I bet you're loving this warm, sunny Bank Holiday weekend. Was there ever such lovely weather for the August holiday in living memory? The sun is warm but not scorching, there is the merest hint of a breeze and the puffy white clouds scud through the bluest of skies - everyone should be happy and smiling on such a lovely day. Right? What could possibly go wrong on a day like this?
We shall see...
After a wonderful few weeks on the River Witham, we've been hurrying over to Shropshire for our autumn cruise and thought we could easily make it to Brewood for Bank Holiday Sunday, where I had arranged to meet my daughter, Claire. Foolishly, we lingered in Alrewas, pottered through Fradley and then found we had to step on it to get to our destination in time. All went well until we reached Penkridge, then our luck ran out. We were following our friends on the Naga Queen and arranged to tie up together at Bogg's Lock. We were just a short cruise away from a sunny mooring and a pleasant afternoon of boaty chatter with our friends, Pat and Malc when Lady Karma hove into view. Somewhere between the first two locks, a flurry of boaters finished their lunch and pulled out between Naga Queen and us. We found ourselves queueing behind several boats and arrived two cups of tea behind them - so that is my excuse for our rather urgent behaviour on Sunday morning. We heard the lock paddles being raised at the nearby Boggs Lock and set off quickly towards the next lock, nipping in front of them and awaking Lady Karma, who got straight on the blower to the Canal Gods to warn them that The Chandlers were on the move. We reached the interesting tower at Gailey and set off towards the Shroppie feeling a little smug (beware the Mountain of Smug!) to have got through the two locks so quickly. We'd left our travelling companions behind today – they were eating their breakfast on the sunny bank and waved us off with a promise to meet up after the weekend. Pat and Malc are much too wise to think about moving on a Bank Holiday Sunday and we should have know better too as it wasn't long before Lady Karma arrived to remind us that it's no earthly use being in a hurry when you're boating. We chugged along the canal, past the chemical works, to find a boat jammed solid on the offside. The father and three children were on their first narrowboat holiday and had politely pulled over to let a boat pass and then found their stern jammed solid on the silt. We took up a rope and gave our Lady full throttle, which usually has the desired affect, but nothing happened. The added thrust of the father on their barge pole produced no results - still stuck. Just when we'd run out of ideas, the rather portly father left the stern and went to the bows and jumped ashore leaving his young son on the tiller and with a little creak, the boat floated off the silt and began to chug away with the little son grinning happily to be left in charge. Dad was stranded on the bank and the two young girls in the bows are beginning to panic, but the young steerer did a great job and took the boat in to collect his father and, with all crew present, they chugged off. Well done Captain Carl - that was our good deed for the day.
But Lady Karma hadn't finished with us yet. She sent the thing that ticks us off the most - a boater that waits until he sees the whites of our eyes before pulling out in front of us and then creeping along so slowly that we're continually in danger of running into the back of him. This chap saw us coming and pulled out anyway, a cardinal sin in our book! We're not usually in a hurry so we rarely pass other boats, preferring to pull over and have a cuppa but today we did rather want to get on so I hailed him from the bows and asked him if we could come by. He waved us on and slowed to let us by but then speeded up sneakily forcing Captain Carl to throttle up to get by, but we soon left him behind and carried on enjoying the sunny day. We were happily waving to the everyone along the way, loving the sights and sounds of the canal and the countryside. I was busy clicking away with my camera trying to capture the beauty of this magical morning; the trees dappling the water with shade; the ripe barley fields stretching into the distance; a horse and rider crossing a pretty bridge. We slipped through the bridge and panicked a hire boater coming the other way. He slammed his boat into hard reverse, grounded on the silt and his bows came swinging across to meet us. Carl managed to avoid them by going hard astern and it was then we heard an ominous thud. The hire boat waved a thank you to us and went on their way, but we could only limp along with something snagged on the prop. Now we're in a quandary – if we pull in, the slow boat will overtake us again but we couldn't really carry on with the prop fouled so we switched off and drifted along while Carl got down into the weed hatch to try and clear it before he could catch us up. It took some shifting as it was a fisherman's landing net but somehow Carl managed to get it off and replace the weed hatch before the slow boater had the chance to gloat at our misfortune.
Lady Karma had one more trick up her sleeve to test our stamina - a fishing match. A long line of rods and a gauntlet of glum faces as our passage forced them to either dismantle their rods or raise them up and over the boat till we were safely clear of their paraphernalia. I went below and made the coffee and left Carl to call out a cheery greeting to each and every one of the Sunday maggot danglers. They rarely answer but we think it annoys them when we smile and wave!
I'm making humble apologies to Lady Karma tonight in the hope that she'll smile on us tomorrow - I do hope she smiles on you too
Love and hugs as always
The Floating Chandlers
Ps We reached Brewood in good time and Lady Karma was kind and saved us a mooring space.
Pps Claire took me for a spin in her VW Beetle, Bruce – I was warmer this time and rather enjoyed pulling up outside the Co-op in such grand style. It was a bit low slung though so I could have done with an ejector seat to get me out. Not so cool after all!
|Carl and blue sky|
|Dappled sun on the Shroppie|
|Naga Queen coming up Penkridge Lock|
|Beautiful Bridge on the Shroppie|