|Waiting to go up Foxton Locks|
We should have been making an early start on Tuesday morning, after a long weekend in Market Harborough, but I couldn't find my rucksack anywhere when we wanted to walk down to the shops for supplies. After a frantic search of the boat, I had to own up and admit to Carl that I'd probably left it in town somewhere. We retraced our steps around the town from our last shopping trip and finally found the pesky rucksack having a sneaky coffee with the delightful ladies in 'Just So', the Italian Cafe. It was late morning by the time we got back to the boat and the light breeze had turned into a stiff breeze blowing squally showers along the canal towards Foxton. We chugged for a couple of miles then moored up and lit the stove – that's the best way to deal with that kind of weather.
On Wednesday morning we set off early and found we were the only ones waiting to go up Foxton Locks. We had a short wait for two boats coming down and, unfortunately for me, they were both single-handed boaters who had needed both of the volunteer lock-keepers to bring them down the flight. Those volunteers were due a tea break after all their hard work so they left me and Carl to make our own way to the top and for once, there wasn't a tourist or a gongoozler in sight to help with the gates! It's not hard work though and I had plenty of time to look back over the view, and feel the warmth of the sun on my face as the Lady Aberlour floated up the locks. Once we were out of the top lock, we decided to make the most of the sunny weather and chugged along through the tunnel at Husbands Bosworth through North under the M1, arriving at bridge 22 near Yelvertoft in the late afternoon. We had a quick meal then we were scooped up and carried off to the village pub by our friends, Richard and Mel. The men had a game of skittles – the type where a flat wooden 'cheese' is thrown at the wooden skittles but as they didn't know the rules or how to score they soon gave it up and we watched a very entertaining game of 'Dog Bowling' where the locals threw a ball into the space behind the skittles and a little brown spaniel ran across the floor, leapt up onto the 'alley' and knocked all the pins down as he skidded along to retrieve his ball. Tricky and her friend Mr Tush (a very roguish Yorkshire Terrier) declined to join in – Tricky hardly ever chases a ball and certainly not when its thrown anywhere further than a paw's reach. Mr Tush is a little more adventurous but those wooden pins were bigger than him, so he retreated to safety under our table. We staggered home along the tow-path in the dark, broke open the Kraken grog and drank a toast to the sun and the skittles (any excuse).
|Cottages on the Buckby Locks|
We set off on Thursday aiming for Weedon on the Grand Union, a fair days chugging with Crick Tunnel, Watford Locks and the Buckby flight on the way. I waltzed down the Watford narrow locks with help from the two volunteers and we pulled in at the top of the Buckby flight so I could fuel up for the hard work ahead – two cheese sandwiches, a banana and a gallon of tea ought to do it. The pub on the lock was doing a roaring trade and the outside tables were full as I worked the lock, opening the paddles and leaning against the lock arms till they swung open, then heaving and hauling to close them. Everyone watched, waiting for the red-faced old biddy (me) to perform a swallow dive into the lock or trip over her feet for their entertainment but, for once, I managed to get the boat through without any mishaps and scrambled back across the lock to catch up with Carl who was holding the boat for me to ride to the next lock. I thought I deserved a round of applause but they'd all gone back to scoffing their scampi and sipping their beers I could easily have joined them but there are 6 more broad locks to be tackled and the sun was beating down from a cloudless sky. (Did I hear someone say it's too hot? No, that's definitely not me!). I managed 2 more locks before handing the windlass over to Carl and letting him do the hard work while I lazed on the tiller, talking to Tricky and keeping cool under the big umbrella. It was a good day's boating and my poor feet were groaning to be let out of socks and trainers – maybe I'll look for my sandals after all!
|I'm on the tiller going down the Buckby Locks|
Friday morning was another stunning day, we made good time to Gayton Junction and swept around the bend ready to tackle the 17 narrow locks onto the River Nene. As we got through the third lock, some walkers came along and we gathered that the canal was empty further down and a boat was stuck in the lock. It's a common occurrence on this flight, there aren't any lock-keepers to manage the water supply and the middle pound regularly drains dry. I walked down to the locks and met a very grumpy lady who was gazing despondently at the dry pound. I told her not to worry, I would send some water down and we'd soon all be on our way. I tramped back up the locks, leaving Carl on watch to let me know when the pound was full, opening the top and bottom paddles at every lock on the way. It took a little while and it was very hot trekking up and down but eventually, the pound filled up and the first boat set off again with Carl and I hot on their heels. There was a bit of a hiccup at Lock 13, where the overflow was teeming over the top of the bank at gunwale height instead of at water level. Luckily, Carl noticed and closed the covers at the front and I closed the doors at the back, so the water washed over the stern deck but didn't get into the back deck. The River Nene has been on Red Flag for weeks (to warn of flood conditions) and the town quay is busy with moored boats who have probably been stuck here for weeks, waiting for the water to recede. We're booked into the marina and will be staying for a few weeks to catch up with family and friends. Do call and see us if you're in the area, I'll bake scones and we may even be able to cruise up the Nene if its fine.
|Tricky looking as depressed as ever|
I hope you won't mind if I don't do the Jottings until we get back to cruising, I promise I'll write if anything exciting happens. That's all for this week my friends, enjoy the sun while it lasts, I expect the weather will soon be back to normal.
The Floating Chandlers
PS This marina has a lots of boat cats, they tease Tricky by popping up as we walk along the floating pontoons to get to the nearest grassy spot. Naughty Freddie, the ginger cat, hopped aboard our boat this morning and kept peeping in through the bow doors, staring at Tricky through the window. Luckily for Freddie, Tricky was fast asleep and carried on snoozing in her basket, blissfully unaware of the intruder.
PPS The resident geese are very noisy neighbours, honking and screeching from dawn till dusk. It was the last straw when a pair flew onto our roof and started marching up and down very early this morning. Carl was up and out the back hatch before they could leave us any messages on the nice clean, cream roof!
|Lovely view from the towpath|
|Foxton Swing Bridge|
|A sunny day - at last|
|Saucy Lady - not the usual roses and castles|