Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Five on a boat to Oxford - part 9

Saturday was my 66th birthday, and a beautiful day it was, too, as we made our way down to Braunston. Mike was at the tiller for much of the day, making the most of his last opportunity to be skipper. Down to Braunston Turn, and turn right...

and up to the locks. Rather alarmingly, the pound above bottom lock was very low, and NB Wagtail, a hire-boat with only a few days' canal experience, was aground at the bank. I hurried up to the next lock. The pound above that is bigger than the one below, and, though its level was noticeably lower than it should be, I reckoned it could afford to donate some water to the depleted one, so I let a lockful and a bit down, and the stranded boat floated within a few minutes. Kantara came up to meet her, and the two boats shared the rest of the locks up the flight. Despite the shallowness of the water all the way up, there were no more problems, and it all went smoothly.

The four men on Wagtail were very much into learning, and had lots of questions all the way up. The four women were very much into Prosecco...

Then came Braunston Tunnel. Wagtail was rather anxious about this - and not without reason - and their fears were realized half-way through. The skipper of an on-coming NB Huffler  chose to switch off his tunnel light as he was passing us. To avoid dazzling us, he said. Unfortunately, however, the man at Magpie's tiller had already been dazzled, and now had no way of knowing where the unlit boat was. They crashed rather noisily.

With Mike taking the tiller again, we carried on to Norton Junction, where he executed a perfect turn. We learned later that 70-foot Wagtail got themselves jammed across between the banks.

We joined a crew of three at the bottom of Watford Locks, with NB Bothar ahead and Wagtail coming in behind not long afterwards. The female crew were now totally blotto, and hadn't even noticed the collision in the tunnel. The 90-minute wait gave us plenty of time to have lunch, then Bothar led us up the locks. The last boat down before we went up was NB Brutus Maximus, with whom we went down into Liverpool last year. Enthusiastic shouts and waves were duly exchanged!

Again, our locking crew of three was able to assist Bothar and Wagtail in a smooth, sociable and fun ascent. The weather was warm, bright and beautiful.

Then Crick Tunnel and Yelvertoft Marina with miles of sunlit canal between. Beautiful.

118 miles and 94 locks, and a great trip!

Christine and Mike treated us to a lovely meal at The Wheatsheaf in Crick, and we played a final evening of cards. They left before 10:00 the next morning, with a long trip to Torquay ahead of them. We had a lot of washing and tidying to do!

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