March 27th - top of Foxton Locks
We left our mooring on Monday morning and headed towards Braunston. It was a pleasant morning and it didn't take us long to reach the junction where we turned right into Braunston.
One thing I haven't mentioned is that we have had problems with our loo! Remember a few weeks ago when I bought the Portapotty in the lock at Audlem? Well it couldn't have come a moment too soon, what a stroke of luck that we had it! The problem is that our "macerator" loo has got a problem, we don't know what it is just yet and I won't go into details here (you don't want to know!). Suffice it to say we are currently using the Portapotti which is sitting in the shower tray! Obviously, unlike our proper loo, this one has to be emptied manually in the Elsan disposal units which are dotted along the canal. Anyone who has been caravanning or campervanning will know exactly what I'm talking about. There is one of these units on the approach to Braunston and we took advantage of it. Mind you, it was a very unpleasant place and the unit itself was blocked! Clive had to unblock it and flush it out before we could use it! I am telling you all this just to make you aware that wonderful as our life afloat is, it does still have its ups and downs - nothing is ever perfect is it! Clive is now going to have to dismantle the loo and find out what is causing the problem and hopefully fix it! Keep your fingers crossed that it is something simple!
Once that was over and done with we proceeded into Braunston and managed to moor up very close to the marina entrance. There was a good reason for this - I will come to it later! When we had the boat securely moored we headed along the tow path about 100 yards and over the bridge to a boat moored at the other side of the marina entrance called "Gongoozler's Rest". It is actually a floating cafe and does a mean all day breakfast! It had come highly recommended by Marie Brown, author of Narrow Margins, whom we met back in the summer at Pope's Corner on the River Great Ouse near Ely. As it turned out it has recently changed ownership and the new proprietor is Avril who used to run The Plough up in Braunston Village.
After our brunch we continued our walk along the towpath to the Midland Chandlers. We were in need of one or two things: a replacement chimney; a new bracket for the TV aerial and some rope and hooks for our new mini moto tyre fenders! Well we managed to get the rope and two hooks but nothing else at that point. We had actually bought our TV aerial from this very chandlers way back in September 2008 just after we had embarked on our adventure. They still sell them but what they don't do is sell the brackets separately! The said they would phone their suppliers to see if it was possible to buy them separately and could we go back in a couple of hours. So we trekked back to the boat to wait.
I have to tell you that Braunston is a "black hole" when it comes to communication. There is absolutely no dongle signal and no mobile phone signal either, well not if you are on Vodafone! So that was that, we had to twiddle our thumbs for a couple of hours! Finally we trekked back to the chandlers only to be told that yes the brackets could be sold separately but they couldn't take them out of the pack, they would have to order them for us and they may take a week to arrive! Fat lot of good that is!! In the end, when we worked out the cost of the brackets plus the postage and packing etc it wasn't much more to buy a new aerial so that's what we did. We now have a spare aerial, cable and one bracket, just in case we have any more accidents!
On our way back from the chandlers we decided to pop into the pub for a quick drink. I quite fancied something savoury with my drink so Clive bought us both a packet of crisps. Half way through his packet he suddenly stopped chewing and looked horrified! After a bit of investigation with his tongue he discovered that he had lost a huge filling out of his upper left molar!! Oh no, not again, it seemed as if history was repeating itself!! Touch wood the only major problems we have encountered on our adventure has been dental! I had a gold filling which kept coming out and I ended up having to have it replaced with a standard amalgmam filling. Clive had a bad abscess on a tooth last February and ended up having a tooth out, now we had yet another dental problem! Fortunately so far he has not had any pain!
The following morning we had a visitor - Terry, from Viking Hoods, the man who is making and fitting our pram hood cover. You could be forgiven for forgetting all about this, we almost had! Originally Terry was going to have our pram hood cover for the stern made and fitted before Christmas, much sooner than AJ Canopies who had made our cratch cover, they couldn't start till February. Unfortunately however Terry has experienced a few setbacks, the first being very strong winds which blew the roof off his workshop resulting in all his materials and equipment getting wet through! The second setback was a little more personal - a herniated disc space in his spine!!! Poor man has been in a lot of pain and ended up having to have a surgical procedure to sort it out. He is now more or less recovered and is back on the job again. Anyway he turned up as planned around 11.00am and after a quick cuppa set too fitting the basic canopy onto the framework that he fitted back in November whilst we were up on the Macc. Once he had done that and marked where the windows were to go and various other bits he took it off again then said his goodbyes with a promise to catch up with us again on Monday. All being well he will do the final fitting whilst the boat is at Debdale Wharf whilst we are in Spain next week. So all being well when we return from our holiday we will have a brand new pram hood canopy on the stern of our boat - an extra room! Watch this space, there will be photos!
Once Terry had gone we went for a walk up into the village to pick up a few things from the village store. Clive was very disappointed to find that The Plough was shut! We walked right through the village and down the other side to the chandlers there to see if they had any chimneys that would fit our boat - they had but they were extremely expensive, about double the price we had paid for our original one! For the time being we will make do with our old one even though it has a chunk missing!
We stayed one more night in Braunston then on Wednesday morning we upped sticks and left. First of all we had the flight of locks to negotiate, followed immediately by the Braunston Tunnel. We had company coming up the locks, which was a big help and we followed the other boat through the tunnel. For two thirds of the way through the tunnel it was clear sailing then we spotted a headlight coming the other way, just as the tunnel did a jink and narrowed - typical! Sure enough we met the other boat right at the tunnels narrowest poin and promptly head butted each other! Fortunately no damage was done but Clive's pride was a bit dented, he's a pretty good helmsman and in all the time we have been cruising he has had very few bumps indeed - still it couldn't be helped, it was sod's law really, with a whole tunnel to go at it is just typical that you would meet someone at the narrowest place.
As it was such a pleasant day we just carried on cruising and got a lot further than anticipated, in fact we reached Norton Junction and even managed to hare up the Watford Lock flight in no time. Once up the flight we started to look out for somewhere to moor for the night. Not straight away though as we were very close to the M1, in fact we cruised past the Watford Gap services! Finally though we found a beautiful spot out in the countryside opposite a field full of sheep with their new lambs - lovely. In fact it was so lovely we stayed two nights! We could hear the M1 as a steady, constant drone in the distance though.
On Friday morning we finally tore ourselves away from our lovely mooring and cruised a bit further, in fact we cruised for about four hours and ended up on another mooring almost identical to the one we had left that morning - beautiful scenery and sheep and lambs in the field opposite!
Today Clive set off about 10.00am and left me inside - he didn't need me - no locks! So I had a very leisurely morning; checked the emails, updated my status on Facebook and played Bejewelled for a while - sheer decadence! I did ply Clive with coffee and biscuits mind you! Finally he started looking for a temporary mooring with a TV signal - its a Grand Prix weekend and he wanted to watch the qualifying! After two attempts we finally got a poor but watchable signal and he settled down to watch whilst I made lunch. Once the qualifying was over we set off again and a while later we arrived at the top of the Foxton Lock Flight. We moored up right in front of the top lock where there is a water point so we set the water tank filling whilst I went to find the Lock Keeper. It turned out we were too late to go down the flight as it closed at 3.30pm - I had no idea what time it was anyway! So here we are and here we'll stay until tomorrow morning when the flight reopens. We have to notify the Lock Keeper of our intention to descend the flight and he will put us in his queue. This lock flight is an absolute tourist attraction, the Gongoozlers (people who watch boats going up and down locks!) come out in force at the weekends and even more so with it being Easter! There are also lots more boats on the cut with it being a school holiday so you have to book your passage!
I must say I had a bit of a deja vu when we arrived here! On 1st February last year we headed down this lock flight and then moored up in the basin at the bottom. When we woke up in the morning the world was white and frozen - we were stuck here for three weeks!!!! Hope it doesn't do that tomorrow!