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  • clivenmel

March 21st 2010 - in the middle of nowhere!

Unfortuntely it was raining when we woke up on Saturday morning, however we decided to crack on anyway.  So togged up in waterproofs we set off down the two locks and then cruised along to Tesco's.  On the way we had a bit of excitement!  We could see ahead of us some bright, Dayglo cones on the towpath and lots of men in yellow helmets - firemen?  We could also see something in the water - like a firman's hose!!  We slowed right down and pulled over to the bank and I jumped off with the intention of going down to see what was happening and how long we were going to be held up, however one of the men waved us through so I had to run back up the towpath and jump on board again!  When we reached them (they were firemen!) they had a hose in the water sucking the debris off the surface of the canal, it was attached to a rope which, using our boat hook, they took all the way over the top of the boat to the stern.  It turns out that somehow the canal had been contaminated by a load of epoxy resin which had either been dumped or accidentally spilled into the water - the hose was there to try and skim it off the surface but it didn't seem to be working very well!


It took us about twenty minutes to reach the Tesco moorings.  We soon had the boat tied up then we locked up, grabbed the shopping bags and headed off to do the shopping.  We still had quite a walk to get to the store itself as there wasn't a direct route from the moorings - which seems a bit daft to me!  However we managed to do a really good shop and stocked up the cupboards and the freezer, excellent!


Once back on board Clive set off straight away, whilst I unpacked and stowed away the shopping.  Whilst I was doing that it seems we reached Leamington Spa and went straight past it!  So, we still haven't been to Leamington Spa, either of us!  I forgot to mention that the rain had stopped just before we arrived at Tesco's so we managed to dispense with the waterproofs thank goodness.


We moored up just before we arrived at the bottom of the Stockton lock flight.  It was going up to 2pm and Clive wanted to watch the rugby!  He put the aerial up and nipped inside to check the TV - the reception was terrible, oh dear!  I suggested we go up a couple of the locks and try again in the hope that the extra altitude might improve the signal.  It worked!  So that was Clive all settled for the afternoon - what the heck was I supposed to do whilst he watched wall to wall rugby?  There were three matches on, one started at 2.15pm, the next one at 4.30pm and finally, the important one - England v France - started at 7.30pm and went on till nearly 10.00pm!!!  Well I switched on the laptop, read the emails, then onto Facebook and read all the new live newsfeed, then I played Bejewelled for a while.  All this time Clive was shouting and yelling at the TV and thoroughly enjoying himself!  I made the tea and we just managed to devour that before the final match started and I then decided I might as well just join him and watch the match - actually I quite enjoyed it!  Shame we lost though!!!


Sunday morning dawned bright, sunny and amazingly warm!  I had just got dressed after drinking my morning cuppa in bed and had gone up on deck to brush my hair when I realised there was a boat coming up the lock behind us!  As they left the lock and cruised past us I asked if they were going up the whole flight.  They said they were only going up the first 8 locks, I asked if they would mind if we joined them and they were quite happy about it and said they would wait for us at the next lock.  So I rushed inside and told Clive to get his skates on, we were leaving!  I hadn't even had my breakfast!


Whilst Clive untied the boat and set off I nipped inside and had a quick sandwich - well I need some sustenance to tackle all these big locks!  As promised they were waiting for us in the lock, I jumped off just as Clive was taking the boat into the lock.  The other boat was called Two Oared Barn and her crew were John and Isobel.



John and Isobel


They had originally planned to only go part way up the flight and were going to moor up at Long Itchington, however they decided that being able to share the lock flight was too good an opportunity to miss, so they decided to continue with us up to Ventnor Farm Marina where Two Oared Barn lives when they are not on board.  We did however all decided to moor up for half an hour and have some lunch and a cuppa.


We set off again after our lunch break and continued on up the flight.  There were lots of people out on the towpath by this time, it being a Sunday and a sunny one at that, the Gongoozler's (people who watch narrowboats going up and down in locks) were out in force!  One family came to watch us and ended up helping us to do the locks - excellent!  Their two young sons, Connor and George, were a great help with the lock gates and also had a go at winding the paddles too.



Connor helping Mel with the lock gate


After they had helped us with the first lock I jokingly asked their mum what the boys were doing for the rest of the afternoon, "helping you go up the locks!" she said - excellent!  They really were a big help too, I have to say their dad helped quite a lot as well and so did mum!  It was a real pleasure to have them along with us and its good for kids to learn how clever the engineering is and understand that these amazing contraptions were built before the invention of power tools and that the canals also were dug by hand by men with pick axes and shovels!



George and his mum


Finally we reached the top of the flight and said goodbye and thank you very much to George, Connor and their parents.  I hope they all enjoyed themselves - we certainly enjoyed their company and their assistance!


A short cruise later and it was time to wave goodbye to John and Isobel as we arrived at the Ventnor Farm Marina and they turned off.  However they are intending to go down to the Thames in a couple of months time and so are we, so we swapped email addresses and may well meet up with them again.


We continued along on our own now and soon reached the next flight of locks, the Calcutt Flight.  Fortunately there are only three of these!  Clive dropped me off and I went up to open the gates at the first lock.  As I was opening the gates I spotted two boats just entering the next lock.  That meant I didn't need to close the gates when Clive had left the lock, knowing that they would be coming straight in.  They also left the gate open for us too so that Clive could drive straight in.  As that lock was filling I realised that there were two boats entering the next lock too, excellent!  However it was obvious a few minutes later that there was a problem in the next lock - I went up to investigate.  It turned out that one of the boats had a problem with the gearbox, the boat was stuck in reverse!!!  Fortunately a disaster was averted because some of the staff at Calcutt Boats, which is right next to the lock, spotted the boat going backwards in the lock, rapidly heading for the cill and rushed out to help.  They quickly shut the front paddles to stop the lock emptying and opened the rear paddles to raise the water level in the lock again.  One of the engineers climbed on board and after a quick inspection realised that a cable to the gear box had snapped whilst it was in reverse!  The lady who had been piloting the boat was a bit shaken up by the whole thing and therefore one of the Calcutt boatmen took over the helm.  It turned out it was a brand new boat, the owners had only had her for three weeks!  What a shame, I do hope it doesn't frighten them off!


Finally the two boats, roped together by now, exited the lock and Clive was able to bring our boat in and we continued on our way.  It was still a lovely afternoon so we decided to press on a bit further.  We reached Napton Junction and turned left heading towards Braunston.  At first we couldn't find any decent moorings at all then we came through a bridge and there was a long stretch of barrier for us to moor up against.  It was a lovely spot too, right out in the countryside, beautiful.  It didn't take us long to get moored up and here we are - lovely!


We have also had a good day with regard to wildlife spotting as well.  There are various species of insects that are becoming endangered and boaters are being asked to keep an eye open for them for a wildlife survey.  We spotted some of them today; three bumblebees, a honey bee and a Brimstone butterfly!


All in all its been a lovely day, sunshine all day long and good company too.  What more could we ask for?





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