We are now into our 18th week of our continuous narrow boat adventure and for those who have been following our blog posts, you will see that there has been far more highs than lows as we have travelled the canals and rivers from the midlands north and then down to the south along the Thames. We are now heading up the Grand Union to our permanent mooring at Debdale Wharf Marina near to Market Harborough and Foxton. One thing we have realised is that although we like long trips, we miss having a ‘home’ for the boat, somewhere where we can return to and call it our home. Choosing Debdale also means we can keep in touch with family and it’s not too far away to our bricks and mortar home.
So how did this week go ……..???
On the Tuesday we decided to move from our mooring at Berkhamsted. We had really enjoyed our time here and it reminded us very much of our old home town of Market Harborough. There was also a Waitrose really close to the canal, so we were able to stock up on essentials. The weather was wet but not too cold and so we headed off around 10.00am. We filled up with water, like I have said previously; we prefer to top up at every opportunity, rather than run low and have to wait for ages to fill the tank up. I had ‘googled’ the nearest Screwfix and Jewsons and found both of these stores were close to the canal as we left Berkhamsted, so after about ten minutes Sandra held the boat (rather than mooring up) whilst I went off hunting for a replacement lump hammer. I returned with a slightly less heavy hammer than the one that was stolen – but sufficient to do the job. Back on board we continued our journey along the grand union passing through some seven heavy going locks. Both of us cannot believe the state of disrepair of this part of the canal system. Everything has been ‘fast fixed’ – on the cheap. The locks leak terribly and at one there was a four inch gap in the locks which meant we were waiting for ages for the lock to fill. Water levels were also low, with the boat dragging along the bottom resulting in very low cruising speeds. We both commented that we doubted we would ever come this way again. We passed through North Church, Dudswell and finished mooring up at Cow Roast absolutely tired out. This was just past the marina where Rach and Tim live and moor their boat – we tried to look out for their boat, but it is well protected by trees and bushes. We moored up half a mile further down from the marina, in the countryside. Sandra was looking forward to her Emmerdale ‘fix’ but the TV signal was too poor, so she wasn’t happy at all, working hard all day and then having no TV. We opted for a DVD and then settled down for the night with a homemade Cottage Pie. We decided that we would not participate in a glass of wine, we could easily drink every day, but we have decided that we would have two day breaks – this was one of them.
On the Wednesday the day started cloudy and colder than what we had been enjoying. We set off around ten and started our journey towards Linslade. Around eleven the clouds dispersed and we had full sun for the rest of the day – very hot indeed and not ideal as ahead of us were a lot of locks. As Sandra doesn’t like driving the boat into double locks, most of the work was to be on Sandra’s shoulders unfortunately, so she wasn’t too happy! Fortunately after the 2nd lock we met up with another boat, a Springer 30ft with a family of Londoners. A grandad, grandma and daughter and grandson, they were real cockneys and had a real sense of humour, the day went really fast as we shared the rest of the locks, we had a laugh and joke throughout and even stopped for the obligatory ice cream along the way.. We were both surprised to find we had soon completed eleven locks. We moored up together just before Horton Lock opposite a dairy farm. Later we sat at the back of the boat and enjoyed a glass of red wine chatting to the daughter of the family. She told us they lived in Bethnal Green – she said it was changing a great deal as many of the local people are being tempted to sell their houses due to the high prices they can achieve. She then went on to tell us that her neighbour sold a two bedroom terraced house for £1.3 million. In the north you could buy a whole street of houses for that. The family asked if we wanted to join them again the following day, but when they told us they were leaving around 7.00am – we decided not to take up their offer. We had just had a couple of weeks of early starts and late finishes and we didn’t want to feel rushed again. Later I checked the engine oil (full) and tidied up the engine bay of leaves and cleared the drain holes. Sandra started to cook the evening meal (Nachos and chilli) when she received a call from her young brother where he told Sandra that after receiving his MRI scan results that he was now in full remission from his cancer. He could now re-start his life again with just one hospital visit a year. We both were so happy and pleased for him, so we decided we would celebrate by opening another bottle of wine. So on this day, it was one of the best days of our whole journey so far.
Thursday needless to say we awoke a little late around 9.00 in the morning. We had both suffered from ‘midgy’ bites during the night, a result of mooring opposite a farm. The boat was full of flies, so Sandra lit a handful of citronella candles and sprayed the boat with fly spray. We sat on the back of the boat whilst the boat was fumigated and noted that the Londoners had left! I started the engine ready for the days trip and also connected fly screens to the roof hatches and cratches so at least we had some protection for the rest of the day and night. We decided we would have a slow day today, so our destination was Linslade which sits alongside of Leighton buzzard the canal separating both towns. Only three locks ahead of us and after the first we waited for two old working boats selling fuel to come through. I took this opportunity to check my diesel and realised I was half full, so I used the boat services and filled up with diesel. First time we had used a trading fuel boat – but will definitely use them again. We were soon at Linslade, I did the usual ‘google’ check to check where the shops were and so on. We realised that there was a Wetherspoons and contemplated on visiting it as it was ‘curry night’, but decided against this. Sandra wanted a ‘proper’ Indian later on in the week. Just as we passed some houses to moor up, Sandra gave a little squeal! In one of the gardens backing onto the canal, there was a stark naked man tending his garden (the second streaker in a month!) We moored up on pins using my new lump hammer – and the weight difference of the hammer had made little difference. We then headed off for Leighton Buzzard where we found a pleasant town with all of the key shops we were looking for. We also went by Mary Norton’s house the writer of The Borrowers and Bedknob and Broomsticks – a blue plaque clearly showing this and as we passed there were young people taking pictures. We nipped into the Swan Hotel (Wetherspoons) for a coffee and then called into a bakers for some fresh bread and a doughnut for later. When we got back to the boat, the pins were wobbling around and we both realised the ground was too soft to hold our boat safely. We decided to move onwards and a short distance passed the town we found a lovely mooring where we could use ‘paperclips’ to hold the boat to the side. We had a cosy night onboard of the boat and enjoyed a lovely jam doughnut and coffee after our meal!
We awoke on Friday to another bright and sunny day. After checking and greasing the stern gland we headed off. Taking our time as usual we were astounded by the behaviour of a young female owner boater, as we were coming toward a bridge on tick over, the boater who had clearly moored too close to the bridge suddenly pulled out in front of us – literally 2 yards away. I went into full reverse as she gestured with her hands laughing at us. When in reverse our boat can be a nightmare and veered to the left and hit the bridge, fortunately it was slow and only the hull. I was also lucky not to drag up rubbish into the propeller – no boater in their right mind goes into reverse near to or going through a bridge! We continued along at tick over to give the boater some distance from us, only to realise she was also moving at tick over – after about two miles, we realised she was mad as a hatter – she kept putting her boat into neutral, almost willing for us to get closer. She then turned around and laughed at us. At this stage we decided not to play her game and pulled over to the the side for a coffee. What an absolute idiot. Later we went through the following three locks, and passed the boater who had moored up at a lock landing (typical) where she sat on the cut with a litre bottle of cider and a large cigarette (!!) clearly oblivious to us passing or indeed anyone else around her. Around 3.00pm just before Milton Keynes near to Stoke Hammond, we moored up in a lovely location with other boaters and in the countryside. Sandra got on with cooked the evening meal and I called Milton Keynes Marina to see if they had any overnight mooring spots. They had, so I booked three days. We decided having a few chill out days with full services would be beneficial to us both. The Marina also had a Toby Inn on site and would be an easy location for my cousin Terry to meet us as he lives reasonably close.
Saturday was another good boating day, bright and sunny. We left Stoke Hammond around 9ish as we wanted to get to the marina before lunchtime. We went through Fenny Stratford and quite enjoyed the canal journey, passing through countryside, housing and industrial landscapes along the way. At Peartree bridge we turned a sharp 90 degree turn, under the pedestrian bridge into the marina. We were a little shocked to find a place so full of boats. We slowly edged the boat into the visitor spot in between two boats which were up for sale. We walked along the gunnels and found the office person. We paid for the mooring and also a pump out. He then followed us to the boat and handed up the pump out pipe. We soon realise we would be doing the pump-out ourselves. He went off to get some blue and on returning I heard a guy who was cleaning the top of the hire boat shout out aggressively to him. He had put too much blue into the container. I walked over to the two men and was then given a cup full of blue. I said this wasn’t the usual amount I have received in other boat yards, only to be shouted at by the same man – telling me to go and get a pump out elsewhere if I was not happy! I was quite shocked, so I turned around at the guy and told him not to be aggressive to me and not to be so nasty to customers. I think this might have been the first time anyone had put him in his place, as he did not respond to me and continued washing the boat. The other guy walked back with me to the boat, thanked me and then told me I had just told the owner of the marina off. Good start! It took about an hour to empty the holding tank. The equipment was not in good working order and the seal was not very effective. After we moved to our allocated spot, all I can say is thank heavens there was no wind. It took all of my boating skills and the use of the bow thrusters to get into the mooring spot. We connected to electricity, filled up with water and the chilled out somewhat exhausted. It was about this time I realised that one of the bites I had got from mooring next to the dairy farm the other day had gone funny and as I looked down at my leg I could see I had an infection. I cleaned the area and then took some anti histamine tablets. We decided to try out the pub, early doors. What an experience, it was full to bursting. It took me half an hour to get served. Needless to say it put us off from having an evening meal, I endured another fight to the bar and then we both left and picked up an Indian curry from the take-away close by. It was a brilliant curry.
On Sunday it was a hot day and being in a marina and not moving intensified the heat. We both decided to catch up on jobs, cleaning, washing and so on. Later we were joined by Terry and his family and we chatted for ages on the back of the boat. We then went over the Peartree pub in the hope we would receive much better service than before. At the pub, although being a Sunday and the pub specialising in carvery style meals it weren’t as busy as we expected. We all chatted for ages; Terry’s dad and my mother were brother and sister. Terry who has been researching the family tree confirmed more of his findings and both of us celebrated that we had Irish, English and American bloodlines. We laughed that he had uncovered a lot of ‘skeletons’ within the family from the past. We enjoyed a traditional English dinner, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and more. Sandra had been looking forward to a meal like this for a couple of days. It was quite good, although they were mean with the meat! We said our goodbyes around 8.00ish and by 9.00pm Sandra and I were in bed enjoying a downloaded programme we had missed on the ipad.
Monday was a cooler day than usual, thank goodness. It was our last day on the moorings, so we spent it getting organised and planning the next few weeks. Emily, our daughter agreed to meet us at Blisworth boat festival the following weekend. We have both been missing her a great deal. For the rest of the day we chilled, completed jobs, Sandra did some sewing and later prepared the evening meal. A relaxing and anther well deserved day off.
So, the end of another week. Great boating weather and so enjoyable. Next week we leave the marina and join up with Emily and Elliott at the Blisworth Boat Festival. Should be fun!