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  • clivenmel

June 10th

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} We left our moorings at Stoke Bruerne around 10.00ish � it was a bit of a last minute scramble as we saw another boat coming up and it made sense to share the locks with someone!  By the time we actually set off the other boaters had got the lock gate open so Clive dropped me off and I went up to help.  However as we were approaching the lock I saw an elderly lady staggering down the towpath clutching the hedge, then she disappeared inside her cottage, which was right by the lock!  A few seconds later and the lady from the boat in front, who was in the process of winding the lock paddle, suddenly dropped her windlass and rushed into the cottage after the elderly lady??  When we arrived at the lock the young man on the boat told us that the elderly lady was in a very distressed state indeed, saying something about her cooker and that she needed help, so his mother had gone to see what she could do.  I got on with the process of dealing with the lock and a short while later his mother reappeared saying that the poor old lady was in a bit of a state, she had obviously lived in her cottage for a very long time but it was in an awful mess.  She had asked for help lighting the oven but it didn�t seem to be working.  She wanted to put the kettle on, which had tea in it!!!  Oh dear!  Anyway, the boater�s mum said she was going to pop up to the local gift shop to see if somebody knew the old lady and could perhaps get help.  As it turns out she is quite well known and the locals regularly pop in to check she is OK.  They said they would see that she got sorted out � we were all very relieved.  Bless!   We had soon negotiated the two locks and were cruising through Stoke Bruerne itself � the canal was lined on both sides with old working boats, some of them double moored.  It is always a bit busy here but more so because of the festival, which attracts the traditionalists.  After negotiating the narrow corridor between the boats we shortly arrived at the Blisworth Tunnel, the third longest tunnel on the English canal system at 3076 yards!  We have been through it a few times now but it is just as scary each time!  We were following the young man and his mum on their boat but we could see bright lights in front of them so there were obviously boats heading our way, there were also a couple of boats follwing us too.  This tunnel is designed for two-way traffic but only just, as we passed the oncoming boats somewhere in the middle of the tunnel we were bumping up against the side wall and there was very little room between us!   We were wondering what happens if a broad beam or a Dutch barge wants to use the tunnel, presumably they must need to notify somebody to ensure that other craft aren't allowed to enter the tunnel until they are through it as there certainly isn�t room for another boat to pass one of them!   Only a short while after the tunnel we reached Gayton junction and this is where we turned right onto the Northampton Arm, which ultimately becomes the River Nene at Northampton.  We stopped at Gayton Marina in order to pick up a few supplies and purchase an Environment Agency key.  We also had to complete a registration form which notifies the EA that we will be cruising on their waterways.  You may not be aware of the fact that the majority of the canals and rivers in England are controlled by British Waterways but that the River Thames and all the waterways in East Anglia are governed by the Environment Agency.  The Silver boat licence we bought last year when we first set off only allowed us to navigate BW waterways, however we upgraded our licence to a Gold licence in January and this allows us to navigate all the waterways, including the Thames and the East Anglian waters.   After having a spot of lunch whilst we were moored at Gayton we set off to pastures new.  The first lock was only a short distance up the canal and we were surprised to find that it was a single lock.  We haven�t been in a single lock for some considerable time!  As I was setting the lock I noticed that there was another boat in the next lock being handled by a lady on her own!  She was tearing around the lock winding paddles, opening gates, hauling her boat into the lock by hand, jumping on and off the boat and basically wearing herself to a frazzle!  In the end after about three locks I went to talk to her and suggested that she leave the front gates open as she exited each lock and  that I would shut them after her � it was the only help I could offer without compromising my own handling of the locks!  So it was pretty slow going and to make it even worse it had started raining just as we were leaving Gayton!  We were togged up in our waterproofs but it was still pretty miserable.    The flight of locks from Gayton down to Northampton consists of 17 individual locks.  The first 13 of these are in very close proximity with just small pounds between so there is no point in getting on and off the boat, I just walk from lock to lock.  The problem with single locks is that they still have two gates at the front and no way to get across them once they are open.  On the big double locks Clive can manage with only one gate open but obviously the single locks require both gates open at the front (they have one single gate at the back).  Because of this, in order to let the boat out of the lock, I have to raise both paddles to empty the lock (I can cross the lock gates when they are closed) then open one of the gates, lower the paddle, run to the other end of the lock (which are about 74' long), cross the rear gate, run down to the front and open the other gate, the boat comes out, I shut that gate, run up to the other end of the lock, cross the rear gate, run down to the front, shut the gate and lower the paddle!  After doing two locks like this Clive realised he could help by climbing onto the boat roof, up the ladder in the side of the lock, open the left gate and lower the paddle, whilst I was doing the same with the right one, then once clear of the gates he could get out on the left and close the gate and I closed the other one.  Big help.  Also whilst the locks were emptying I was trotting down to the next lock, shutting the front gates that the solo boater had left open, then opening the paddles to fill the lock, then running back to the previous lock as Clive was coming out � its all go I can tell you!   We continued on in this fashion for quite some time, only passing three boats on the way up the flight, which does help a bit because you wait for them to come out of a lock and they leave the gate open for you and you leave the front gates open for them.  Every little helps!  It was still raining and we were feeling very damp and bedraggled!  The problem is, it wasn�t cold, so togged up in your waterproofs doing all that exercise you get pretty warm!   Just as we were approaching lock number 10 I noticed another example of canalside art just under the trees.  These sculptures are made of wire and are really quite clever.  We have seen a few of these before, the previous one being at Cosgrove Lock depicting a man with a brush!   We have had a bit of a problem with one of the studs which holds the cratch cover in place.  It must have got worn when we were moored back on the Thames at the Eton Boat Club when the boat was bumping against the high concrete banking and the other day it snapped off all together and therefore the cover is flapping about.  We phoned AJ Canopies, who made and fitted the cratch back in September and they agreed to send somebody out to replace the stud.  We had arranged with them that we would moor up somewhere at the bottom of the flight where they could gain access to the boat from the road � not an easy task!  This stretch is quite overgrown with reeds and iris and it is very difficult to get into the bank, plus there aren�t really many roads crossing it, well apart from the M1!  However we found a spot at about 5.00pm.  Just after lock 14 is a little road bridge and immediately after the bridge was a place we thought we could get into.  We managed it but only because I was already off the boat and could grab the centre rope and pull the boat into the side.  We are now moored up about a yard off the bank with lots of vegetation in between, however it is quite secure so not to worry.   Let�s just hope the man from AJ can find us in the morning! We are only a couple of miles from Northampton and the River Nene now.  This will be the nearest we have been by boat to our house and our kids in Cambridge ever since we set off!

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