Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Our mini-cruise with Christine and Mike

Unexpected delays meant that Christine and Mike didn't arrive from Torquay until after 8:00 on Tuesday evening, and very strong winds and heavy rain prevented us from leaving the marina as early as we had wanted the next morning, but we left eventually at around 11:30. Once we were out of the marina, the wind was not the problem it had been - actually moving away from the service platform after taking on fuel had proven quite a challenge - but the rain persisted, in showers to start with, but then in a downpour which soaked us and forced us to moor up. After warming cups of tea, and lunch, we played games until the clouds broke and the sun started to show some promise. We moved on, Christine at the tiller. However, it was late afternoon by now, and it wasn't long before we moored for the night.

For Thursday, the BBC weather forecast had confidently predicted "white cloud", but they were, of course, wrong, and we cruised on through windy outbreaks of rain, Mike taking his turn to steer Kantara. Our journey took us through lovely countryside, despite the weather, and the Husbands Bosworth tunnel, which has some amazing sheets of multi-coloured stalactite dotted along its walls.
Reaching Foxton Locks, we were surprised to find ourselves on the only boat wanting to go in either direction through the staircases, so our progress down was quick. We moored in the pound at the bottom, and I used the Elsan point while Christine and Michael took a stroll around the Foxton site.

An American tourist, walking up the towing path, asked all sorts of questions about the canals - where we are allowed to moor, where we get water and electricity, how far we can travel across the nation. She was fascinated, and quite amazed by the thought of living on a boat. She likened it to travelling the States in a Winnebago, but I had to point out that our pace was rather slower, and involved a lot more water!

After a welcome ice-cream, we set off to find overnight moorings - not as easy a task as we had expected. The first several hundred yards of good moorings were all occupied, and as soon as space became available, we found that the waters at the bank were too shallow for us to get the boat close enough. After much pulling, pushing, revving and manoeuvring which only resulted in me falling full-length on my back and being pulled towards the edge, and Mike slipping knee-deep into the water, we resigned ourselves to having to move on further. Fortunately, this turned out to be just a few hundred yards, and we moored at a lovely spot where we enjoyed a late supper, and more games.

Friday, we woke to clear, sunny, blue skies with no wind. A beautiful day! We continued north through the relatively short Saddington Tunnel stopping at Fleckney for a bit of shopping, and lunching there before engaging Kibworth Locks, a descent of five locks, pairing with another boat to make the whole job of locking quicker. With Mike and a woman from the other boat seeing the boats down through each lock, and me going on ahead to prepare the next lock each time, the pair of boats made good progress.

At the bottom, we had to decide whether to wind straight away or continue for a few more lock miles before winding. Christine and Mike had to be off home on Monday afternoon. We took the latter course, and descended two more locks before winding and returning immediately up them to a good mooring just south of bridge 79.

Here, we were quickly adopted by a lone, lonely swan who took a liking to digestive biscuit and broccoli stem, and who repeatedly knocked on the hull with his bill as soon as we turned away from him to get on with other things. He was still there the next morning, tapping to get our attention.
Saturday was off to a dull start, but warmer than the previous morning, and we continued our return - up the Kibworth Locks, through Saddington Tunnel and on to Foxton. Here we had something of a wait, but ascended the two staircases quickly after that, Christine doing the locking while Mike was at the tiller, as he had been all day.

We moored overnight just south of bridge 59.

On Sunday it was the pleasant meander down to Husbands Bosworth and on through Kilworth. At this point, we realised that we had time to visit the Welford Arm of the GU, and chugged slowly along the mile and a quarter of charming, narrow canal to the winding at the far end, returning to a lovely wooded spot near the lock. Mike and Christine treated us to a delicious Sunday lunch at The Wharf pub restaurant, and the rest of the lazy afternoon and evening was spent chatting, reading and playing games.

Tuesday morning was still and misty, really beautiful...

...and the rest of the day was warm and sunny after the mist had burned off. With Mike at the helm - really confident and competent now - we set off for the last stretch back to Yelvertoft. 52 miles and 36 locks.

Many thanks to Christine and Mike for sharing the cruise with us, and being so much fun. I have a feeling they'll be back one day for another week.


  1. Thank you Grace and Roger, for your fantastic hospitality, company, brilliant food & an all round great time. We loved our time with you both and look forward to joining you again sometime. Thank you also for letting us take the helm and showing us how to point in the right direction.
    Mike and Christine

  2. You didn't do badly, skipper! :-)