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.






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