Monday, October 09, 2017

Five on a boat to Oxford - part 8

Friday awoke as a beautiful morning, almost cloudless under a bright sun. The peace of the canal and the surrounding farmland was almost tangible. We cast off and made our way to Napton Top Lock, aka Marston Doles. Unsurprisingly, we joined a queue. Christine and I went down to the lock to see if we could lend a hand or four. We could, and we gently hastened the passage of a couple of other boats before bringing Kantara in.

As we approached the next lock, something was not quite right. The queue here was longer than the one we'd joined at Top Lock. Being really clever people, we figured out that there must have been a problem. We went to investigate. There was a boat in the chamber, descending very slowly. People were gathered at the bottom gates, so we joined them. Faces were glum.

The problem was that one of the bottom gate paddles didn't work at all. The other one worked just enough to open six inches. And, needless to say, the top gates had the usual leaks, so emptying the lock was going to slow everyone. Fifteen minutes per boat, it turned out. OK, we weren't in a hurry, but the hirers were; they had time pressures that we didn't.

And so we carried on down the flight, a favourite one of mine, the crews of each boat working with those in front or behind so that we all made good time.

We stopped at the bottom for services and shopping as the rest of the convoy made its way past. There was mooring space for us just around the corner, so we pulled over there for much-needed refreshment. The shop that says it's "Open every day" (except Tuesday) was now found to be "Open every day" (except Tuesday and Friday).

We had hoped to moor overnight at Braunston, though there's always a chance that there will be no available space, but that hope was thwarted by the two extremely slow hire-boats we caught up with very soon after we left Napton. Neither one of them stopped to let us pass, though I suppose they wouldn't know we wanted to pass unless we did the boat equivalent of bumper-hugging, and we don't like to do that because we feel it's ill-mannered. So we dawdled our way through the rest of the afternoon, having plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, and finally we stopped at bridge 100 to moor for the night. We just couldn't take any more!

The Oxford is truly a beautiful canal.

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