Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The short cruise!

On Thursday of last week, we went again to the cinema, this time to see "Labor Day".
"Depressed single mom Adele and her son Henry offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited."
This is another highly entertaining film, superbly acted and directed, especially young Gattlin Griffith, playing Henry.

As we left Cineworld, the sky had cleared a little, and the wind dropped. Perhaps tomorrow we'd be off on the cut. When we got back to Kantara, Grace cooked a large banana cake, nibbles for the cruise!

Boaty banana cake

2 eggs
4 ozs butter
6 ozs caster sugar (or dark brown sugar)
8 ozs self raising flour
pinch of salt (not literally a pinch, you know what I mean)
heaped teaspoon of mixed spice
3 large or 4 small (ish) overripe bananas
couple of handfuls of sultanas (if you like)
Cream the butter and sugar till it's soft and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, then the banana.
Fold in the flour and spice.
Stir in the sultanas.
Use a bit of milk to make it softer, or a bit more flour to make it firmer as necessary to get a soft dropping consistency.
Put into a suitable greased container and bake at about gas mark 5 in a dodgy boat oven until...hmmm... until it's done. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour in mine.

Sure enough, Friday proved to be a bright and still day, albeit a bit nippy for the time of year, so off we went. We didn't get to leave until around 1:00pm, and we stopped for lunch an hour later. There were few other moving boats on the water; we saw perhaps twelve in the five hours we travelled.

After lunch, the sky had clouded over a bit, and a wind had sprung up. We set off into that wind, and started to feel rather chilly. Travelling slowly because of heading into the wind, we arrived at Welford Junction wondering if we'd reach the end the Arm before the light failed us, but we carried on.

The water was shallow for long stretches, slowing us even more, but we arrived at a good mooring at around 6:00, and just in time before the light gave out.
The next morning
We ate at The Wharf Inn that evening, the very best mushroom soup we've ever tasted, followed by a superb beef lasagne and salad for me and, for Grace, a chicken and leek pie - which we had to send back to the chef because the puff pastry was not properly cooked. Shame. Their food is generally very good.

We woke to a beautiful Saturday morning, and set off towards Foxton. Our passage was delayed 30 to 40 minutes by a boat ascending Welford Lock, being filmed for Chico Chugg, to be a CBBC programme based on a series of children's books.

Their progress was further hampered by another film crew filming them, making a documentary about film-making.

It was a fabulous day to cruise. Clear skies, bright sun, and very warm. There were again few boats moving, and we had the canal to ourselves most of the time. We moored for the night at the top of Foxton Locks.

Sunday was again a beautiful day. We had a leisurely start, and our departure was even later than we expected because of our failure to remember that the clocks went forward that morning! Our descent of the staircase was at a good pace, aided by a couple of lockies and a host of helpful gongoozlers.

Coming out of the bottom lock, we turned right onto the Market Harborough Arm of the canal - new territory to us. I had problems with the second swing bridge, crossed by a road. In order to swing the gates across the road at each end of the bridge, one has to make sure that the bridge is fully closed - to the inch! But unfortunately, it had the habit of moving slightly as soon as I moved towards the barriers; the mechanism for anchoring it was clearly faulty. This was only solved when a man came along and gave me a hand.

This was followed by an unmoorable stretch, so lunch was late, and when we finally found a good spot at which to eat, we decided to stop there for the rest of the day and night.

As we ate that evening, we listened to Said the Maiden doing a spot on Sue Marchant's evening show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, big smiles on our faces.

Monday's weather continued the warm, springy weather trend, and we made our way down to the basin at Union Wharf, Market Harborough. The canal and the countryside were lovely, but the water had a great deal of floating detritus; cut reeds and pieces of tree, sometimes large, which made travel potentially hazardous. We moored just outside the basin, and Grace went into town for a bit of shopping.

After lunch, we winded in the basin, and returned up the arm towards Foxton again. As had happened on the way up, we found ourselves from time to time behind holiday boaters on their way out of or into the Union Wharf where the Canal Boat Club hire company is based. It made us smile, seeing some of them going so slowly and tentatively; they happily allowed us to pass them at a more confident pace.

The swing bridge was not as problematic as before. I had a brisk walk from there to the first swing bridge at the Foxton junction, opening that in time for Kantara and a Canal Boat Club boat slip through and turn left to the bottom lock. It was only five minutes before the "last boat up" time, but the volunteer lock-keeper let us in, with one boat immediately above us, and the one behind. I was met by Joanna from Smudge in the berth next to us at Yelvertoft. Joanna is a volunteer lockie, and she helped me up most of the staircase. Fifty minutes later, Grace drove Kantara out of the top lock, and to the nearest suitable mooring, where we stayed the night.

Tuesday was our longest cruising day. As regular readers will have noticed, we don't strive to do a particular number of miles each day, or achieve a particular destination, nor cruise for a given number of hours. Rather, we keep going until we find a good place to stop for the night, and this might be mid-afternoon. But this day we set ourselves the marina as a target. The weather was lovely again, although it was beginning to deteriorate a little by the time we got to Yelvertoft. With some slow miles behind other boats, a leisurely lunch, and a no-hurry attitude, we pulled into our berth at around 5:00pm. 47 miles and 22 locks.

It was a lovely start to our cruising season. Today, it's raining!

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