Thursday, October 16, 2014

The weather dominates

On Friday, we set off late, our energy low because of colds, but the sky was blue, and this continued all day. We descended Cape Locks with another boat whose crew weren't in the mood for talking, and on to Tesco, where we bought five bags of shopping. After lunch, we moved on out of Warwick, and through Leamington Spa. Radford Lock and the three Fosse Locks were the last for the day, and I was glad.

We looked now for a mooring, and found too often that the water was too shallow at the bank - it seemed likely that someone had left lock paddles and/or gates open recently, the level was so low. Finally, we moored between bridges 31 and 30.

On Saturday morning, it was raining again, and our colds were really getting us down, so we decided to stop where we were and have a lazy day, hopefully to recuperate somewhat. We needed an Elsan disposal point, and the nearest one was 28 lock miles away, but, with three cassettes in total, we thought we'd be all right.

However, with the weather now warm and promising, and us feeling better as the morning progressed, we had a substantial brunch, and set off at 12:30.

We navigated Welsh Lock and Bascote Locks alone, and moored at Bascote Bridge for water. And it poured! And poured! With thunder and lightning, too. We waited until it stopped.

At Cuttle Bridge, we had to decide whether to risk the weather and carry on up Stockton Locks, or not to take the risk, and moor up until the next day. We spent some time under the shelter of the bridge by the Two Boats Inn, waiting for the heavy rain (again) to abate a little before deciding to go for the locks. The weather really did look as if it would improve, and we were feeling well enough, at least for the time being!

At Stockton Bottom Lock, we had the fortune to meet a solo boater in an anonymous boat going our way. He suggested it would be best for us to breast his boat alongside Kantara, and tie them together. Grace would then drive the pair of boats, and he and I would manage the locks together, alternating between us to go ahead and prepare the next lock in advance. Grace had never done this before, but was happy to try, and somewhat flattered by the man's trust in her management of his boat. It worked a treat. Grace took to it very quickly, and was deemed "brilliant" by the other boater. (Why do we never stop to exchange names with people we meet?) I proudly agreed.

The tied boats leaving top lock
We finished the flight of nine locks in excellent time, with only light showers to dampen us. We moored in bright, sunny weather about half way between Birdingbury Wharf Bridge no. 21, and Gibraltar Bridge 20.

Sunday morning was very foggy, and the fog lifted slowly to leave a beautiful mist hanging heavily over the countryside by the time we left.

But the day was cloudy and chilly for the most part. We travelled fairly fast, for us. Calcutt Locks,

then Wigrams Turn, and Braunston by 2:00pm. There was a lot of traffic on the canal that day, and Braunston moorings were almost full, with just one space available, immediately after turning right out of the junction bridge.

The weather on Monday morning was foul, with very strong winds driving heavy rain. We waited for the first break in it, then departed Braunston, but it simply got worse after that. We took Braunston Flight alone, and were glad for the tunnel, a short respite from the weather. After that, we ditched the idea of mooring at Norton Junction and completing the return journey the next day, and set our sights on Yelvertoft. We were wet and cold, and couldn't get much worse!

Our ascent of Watford Locks was unimpeded, and fast. Crick was frustratingly slow because of all the moored boats. As we had imagined it would be, the wind across the Yelvertoft marina was strong and gusty. Grace wanted to reverse into our berth, and almost made it, but the wind took her bow hard over 90° to port just before she managed to get far enough into the space, and the boat ended up across the back of Cream Cracker and the berths beyond. Undaunted, she turned her around and went in bow first, with help from Nick on the bow rope, and not without giving Cream Cracker a bit of a bashing on the way in. Darren was very forgiving - the wind was ridiculous!

It was good to shut ourselves in to the boat, and get warm and dry. It had been an enjoyable trip, and the weather hadn't spoiled it - it had just added... interest!

102 miles and 186 locks in 21 days.

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