the settee and that was it for me for the night. I did wake a couple of hours later and drag myself into bed!
After a good thirteen hours asleep, I awoke refreshed. As Sue said, I must have needed the sleep. We got up, got showered and got dressed before having a cooked breakfast on the front deck in the mid morning sunshine.
Shortly after eleven we decided that we should probably make a start on the four hour trip back to Braunston so we untied and set off. These are the sort of days that we all imagine when we think of boating, blue skies and gentle breezes. It took us about an hour to reach Calcutt and we shared the first two locks with a couple who moor in the marina there, they were going for diesel so we let them leave the middle lock first and waited while they manouevered into position. We swapped over with a pair of boats leaving the top lock and because there was a day hire boat waiting to come in, our ascent of the three locks had been as quick and easy as our descent had been the day before. A small Sea Otter boat arrived, decided that they didn’t fancy bouncing around in the lock with the similarly sized day boat and so turned around. We had a bit of lighthearted banter with them about chickening out and creating a “plan B” and we all had a good laugh. They followed us for a short while and then turned again back towards the lock, presumably to try again with a different boat to partner them.
We soon reached the junction and held back as an American crewed Viking boat took a very wide sweep. As they passed, the steerer commented on how tough the turn was until Sue pointed out that the Kate boat following them had executed the turn much tighter.
We turned left at Wigrams and started on the very familiar route back to the marina. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of boats on the move and we eventually found ourselves in the middle of a convoy which broke up when we reached Braunston turn. We reached our berth in the marina just after three o’clock, driving in rather than reversing so that when we return on Wednesday we can wash and polish the port side of Caxton. It will then simply be a matter of turning the boat around so that we can clean the other side and have Caxton in the perfect position to view the Historic boat parade at the weekend.
It was quite cool inside the boat when we awoke this morning and a quick peep through the curtains showed us why. Thick dark grey clouds filled the sky and a strong wind whipped up the surface of the G.U. Canal.
It was eight o’clock so we got up and got dressed and prepared to cast off. I untied the back of the boat and immediately the wind pushed the stern out from the bank, not a good start but with a bit of muscle work Sue and I managed to get everything under control. We chugged along to the junction where we took on water before reversing into the wind and taking the left turn towards Napton.
The strong wind persisted with its cold blasts all the way to Wigrams turn and then as if we had entered a different land, we turned right and the sun came out. By the time we had reached the top lock at Calcutt, we were enjoying a beautiful spring day. We worked down the three locks on our own, crossing two boats on the way and by the time we left the bottom lock we were actually quite warm. We were soon on the way to Stockton where we have stayed many times before, this time would be slightly different for us because instead of turning at Birdingbury Wharf the following morning, we were able to turn at the arm currently being restored and developed by Willow Wren. After our turn we reversed four hundred yards or so back to a convenient towpath mooring.
After showering in the lovely, newly heated fresh water, we walked the two miles down to Long Itchington and had a late lunch at The Buck & Bell. We sat outside in the sunshine and marvelled at the contrast between the weather in the afternoon compared to the morning, that’s the sort of climate change that anyone would welcome!
After lunch we made a quick trip to the Co-op and started the long uphill trudge back to our mooring. Although the sun was still shining when we got back, it wasn’t quite warm enough to sit outside so we retreated inside and flopped in the reclining chairs.
Tomorrow is forecast to be sunny, we are pointing in the right direction and are only four hours away from Braunston so it feels like there is a very relaxing day in store for us.
All that remains now is to light the fire and then mellow for the rest of the evening.
Another blue sky greeted us when we got out of bed on the last day of our journey. We wanted to get up and through the Stockton locks before the traffic built up on what we thought would be a busy, sunny Sunday. By quarter past seven we were on our way to the bottom lock with me steering and Sue on foot. Another early starter in a Calcutt hire boat was in the process of coming down the lock so we waited until he had vacated the chamber before taking our place and beginning our ascent. The steerer told us that they were attempting the Warwickshire ring in a week, an ambitious target but as we are approaching the longest day of the year and with the weather settled for the week, they should manage it but it will be hard work. It soon became clear that they had been tied up at the Blue Lias because after we reached the locks above the pub, the chamber walls were dry and most were either empty or very close to being empty. We met a couple of boats near the top of the flight and that speeded our progress even more, so much so that we managed to leave the tenth lock just ninety minutes after we had started.
Despite the fact that it was still not quite nine o’clock, the temperature was rising nicely as we passed our regular mooring above the bridge next to the Boat Inn. We had a steady run up to the three Calcutt locks where we caught up with a lone locker just below the bottom lock. Between the three of us we soon transcended the flight and with the exception of a slight delay leaving the top lock where we waited while a boat attempted awkwardly to wind above the lock, we were soon out and heading for Wigram’s turn. Our lock buddy was taking his boat to Brinklow for blacking the following day so we settled in behind him at a decent distance and chugged our way back to Braunston turn where, with a cheery wave, we parted company. The journey back was peaceful enough in the sunshine and despite the large number of boats travelling in the opposite direction, it all passed without incident. We did see a pen full of sheep being sheared at the farm by bridge 104, the novelty of which entertained us for a few minutes as we passed by.
Typically, a boat pulled away from the water point near the A45 road bridge, no problem there as they would not have known that we were coming through behind them. We followed them to the marina entrance and then had to wait while they winded their boat. We were hoping that there might be enough empty berths to allow us easy passage on to our pontoon but we were out of luck. We made it in past Havoc II with a little help from another boater who fended us off the bow of the aforementioned narrowboat. Just before we started our manoeuvre, Sue had discovered nb Phyllis May II, pride and joy of Terry Darlington and his wife Monica tied up on the pontoon directly opposite from our own. The adventuring authors are taking a stall at the Braunston historic boat show, no doubt hoping to sell a few signed copies of their books over that weekend.
We spent a little while doing the usual stuff and taking showers before clearing some bits and pieces into the car ready to drive home. Of course we will be back on Thursday evening to make ready for a Friday afternoon departure to start our two week cruise to ….., well we’re still undecided on that one so watch this space.