Friday, September 27, 2013

Cruise to Warwick with Christine and Mike - outward journey

Grace's sister and brother-in-law spent a week with us last year, and wanted to spend longer when they visited us this time. They hadn't visited Warwick before, so we planned a leisurely trip there, with a focus on the castle. They arrived around 7:00pm on Saturday 14th, in time to take part in the marina barbecue and quiz.

Prior to that, there had been a treasure hunt, in which teams of four looked for the subjects of 20 photographs taken in and around Yelvertoft. We were paired with Gordon and Jackie from NB Media Noche. The hunt had been very well organised, and it was a lot of fun. Our team was the last to get back, but lost convincingly, despite the extra time we took! No matter - we had met Gordon and Jackie, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours with them.

With Christine and Mike we fared better in the quiz, and came joint second. It was a really good evening. It was good to meet Martin from NB Margin (Martin & Ginny), who is a reader of this blog.

I left a while before the end of the quiz, to return to the boat and light the stove. It was a chilly evening. When the others returned, we spend ages catching up with each others' news, and went to bed late.

There were strong rumours on Saturday of strong winds and heavy rain the next day, and it certainly didn't look very good at around 10:00 Sunday morning, turning quite unpleasant after a bright and sunny start. Nonetheless, we left the marina at about 11:00, with Grace navigating the exit smoothly despite strong gusts of wind. There were rain showers on and off throughout the day.

At Watford Locks, there were only two boats ahead of us, so our descent was quick. We were surprised, however, to find twelve boats waiting at the bottom of the flight. On our way down, we met Gordon, Chris, Gary and Barry from Yelvertoft, bringing a boat back up from Rugby to Yelvertoft because the owner had been taken ill.

We stopped off at around bridge 5 for lunch, then moved on to Norton Junction, turning right and mooring almost immediately at bridge 9. We enjoyed an evening of dinner, wine (Christine and Mike had brought an excellent mixed case of 12 bottles) and chat, and went to bed relatively early.

Monday morning was sunny, with a blue sky, although the wind continued to blow strongly, and there were several showers on and off after a few hours, some of them really quite heavy, and it was cold because of the wind. Undaunted, however, we made off to Braunston Tunnel.



Surprisingly, there were more boats on the canal than we had expected, and we had four boats approach and pass in the tunnel, two of them striking us as they tried to pass with too much space to starboard. Coming to Braunston Locks, we paired with NB Ivy, and, finding each successive lock set in our favour, we descended in good time.

We moored by Braunston Marina for lunch and a quick trip to the shop for food supplies.



From there, on to Braunston Turn where we turned left and made our way to bridge 100 - a favourite mooring spot of mine - where we moored for the night. The weather now was very good, and the sunlight on the fields quite golden.











It was good to meet the owner of NB Salamader, who, with his wife, had been out cruising since April, and covered many miles since.



Tuesday, too, started in good weather. The wind had dropped considerably, so it was warmer, but the clouds started to build as we moved on. This stretch of the Grand Union is really lovely, the canal winding its way through beautiful farming countryside. It was pleasing to see so many other craft afloat - far more than we had seen back in the first week of June.




When we arrived at the top of Calcutt Locks, it was raining hard. We pulled over at Calcutt Boats yard to buy a bottle of gas. Our bottle had run out earlier, and I discovered then that the second bottle seemed also to be empty. Now, removing them both, I found that the second was actually full, but not releasing gas. I bought a replacement for the empty one, and tried in vain to exchange the apparently faulty one.

courtesy of www.geograph.co.uk
We stayed where we were for lunch, and started down the three locks when the rain had slowed. The rain persisted, however, and we arrived at Stockton Locks in a drizzle which turned heavy and started to soak us.


Mike and I locked, and we made good progress, catching up with NB Amicus at lock 9 and sharing the rest of the flight with them. We moored at Bickley's Bridge, no. 26, lit the stove, turned it up high, and opened the windows, to dry the boat, us and our clothes! We went to bed warm and dry.

It was interesting to note that CanalPlan's suggested itinerary was working out perfectly so far.

Wednesday was colder again, but without rain, and showing some sun, especially towards the end of the day.

The canal was wide and very pleasant. Bascote Locks were only our second encounter with a staircase in which the water flowed directly from one chamber to the next without the side pounds such as can be found at Watford and Foxton.


It occurred to me too late that I could have let an ascending boat into the bottom chamber as Kantara entered the top, with the two boats passing each other when they reached the same level. The crew of the other boat didn't think of it either, so they waited until we left the bottom gate of the pair.

Next came the Radford Locks, six locks over three miles. On the way down, we we dropped off rubbish at Bascombe Bridge, no. 27, and availed ourselves of other services at Fosse Wharf. We had lunch on the other side of the canal from there before completing the locks.



We stopped at Leamington Spa (Royal!), for Grace and Christine to go food shopping, and Mike to look for a solar charger for his mobile phone. Mike and Christine wanted to take us out for a meal, and had found "The Grand Union" in The Gourmet Society list, but it didn't look at all inviting - nor did the town itself - so we moved on to Warwick as soon as we could. 


We stopped for the night around bridge 49, where Grace and I spent ages trying to moor the boat where mooring rings were inconveniently placed, and the bank curved equally awkwardly.






The day ended under a beautiful sunset.

We spent Thursday in Warwick. The weather wasn't best for visiting the castle. We walked there in drizzle, and it turned to heavy rain while we were queuing for the tickets (free, courtesy of Tesco vouchers), but we were able to keep fairly dry by exploring the inside of the castle when it rained, and doing out-door viewing in the dry gaps. And the rain eased off in the afternoon. It was a good day, and we were able to see everything which wasn't specifically child-orientated.












  

The return stroll through the town was fascinating, with Tudor buildings nestling among Edwardian and Victorian. A guitar shop had a beautiful resonator bouzouki for sale - most unusual.



We stayed a further night in Warwick.

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