Sunday, 29 June 2014

To Northampton

Day 2: Irthlingborough to Northampton
A bright and sunny morning as we set off beyond our previous furthest point west, towards Northampton, or at least Weston Favell which is a few miles this side. We're not yet confident about just how far we can get, though Canal Planner does give us the best advice and we have downloaded a detailed pdf of our proposed route onto my iPad.
The trick seems to be, if there is any doubt about your ability to go on, to stop this side of a flight of locks because once you are committed to it you can't stop half way. But perhaps we are more worried about unfamiliar locks (there are 58 of them on this trip which sound alarming) than we need to be.
We pause briefly at Wellingborough with its spacious moorings by a public park then through Upper Wellingborough lock. When the sluice waters appear under the boat Patience's bows swing alarmingly and the centre line is very stressed.
Tip of the day: open the paddles in stages so that the power of a single gusher doesn't tear the boat from its moorings.
The river is delightful, the weather fine (though there is expectation of showers tomorrow) and while the frequent locks slow progress and cumulatively are quite tiring, this a good journey with steady progress.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, with the penultimate lock of the day behind us, there's a loud thump and the engine cuts out. From peace and tranquility we are instantly without power - and drifting. It's too far for the fishermen on the bank to catch our mooring rope and we drift while feverishly working through the possibilities, the cause and any solutions. John tests the engine out of gear and it works fine. A relief. Must be the prop - and there it is, looming through the weed hatch like a dead shark, it's a large log that has become firmly jammed in the propellor and refuses to come off. While John tugs at the prop I tie a cord to a saw for John to hack away at the log and move to the bow to start punting us with the boat hook to somewhere more convenient - like the bar with moorings about half a mile ahead.
At last, just as I'm getting in to the swing of punting, but starting to realise punting to Welford isn't exactly convenient, John triumphantly extracts a metre long log jammed in the prop (two big cuts show where the blades have sliced part way through) and we are free! what a relief. Note to blogger - add Prop Jammed By Flotsam to our list of hazards.

We pull in to Northampton Midsummer Meadow Moorings (free on pontoon, while the marina charges £10 per night) and celebrate our release with a beer and a Waitrose curry. For those without a Waitrose curry on board Morrisons is only a few minutes away. We hurl the offending log well away from the water.
The  noisier folks in Northampton are celebrating some distance away, by casting litter as far as they can chuck it, there are youngsters out on dinghy practices, and the centre of Northampton is a cross between the elegant (fine High Victorian Guildhall, interesting mix of buildings around the market place) and dead warehouses where once there was a shoe industry but now pigeons make deposits. Lovely waterfront, and that's what matters to us today. 
Today: 18 miles, 15 locks, 10 hours

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