Well that’s week twenty of our adventure completed. Twenty weeks of continuous cruising, yet most of the time it feels like we have just started our journey. In a couple of weeks I’m going to work out how many miles, locks and hours we have spent doing this, but I can tell you this we have done 100’s locks and 100’s of engine hours – but all incredibly enjoyable, for most of the time.
So how did this week plan out ……???
On Tuesday we headed off from Weedon, still ranting on how great the curry was from the previous night and also feeling a little tired. Neither of us had managed to sleep too well, we had moored too close to the railway line and the trains through the night and especially early in the morning had kept us from our deep sleep. I had also been up a couple of times during the night with indigestion, caused from the spicy meal. However, we battled on and after a couple of strong coffees we soon felt fine which was important as we needed all of our energy to complete the seven double locks of the Long Buckby flight. We decided to moor up just before the first locks near to Whilton Marina and do what all boaters do, visit the Chandlery to see if we needed anything. Last week when we met Graham and Indie, he had shown us a brilliant ‘gadget’ a roll up, fixed step ladder that can be hung from the rear of the boat to enable someone to get out of the water easy, should they have the misfortune to fall in. Here at the Chandlery for £20 we were able to buy one. The guy behind the counter was a boater and we soon got into discussion about the benefits of suitcase generators. I could see this was boring Sandra to tears, so I hurried the conversation along and decided as we left to call in next doors which was a small café for a late breakfast. What a super little place, we had two small cooked breakfast and two coffees for under a tenner, and we were very pleased indeed with the service and quality of the food. We sat outside in the sun, a really beautiful day. After we decided to spend some time looking around the boats for sale at the marina, there must have been over thirty for sale, many of them in need of love and attention. We never seem to see exactly the same as ours, but we did find a near contender and were shocked that a boat five years older than ours was up for sale for nearly £70k. Around 12 noon we decided to head back to the boat and were happy to see another boat waiting to go up the locks, we asked if we could join them and soon we were entering the first of seven chambers. The boat we were sharing with was a hire boat family, lovely people from Bournemouth. This was the second time they had hired a boat and quite clearly they liked canals. They were taking their time; they were going as far as they could and stopping and taking their time along the way and on Wednesday they would turn around and enjoy the journey the other way. They thought this was better than rushing to do one of the ‘rings’ most hire boaters seem to think they have to do, to get their money’s worth out of there boating holiday. We all soon started to chat, and when he asked what we did for a living, I found myself almost apologising for taking early retirement – weird or what? Half way up the flight, we decided to have a half hour break. Soon we were finishing the last lock which had a canalside pub against it, which was very tempting indeed. The family were heading off for Braunston and we were turning right onto the narrow canal of the Grand Union heading towards Foxton so we said our goodbyes. We then started to look for moorings. Earlier on our journey we had moored around this area, so we were very aware that moorings were at a premium. We past a little boat called Fox, which thought it was bigger than it was, as it had taken up two moorings spots (pet hate!) and soon in the shade we found a mooring, slightly on a corner, but secure enough to moor up safely. We were both tired, and not only that I had come up in a rash on both legs, not itchy but quite unsightly. The last time this had happened I had to visit the hospital where I was told I had vasculitus – linked to an allergic reaction. There is nothing they can do for it and it often gets worse before it gets better. Sandra and I both agreed that it must be linked to the filthy horsefly bite from earlier on. We settled down for the evening, both feeling as If we were back home, Foxton was now only a day or so away – but we would take a leisurely week to get there.
On Wednesday I woke up feeling terrible throughout the night I had suffered from diarrhoea and stomach cramps – exactly what Emily, our daughter, had just got over a week earlier. It’s so easy to pick up bugs along the canal, and quite clearly I had – but, I still felt well enough to get moving. Living with a strong woman, letting the side down didn’t even enter my mind and wouldn't be an option. As I was checking the engine the guy moored up behind popped his head out, Dave, and started to chat with me. He was originally from London and when he used to work with deprived children, he had been asked to crew one of the boats they had hired for a holiday. During this week he had fallen in love with canal life. When his mum passed away he was able to leave London and buy his first boat, a project to say the least. He was a real friendly guy and I felt sorry that his first boat had caused him so much angst, requiring, re-plating, new batteries and alternators. I asked him if he had requested a survey on the boat, and he had not. Soon we were saying our goodbyes heading for the Watford Locks. Today was definitely a hot day, too hot in fact and really we should have just moored up in a shady spot. It was therefore very depressing to find that there was a faulty lock on the flight and this was causing major delays for boats going up and down the flight. We went to find the keeper to be told we were sixth to going up, but there were lots to come down and to therefore be ready to wait for up to three hours! We were fortunate to find a spot to tie up and we promptly pulled up the pram cover for sun protection. We got lunch and soon we started chatting to people. The very small gap between our boat and the one behind was soon filled up with the ‘Fox’ boat – definitely not taking two mooring spots this time. The two people came off their boat to chat and although I had thought they were plonkers the previous day, in fact they were really quite nice. They had moved from London to Market Harborough for a quality of life change and value for money in housing, although one still worked in London (55 minute train journey). They were also able to by their 30ft weekender boat which they had put a lot of love and attention into. As the conversation carried on I steering it to mooring protocol and they soon realised that in areas where moorings are scarce, it is not polite to take up two spots! The three hours soon passed and 35 minutes later we were exiting the Watford flight. I had asked the lockkeeper how the lock had become damaged and he explained that someone had come through the locks around 8.00pm in the evening and must have rammed the gates by his boat. We decided to moor up soon after in one of our favourite rural spots. It was incredibly hot and our thermostat showed 30 degree. We showered and decided to have a salad, rather than cook. Not one of my favourite foods to say the least, but probably good for someone with a dodgy tummy. Another night without alcohol!
Thursday wasn’t so hot, and what a relief, the night had been so humid and warm, neither of us had got much sleep, I had also been restless with stomach cramps one of the symptoms of my diarrhoea episode. We had a little breakfast, and then both of us set off with bleary eyes. Soon we were entering Crick tunnel, coming towards us I could see another boat, I asked Sandra to use the hand torch to tell me if I got too close to the sides of the tunnel. As we got nearer the boat I was surprised to say the least that the oncoming boat did not slow down, as he passed the swell from his boat literally slammed Captain Hastings against the tunnel wall. I could hear the scraping of the paintwork. What a total idiot. We exited the tunnel and Sandra leaned over and reported back that we had scratched down to the metal some of the yellow cabin paint. I was so upset over this. We both carried on along our journey in silence and seething over the behaviour of the boater. I decided to call Yelvertoft Marina, a superb marina managed by great staff and occupied by some amazing and lovely boaters. They were pleased to have us moor there again temporary, and as we had helped tow in one of their moorers boat awhile back, they would not be charging us for the three days. Our mood started to improve; our faith in our fellow boaters was getting back to normal! We moored up in the spot we had moored a few months previous, plugged in the electric and had a rest – we needed it. Later, I looked at the boat damage and as the day wasn’t too hot I decided to rub down the loose paintwork and make smooth, I then applied two coats of primer and after this had dried, one coat of undercoat and when this had dried and been rubbed smooth a couple of topcoats. By teatime the boat looked perfect again. Whilst I was doing this, Sandra went into her cleaning mode and spring cleaned the boat (she does this at least once a week, as well as a deep clean every day!) and prepared a lovely Italian style risotto evening meal. We had another early night and again – no alcohol!
Friday we had an early start, Emily was picking us up to go home. She arrived at 8.15am after dropping Elliott (husband) off at the airport; he was going off to Helsinki for a weekend with friends. It had been a long time since there were just the three of us and I had really been looking forward to this. It had been over a month since I had seen Emily, and both of us couldn’t believe how her ‘baby bump’ had grown. I couldn’t wait to give her a massive hug; it’s good that both of us are very tactile people, quite the opposite to Sandra, who often looks at us in bemusement when we have one of our ‘moments’. She had driven my Mercedes over and it had been ages since I had driven this and to be honest I was quite happy to put my foot down and experience a bit of speed for a change, even though Emily more than once informed me that I was only going 42 miles per hour along the road! Once we got home we were really pleased with the garden, which had just had a gardener in to sort out the trees etc. For the rest of the day we organised things and enjoyed the space. I switched on the Juke Box – and enjoyed the music up loud! And in the evening we were joined by Rob and Elaine, Sandra’s sister and had a super family meal together, and for the first time in ages a couple of glasses of wine. We all had a good night.
On Saturday, which I thought was Sunday (all day!!) we went shopping for boat supplies and also purchased our first ‘box’ of wine from ASDA to try. We also went to view our new moorings. Earlier posts had highlighted that we would be mooring at Debdale Wharf Marina, as permanent moorers, even though we will be off on our travels for 6 – 7 months a year. This is because both Sandra and I prefer to have a mooring for the boat we can call home, even though we will be doing our canal adventures. However, we have always longed for a non-marina mooring, but with electric and water etc. Well on Saturday we came up with a compromise mooring spot. North Kilworth Wharf had called us to inform us that they had a mooring spot we might want to view. When we arrived we were shown a vacant mooring spot along the canal, but with electric and water close. So we shook hands and agreed to takeover this mooring from 1st September. We decided to drive Sandra’s car to the wharf and leave it there in readiness for when we arrive with our boat. We left very happy indeed. When we got back to the house we were pleased to be joined by Micheala and Taylor and one of Emily’s work colleagues Beccy and the six of us just had a chill out evening with a fish and chip supper.
Sunday Emily dropped us back at the boat in Yelvertoft. We were pleased to get back to normality and for the rest of the day, after I had checked the oil and we filled up with water, we chilled out. At around 3.30pm we left the marina and moored up soon after in a rural countryside position. We watched TV and had a nice meal and were soon in bed. We just can’t party like we used to!
Monday was a chilly and wet day at the start and for the first time in ages I had a jumper on. We took a slow cruise along the 23+ miles of lock free canal. We love this stretch of water and have cruised this area a great deal. We had a phone call from Emily in the afternoon, saying she wouldn’t mind meeting up for coffee, so we agreed to moor up just before bridge 37, not far from North Kilworth where the road passes over the canal. Soon she was on board along with three nice cream cakes, by this time the weather had picked up and the sun was out. We sat on the back in a beautiful rural location – even Emily agreed how lovely it was – and enjoyed another few hours of family quality time. We just can’t believe how lucky we are having such a beautiful daughter both inside and outside. Family is absolutely everything. Later when Emily left we were lucky to have a good TV signal, along this stretch of water the signal, even with a booster has been terrible. Once we got the TV up and running we enjoyed, well Sandra enjoyed, Emmerdale, and then we had dinner a lovely chicken and vegetable casserole in a creamy and mustard white sauce – heavenly, along with our first glass of ‘boxed’ wine. The wine was average, but what do you expect at the price we paid – it worked out at the equivalent of £3.50 a bottle. Those that know us well know that we never drink cheap wine – unless we are drunk, or it’s free, or comes with the meal at Wetherpoons (ha ha ha)!!
So another week is over, we are getting close to where this year’s cruising adventure ends and we moor up for the winter months. We will be quite sad that this year is over; however, we are both ready for a little ‘normality’ in our lives. A few months relaxing with a car, no worries about electric, shopping or running out of anything. A few months being close to family, doctors dentists and being able to visit our usual restaurants and of course the cinema every week. Not least the birth of our first grandchild in October – which to be honest is like waiting for Christmas, but not knowing what day it falls on. I know we will be the ever doting grandparents, and I absolutely know Emily and Elliott will be brilliant parents.