Monday, June 16, 2014


Trevor and Sarah on NB AtLast returned from their recent cruise last weekend. It had been a good trip for them, but they'd had a nasty shock in Braunston Tunnel on their way out.

As they drove through the tunnel, they heard shouting. They couldn't hear the words. Soon, they saw a boat approaching. The shouting continued, and they stopped to see what was going on. There was no-one at the helm. The lone skipper had fallen off the moving boat, and was clinging on to the side, not daring to let go for fear of being sucked into the propellor. He was cold and wet, and very tired. Sarah took the helm of AtLast, and Trevor stepped onto the other boat.

Bear in mind here that there is barely room for two narrowboats to pass in a tunnel; the man could easily have been crushed, too. To cut a longish story short, despite the darkness of the tunnel, and his lack of familiarity with the boat, Trevor was finally able to bring it to a halt, haul the man aboard, and help him to continue on his way. He was exhausted, and possibly suffering from hypothermia, but was able to continue, with the intention of getting help when he got to the far end of the tunnel.

In the circumstances, it's very likely that Trevor and Sarah saved the man's life.

Talking with him, Trevor deduced that the man had "had an altercation" with the skipper of another boat, and a collision had occurred. He met up with that man at Braunston. He'd been "very cagey", but there was no doubt in Trevor's mind that he had been responsible for the man falling off the boat.

Boaters, beware of stroppy boaters, and avoid conflict!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Stoke Bruerne and beyond

Friday morning was sunny and bright. Jess spent an hour or so at the Stoke Bruerne Museum, feeding her interest in things historical, and looking for inspiration for a song. It seems that the museum has improved enormously since its refurbishment. We'll have to visit it again some time.

Grace baked another banana cake!

After an early lunch, we moved on. In Blisworth Tunnel - which was a very wet experience! - we saw two of the mysterious tunnels in the east wall, the apparent sighting point of the tunnel's ghosts. We stopped for bread and milk at Blisworth village beyond the tunnel, then again for services at Gayton Junction.

Warehouse/apartment conversion at Blisworth
It was a lovely day for cruising again, and the scenery was beautiful. We stopped for the night at a good, open spot opposite a farm camping site.

Heavy rain was forecast for Saturday, and at first light there was the first of it, for about thirty seconds, complete with thunder. Then it stopped... Until 9:30 when we started on our way! We spent the first 45 minutes crawling along behind a hire boat with a very grumpy crew, who eventually pulled over rather grudgingly to let us pass.

We arrived at Buckby Bottom Lock to find that it took over ten minutes to empty to let Kantara in; the top gate was overflowing faster than the bottom paddles were letting out. By the time I had opened the bottom gates, we had been joined by another boat - but fortunately not the grumpy guy one! NB South Downs shared the locks with us up the whole flight of seven. With four of us locking, we did it in very good time. What's more, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and we started to steam dry.

We left South Downs filling with water at the top lock, and moved on, turning into the Leicester Section at Norton Junction, and mooring up a few hundred yards up to have lunch.

It was still bright and sunny when we'd eaten, so we carried on to Watford Locks. There was no delay, Jess helped with the locking, and the hire boat with the drunken crew ahead of us was being assisted by a lockie, so our ascent was smooth.

We arrived back at the marina at 6:00pm, the end of a fun week with Jess, and of a good, three and a half week cruise, 149 miles and 160 locks. Sunday morning, we took Jess back home, and we'll be in St Albans for a couple of days.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Moving on

Monday morning, we set off up Marsworth Locks in good weather. I chatted with the volunteer lockie there, and was impressed by what he had to say about CRT, for whom he works. He told me he felt privileged to be doing the job, and that the volunteers felt highly-valued, that CRT frequently thanked them and told them what a good job they're doing. And he loved meeting so many different people. I was much encouraged. CRT get far too many complainers.

The locks took their time, so we only got as far as the Ivinghoe Locks before we moored for the night.

Tuesday morning, we descended Horton, Slapton, Church and Grove locks solo, arriving at Leighton Linslade by lunch time. We ate first, then went to Tesco to buy food. We were amused by a young man who'd clearly had a glass too many, who wanted to give us his waterproof jacket because he was too hot in it, and wouldn't need it even if it started to rain, since he had a bus pass. When we declined his kind offer, he proceeded to try to give it to successive passers-by, eventually laying it out over a fence, hoping that someone would take it. Perhaps he'd found it in a similar place.

We moored at bridge 108.

There was heavy rain overnight, and it continued on and off throughout the day. After spending some time trying to pull a waterlogged tree out of the canal, and failing because of its size and weight, we moved away, Jess helping me locking as we went down Soulbury Three Locks. It was lucky that Jess was with me, because she was looking the right way and I wasn't when the pound between the middle and bottom locks started to flood, with water threatening the doors of the pub there. I ran down to let the water through the bottom lock, and the flood waters retreated. We couldn't understand how that had happened, though. There are three overflow sluices in the pound, but they just weren't doing their job.

Is it common for swans to abandon their eggs? We passed a pair, feeding contentedly in the canal, then passed their nest of eight or nine eggs lying exposed. Had no-one told them??

On now through Fenny Stratford, with the unusual swing bridge between the top and bottom lock gates, and into Milton Keynes. It really is pleasant cruising there, with extensive parkland, often on both sides of the canal, and very quiet.

Fenny Stratford Lock & swingbridge

The weather deteriorated before we left, though, and a strong wind blew up, so we moored on the outskirts of the town, at bridge 75, as we did on the way down.

We made fast progress to Cosgrove Lock on Thursday morning, and arrived at Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock at lunch time. On the way, we passed a boat in a sad state, and reported it to the CRT for their attention.

After lunch, we started up the seven locks into the village itself. A lockie helped Jess and me as far as lock 16, then said that he'd go on ahead and prepare the final two for us. Arriving at 15, the lock was full, and there was no sign of him. Had he fallen in and drowned? The same was true at the top lock. He was nowhere to be seen.

Pulling out of the top lock, Grace took Kantara across to fill up with water, and there was our lockie, enjoying a pint at The Boat Inn! Tempted as I was, I kept quiet.

Stoke Bruerne Wharf
We had our evening meal at the Inn. Good food, but they didn't have the Bailey's cheesecake!

Monday, June 02, 2014


...and a very sunny day. I sat on the roof and listened to music, taking in the rays and being much amused by the pair of swans terrorising pedestrians and cyclists just down the towing path. The birds finally met their match in a boisterous pair of dogs, who charged at them, barking. The penn stood his ground for a few seconds, hissing and pecking, but the dogs were too much for him, and the trapped humans were liberated. Grace sat in the shade and read.

At around 12:00 we wandered up to The Grand Junction Arms to have a drink while we waited for the kids, who arrived half an hour later. It's a very good pub, with a huge garden, and they were doing a roaring trade. The six of us enjoyed a good meal, albeit rather slowly served because of the unexpected volume of customers. It was great that Eddie was able to be with us, too, having previously thought he couldn't.

Jess, Steve, Eddie, Naomi, me and Grace
After the meal, we spent a while on the boat before three of them returned home, leaving Jess with us for a week's holiday. It was a great day.

Monday started slowly for us. Jess had been feeling really tired, and slept in a bit in the morning. We started the day's travel under sunny skies, descending the seven Marsworth Locks very slowly because of boats coming up. Jess sat on the foredeck, resting her injured leg, and working on songs for Said the Maiden.

We moored for the night just south of Ivinghoe Locks.

Sunday, June 01, 2014


...and more sun! 

Grace was still in a lot of pain, come morning. We were on our way to Boots' pharmacy, however, and it suddenly felt a lot better. The pain was subsiding, but irritation remained, so she bought eye drops specifically for that, and we were able to move on.

We left Berkhamsted at around 10:30, joining NB Morialti ("He died high"!) for the seven locks to Cowroast, where we used the services and parted company with them while they took on water.

We carried on to Bulbourne and moored in exactly the same spot as we'd used on the way down. It was still warm and sunny.

Thursday and Friday

Mooring where we did, we'd had to pass the spot where we'd spent a night on the way down, because other boats had got there first. The place we chose wasn't that far away, but it was only after we'd tied up that we realised we were just the other side of a fence from something called "Works" on the map. There were loud noises of heavy objects being moved, of vehicles coming and going, often in reverse with the annoying beep-beep-beep warning. It wasn't too bad until it came to bed time - they worked throughout the night!

On Thursday, we moved on 22 lock miles, up through Nash Mills and Hemel Hempstead.

We had an uninvited visitor en route. A pigeon flew under the cratch cover and landed on the foredeck lockers. When I went to encourage it to leave, it huddled up under the gunwales, behind a gas pipe. I left it there for some time, hoping it would leave of its own accord, but I finally had to lift it out and release it to the sky again.

The journey was all very straightforward and enjoyable, and the weather was fine until we moored again at Berkhamsted, when the heavens opened just as were pinning. We spent the whole of Friday there, too. It's a good place to spend some time.

Nash Mills

When we woke up on Friday morning, Grace was experiencing considerable pain in her face. She'd had something in the corner of her eye the day before, and now that was apparently gone, but the tear duct felt blocked, and this created pain through the whole of that side of her face. Or perhaps it was blocked sinuses, she couldn't be sure. But after taking painkillers, Sudafed to unblock sinuses, eyewash and nasal spray, she was still in a lot of pain. We vacuum cleaned the boat, and hoped it would soon clear up.

During the day, we were almost adopted by a beautiful cat who wanted to come aboard and join us, but we resisted the temptation to let it!