Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Relaxed return

The out bound journey is chronicled here. The return to Welford from Napton boasted new crew, with wife Jenny and brother in law Peter tackling the locks while Duncan was at the helm.
Dropping off the second car at Napton was made easy by the good people at Crossroads Garage (thank you!) on the Shuckburgh Road at Napton, who let us park for a few days in their forecourt in return for a donation to Air Ambulance, while we took to the canal. Our temporary mooring was by bridge 110 just 5 minutes walk away, so we carried our stuff and set off straight after an onboard lunch.
And so just a couple of hours later we made our entrance to Braunston. Torn between mooring in the main line or knocking off a few locks to make tomorrow's work easier we first took in the sights of the marina then compromised and went through three locks to moor above The Admiral.
AS a useful aside it's worth pointing out that some of the Braunston locks have ground paddles as well as gate paddles. The former are very stiff and hard to work. For those unaccustomed to them the idea is to avoid a surge of water by opening the ground paddles gradually - ideally the paddle opposite the boat first, if there is only a single boat in the lock. You then reassess the situation before completely opening the ground paddles. Don't use the gate paddles until the boat is above their level. This should avoid water in your bow. Here's a gate paddle when the water was very low at Braunston.

Unfortunately The Admiral is not currently serving cooked food on Monday or Tuesday so apart from a few drinks we couldn't give them our custom; otherwise we found ourselves in a good spot.
Lock Keepers' cabin, Watford flight top lock

Next day was a bit more like hard work, with the remaining three locks and the tunnel at Braunston, then turning at Norton junction, the usual queue at Watford locks followed by the staircase, and finally Crick tunnel to moor at Crick itself. A full day.
An evening meal at the Red Lion (excellent fish crumble) finished off a good day.

On our third day we headed straight up the Leicester line and down the arm to Welford, finally driving back to Napton taking both cars back home.
We all enjoyed a relaxed three day trip in very good weather (no rain) and I think we converted Peter to narrow boating. He'll certainly be invited again!

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Plans go awry

It seems to have taken an age to plan, discuss and execute this simple trip, but what with constraints on time, crew and other events the out and back trip to Warwick from Welford seemed easy enough....
The original plan was to go to Stratford on Avon, delightful town with wonderful if busy waterside moorings. That was before I realised that it would be 5 days 3 hours and 94 locks. Each way.
Little wonder John was less than thrilled at the prospect (for retired English teacher Duncan the sparkle of Stratford rather outshone the pain of 94 locks at first - but the truth sank in after a bit of thought.)
So we thought let's try Warwick - grand castle and all. At 41 miles and 39 locks it looked a breeze in comparison. Three days, easy!
And then we noticed that the last 8 miles included 20 locks, which is not so appealing, so we looked for an alternative terminus. And that's how we ended up in Napton, a mere 27 miles and only 14 locks, achievable in 3 days or two at a push.
What should have been a straightforward cruise started with a slight delay as we had to drive to our starting point at Welford (we rarely leave Welford before 11 am) and so we moored at Crick as the most convenient spot (good pub, the Red Lion, Crick - very good fish pie) leaving the tunnel and the Watford flight till tomorrow.
All was well until the next morning when an attempt to start the engine showed a completely flat starter battery. Batteries these days do have a tendency to go flat very suddenly and though there had been some evidence on our battery condition monitor it was not at all clear.
Fortunately we have three batteries, so switching to the other two got us going immediately. But now what to do? Retreat to our home mooring a day away or go on to Braunston a half day on, through locks and tunnels? We opted for Braunston and its excellent chandlery, phoning ahead to ensure they had a suitable battery in stock. We would be there by lunchtime.

The Watford flight was slow going, with a stream of solo boaters needing assistance going up and leaving us waiting at the top. Then the Braunston tunnel had eight boats coming up towards us so we proceeded with caution having previously lost more than one navigation light in the tight pinch points.
Finally to the top lock at Braunston - only to find that the lock gate was jammed shut and they were having to drain the lock and the pound to get at something jammed under the gate. This took nearly two hours of hard work before poking and pushing, bouncing and pulling extracted a large log and allowed the pound to be filled again. Well done the men from CRT, especially Brian with his metal spike, floppy hat and his alluring waders.

The Pound beginning to drain. Note the mudflats to the right.
Now we were nearer tea time than lunchtime, so it was 4.30 by the time we reached Midland Chandlers at Braunston. Fortunately they are open until 5.30 and while John did the hard work of removing the old, installing the new, and checking the other two (in surprisingly good condition despite being 9 years old!) I wandered around the shop and selected paint and boat wash. John certainly deserved a pint at The Boat House and another at the Old Plough that evening.

John works on the batteries
Note that The Admiral Nelson, a popular lockside pub, does not currently serve food on Mondays or Tuesdays. Beware! Try the Old Plough in the village instead!
And so we came to Napton on the Hill, to the winding hole at Bridge 111, next to where there was until recently a pub - The Bridge at Napton, now sadly closed. Winding here and mooring near bridge 110 we were near enough to The Kings Head on the main road where, to cut our brief but eventful journey short, we caught a taxi to Leamington and thence home by train.
Our return journey will be in the next post, while Patience recovers.