Monday April 26th - continued: I managed to get my laundry washed and dried - clean bedding, bliss! After lunch Clive walked up to the top of the flight to find the lock keeper to see when we could go up, fortunately there was nobody coming down and nobody waiting to go up so we were next - excellent! We made short work of the flight, accompanied by loads of Gongoozlers, one or two of whom gave us a hand with the gates, which is always welcome, then we were off, finally. It was so lovely to be cruising again. The weather was lovely, the birds were singing there was sweet smelling blossom along the hedgerows, just gorgeous. The winter freeze seems a long time ago now. We finally moored up out in the middle of nowhere, it was so peaceful and quiet, just the sound of birds singing and sheep bleating in the field opposite, it was absolutely lovely.
The next morning we set off after breakfast. It was a bit dull and cloudy to start with but it wasn't long before the sun came out again and it was lovely and warm. We cruised along through the countryside and watched all the new lambs gambolling in the fields - they are so funny! We hadn't been travelling long when we passed a couple of boats moored up and instantly recognised one of them - Molly May II! We even spotted Pat in one of the windows waving. There was a bit of space on the bank just after their moorings so we pulled over in order to go and have a chat with them. We had planned, by email, to meet them for a drink whilst we were in Foxton before our holiday but unfortunately we didn't manage it in the end so we were delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with them, if only for a few minutes.
For those of you who haven't followed our blog right from the start, we met Pat and Peter on board Molly May II back in January 2009 when we were coming up the Stoke Locks on our way to Stoke Bruerne. We have kept in touch via email on and off ever since. Unfortunately they have had a few set backs recently with health problems but worst of all, their car, which was parked just by the bridge near where we met them, had been burned out by vandals along with two other cars which had been parked in the same place! It has been very upsetting indeed for both of them, especially as they are needing transport to get to and from the hospital at the moment until Peter's health problems get sorted out.
After catching up on all the gossip we took our leave and continued on our journey. We eventually decided to moor up just a short way from the Watford Flight - that can wait till tomorrow! Later that evening there was a full moon and it was almost as bright as day, absolutely fantastic.
Wednesday morning dawned cloudy again but fine. We cast off and headed for the Watford Flight, it only took us about fifteen minutes to get there. Clive held the boat whilst I went to find the Lock Keeper. Why is it that when you are heading down the flight the lock keeper is always at the bottom and when you are coming up he is always at the top!! There he was, right down at the bottom lock, just shutting the gates after a boat had left the lock. He said there was nobody waiting to come up so we could start our descent straight away - brilliant! We were very lucky actually, by the time we reached the bottom there were three boats waiting to come up and we passed a couple more heading for the lock flight a few minutes later. Sometimes you can be waiting for anything up to four hours for your turn to go up or down the Watford Flight, it gets extremely busy once all the hire boats are out in the summer - its like the M25 on a Bank Holiday Monday!!!
After about an hour's cruise we arrived at Norton Junction. I spotted the sign at the junction and couldn't resist taking a photo, our next destination is Brentford Lock, right at the bottom of the Grand Union Canal and where we will get onto The Thames!
After turning left we cruised up to Buckby Wharf and managed to find a mooring. We had just finished securing the boat and I had put the kettle on when a car drew up next to the boat - it was Terry! Perfect timing - needless to say we started off with a cuppa!
I was really excited about finally getting our pram hood cover fitted and Terry soon had all his bits and pieces out on the bank and Clive gave him a hand getting the dodger fitted. The dodger is the lower part of the canopy that stays put all the time.
Fitting the dodger.
It took a while to fit the dodger because all the male studs had to be screwed onto the boat and the holes had to be drilled first. Terry had brought his own little generator with him to power his drill. Then he had to fit all the female studs into the cloth. It actually took a couple of hours to fit this part alone. Once it was done however they got started on the canopy, first the top went on, again where it attached to the boat he had to drill the holes and fix all the various studs and fastners. Then eventually the sides went on - these went on quite quickly as Terry had put most of these fasteners on earlier. Finally it was all done and Lady Arwen now has an "extension"! It really is like having another room on the back but Clive has given me strict instructions that it is not going to get cluttered up with all sorts of paraphernalia!
Now you may think that this means we won't get wet when cruising in the rain but you would be wrong! We can't actually cruise the canals with the canopy up, mainly because of all the low bridges one encounters but also because of the wind! So the first thing Terry did when the job was finished was show us how to put the canopy down again. It is quite easy really, the sides have to be removed first, then rolled up and stowed away, next the canopy has to be unstudded then it folds down just like the hood on a Silver Cross pram, hence the name! It all stows neatly at the back and can be held in place by a bungee so that the wind doesn't catch it. It sounds a bit of a faff but is really no trouble at all. So why have we got it? Bear in mind we are not cruising all the time. Sometimes we moor up in a place for several days simply because we can. The hood will act as a sunshade in the summer, we will be able to sit on the stern with the sides off and enjoy the sunshine without burning. In the winter months it means we can go out and put the engine on without freezing to death or get soaked because it is raining. It will make a huge difference altogether and we are thrilled to bits with it. I did ask Clive if I could hang pictures on the walls and get pot plants for it - he glared at me!
Once the job was all finished, Clive, Terry and I trooped off down to the New Inn at the top of the lock flight for a well earned drink before saying goodbye to Terry when he headed off home. As I hadn't got anything out of the freezer Clive and I decided to stop and have our tea there too.
Our new canopy has already come in useful. On Thursday morning we left Buckby Wharf and set off down the locks. It was a bit cloudy and dull but every now and again the sun would peep through the clouds. It wasn't cold, in fact I was only wearing a tee shirt - I get quite warm doing the locks. Clive on the other hand had his fleece on because it can get quite chilly down in the bottom of a deep, dark lock! Just as we were approaching the very last lock it started to rain! Clive put the boat in the lock then told me to wait before doing the paddles - why? So he could put the hood up! So there he was, nice and dry under the canopy whilst I was getting absolutely soaked! He asked me if I would like my waterproof jacket - I declined, there wasn't really much point, I certainly couldn't get any wetter!
Once through the lock we moored up alongside Whilton Marina. There we were back at our starting point, the place where we had bought Lady Arwen from back in the summer of 2008! We needed a replacement gas bottle and a few other bits and pieces from the chandlery and as it was now pouring with rain we decided to stay put. We put the sides on the canopy, zipped her up tight and went inside - Clive to relax, me to dry off!!!
When we left Whilton this morning it was fine but quite cloudy and we knew that rain was due, it was just a case of when! We managed to get as far as Bugbrooke before it started spitting so we quickly pulled into the side and moored up. Up went the canopy, just in time before the heavens opened but at least this time we didn't get wet! It was only a shower though and once it had passed we put our waterproofs on and headed into the village of Bugbrooke, about ten minutes walk. We had some things to post and wanted a couple of items from the local shop. It is a lovely village, lots of sweet little cottages all built of warm coloured sandstone and some with thatched roofs, very picturesque. Then it was back to the boat to relax - Clive watched the snooker and I toiled over this blog!
The only thing to marr our tranquil life at the moment is that our granddaughter Indeia is flying off to her new life in the USA tomorrow. Our son Gareth wasn't even told when she was going and only found out yesterday when he phoned to confirm whether he was picking her up as normal from school for his weekend with her! He never even got to see her yesterday and therefore has not had the chance to say goodbye to her - he is very upset needless to say. We will all miss her very much but must think positive - it is only about ten weeks before she comes back for the summer, at least we have that to look forward to.
I'm off to make the tea now - catch you all later.