Planes, trains, automobiles and of course the small matter of a boat!
In January we planned to have the mayday bank holiday weekend in Paris, we didn’t plan on buying another narrowboat in March and we certainly didn’t plan for Sue to have a pacemaker fitted!
Anyway, all of those things happened and came together to give us a pretty busy few days, hence the title of this post. We flew back from Paris on Monday evening and thought about tuesday’s logistical puzzle. Prior to our trip to Paris, Sue had gathered together the few items that we would need for our boating adventure so we didn’t need to do too much preparation.
Tuesday dawned and we were in the car for half past eight heading for Braunston where we planned to catch the bus into Rugby, leaving the car in the marina car park. There were only a handful of passengers on the 9.25 when we got on it outside the Boathouse pub on the A45. The bus collected another thirty bus pass toting passengers as it meandered its way into Rugby and by the time it reached its destination it was full. It was fairly clear that the youngest passenger was about four years old and I was the second youngest, quite a feat given that I am now 52!
We walked to the local Wetherspoons where we stuffed ourselves with a big breakfast each to see us through the day. “Breakfast at Wetherspoons”, the modern day version of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but starring miss Stella Artois instead of Audrey Hepburn. Fortified by our mid morning repast, we walked the three quarters of a mile to the station and waited for the 1142 to Stone. The train was a few minutes late, well ten to be exact but we got on and found seats beside an elderly lady who was returning to Liverpool from London via Stafford, maybe a football fan returning from the Crystal Palace match last night? Probably not. We had a bit of banter with two other ladies, sisters we presumed, who were also going to Liverpool to then catch the Isle of Man ferry (not to be confused with the Manly Ferry which is something entirely different!).
The train eventually arrived in Stone and we were pleased to see a solitary taxi in the car park, we were beaten to it by another passenger – bugger! We were a bit surprised by the taxi driver’s reaction when we asked him about the possibility of another cab. We had expected him to radio or phone the office but the miserable old sod just mumbled something about there might be another one in twenty minutes. We walked into town instead, made our way into Wetherspoons and asked if they had a number of a local taxi firm and got a shake of the head, we asked where the local taxi rank is, another negative answer, most frustrating!
We found our way to the canal, got on the towpath and struck out in a southerly direction, heading for Aston Marina a mile and a half away. Despite the warm sunshine, the backpack, the shoulder bag and the shopping trolley, we reached the marina in just over thirty minutes.
Once there, we made our way to our new pride and joy, nb Caxton where we emptied the trolley before Sue retraced her steps and bought some food at the marina farm shop. In her absence, I made the final preparations for our departure. When Sue returned, the engine was running and only a slip knot held us in place on the pontoon so within two minutes, we were off. The bow thruster (girlie button) was pressed into service immediately and we exited the marina smoothly and without incident. It took an hour before we reached Sandon lock and that was plenty of time to adjust to the handling characteristics of Caxton. Broadly speaking everything is the same, the difference is in the response time from the tiller. Pushing the tiller in either direction does not have the same immediate effect that we were used to with Phoenix III but then when things do start to happen, they keep on happening, just the extra length I guess.
It started raining as soon as we reached the lock and stopped as soon as we left it, maybe the lock has its own permanently moored raincloud?
Another feature of our new boating adventures is that Sue is not allowed to work the locks, her pacemaker op has seen to that so now she has to drive and I am the lock wheeler. We carried on to Weston lock where we found an Ashby hire boat just about to leave it giving us easy passage in. The third lock, Hoo mill, was empty when we reached it and had to be filled but like the two before it, its gates and paddles were well maintained and were therefore a breeze to work. Once through Hoo mill, we started looking for a mooring but at this time of day, the best are usually taken so it was no surprise that we found ourselves descending through Haywood lock too. We found a mooring between the villages of the Haywoods, Great and Little and settled for the night. We had travelled just over four hours and as a result it was almost half past seven when we sat down to dinner, amazingly those breakfasts in Rugby had seen us right through the day.
We ate our dinner in the cratch and at a generous 9′ x 6′, a bit like eating in a conservatory, especially when the rain came on.
We were totally off-grid at our mooring, no mobile phone reception, no internet and no tv, no big deal – we listened to some music from the ipad played through my birthday present from Sue, a bluetooth amplifier speaker by Edifier. We eventually retreated inside and listened to Radio 2 with “Whispering” Bob Harris for a while as we reflected on our first day out on the cut with Caxton and then contemplated day two of our voyage.