Adventure: Day Nine

We did it! Nine days of sailing sallying forth, twelve days elapsed, 77 miles, 97 locks, and we are now berthed in a marina in Northampton. Phase one complete.

The big thing today was transitioning from the Grand Union Canal to the River Nene. Which means paying another license to use another set of waterways, and having to use different keys and get used to different lock types.

The main differences we noticed between canal and river are: Rivers have no towpath, making it much more difficult to moor up in random places; rivers are (in most places) much much wider; rivers are harder to navigate because they have many more branches and tributaries and cul-de-sacs.

Oh, and Jenny fell in. We assumed one of us (at least) would fall in at some stage, and as it was our last day Jenny volunteered. Neither of us are entirely clear how it happened, but a little slip, a momentary lack of concentration, and she went in between the boat and the bank. No lasting harm, and once I’d stopped laughing I help her aboard.

So. Phase one complete. Phase two will be Northampton to Peterborough in a few weeks time, when we’ve recovered. For now I’m going to sleep. And drink.

Adventure: Day Eight

(No, we haven’t sunk, I’m just slow in updating this)

Today, we had plans. We set of early(ish) to meet up with Tom and Phil at Stoke Bruerne so they could help us with the lock staircase. A relatively short staircase of 7 locks going straight down. Quick and easy with four of us, and a pub lunch (sitting outside with table service) at the bottom.

After that, We did the Blisworth tunnel. 1.7 miles of narrow pitch darkness. Luckily none of us seemed to be claustrophobic.

We left Phil and Tom to walk back to where they had left their cars while we sallied forth a little more.

After that excitement (and the pub lunch) I decided I needed a rest, but Jenny wanted to push on. So I had an afternoon nap while Jenny piloted the boat solo.

When I woke up I discovered that Jenny had managed the Rothersthorpe locks (a flight of 17 narrow locks) all by herself. These locks were very narrow, just wide enough to fit one narrow boat in. We had now entered a part of the canal system that larger double width boats couldn’t reach.

We finally stopped when it got dark, and moored for the night under the M1. Not quite the rural idyll that we’d gotten used to, but we were too tired to care.

Adventure: Day Seven

We went home for a few days rest and recouperation, check on the bees and chickens, see how bad the growth in the poly tunnel had got, and to see if the cats still remembered us; then back to the boat.

The first day was mostly driving, doing the two car shuffle; both cars to our final destination (Northampton), leave one there then one car to where we had left the boat at Milton Keynes.

We managed a couple of hours of sallying forth, enough to get us out of Milton Keynes and closer to where we hope to meet up with Tom tomorrow, who is going to help us with the first flight of locks at Stoke Bruerne.

Tomorrow we start our journey proper!

Adventure: Day Six

We made it.

We started out early (9:00, early for us) and pushed on throughout the day. We were slightly rushed and stressed because we wanted to get to the marina in Milton Keynes before it closed. We had help from Phil again, and help with another lock staircase from volunteers, without which we would not have made it at all.

I have packed what we need to take home with us (mostly clothes that need laundering and electronic gadgets) and am sitting in the boat in the marina waiting for Jenny to return from charging the car we left here. That was stressful too; apparently the first three charging points she found were broken.

We are both SO looking forward to a nice long bath.

So that is Phase 1(a) of our journey completed. After a few days rest we start on Phase 1(b) which is the journey to Northampton. Phase 2 is to Peterborough (after a month or so rest) followed by Phase 3 which will take us down through the Fens to Cambridgeshire. Hopefully before the winter.

Next year we will have other plans. Neither of us yet knows what they are.

Adventure: Day Five

A beautiful, peaceful start to the day. Cruising across the Tring Summit over the Chilterns in bright morning sunshine.

And then the seven lock stairs to come down the other side. That turned out to be much easier than we’d feared due to the presence of a Lock Volunteer who helped, looked older than I am, and seemed to be more fit than I have ever been.

Today was supposed to be the day we arrived at Milton Keynes marina, according to our original schedule. Since we knew there was no way we were going to make it, we just kept on sallying forth.

Tomorrow we plan to make it to the marina!

Adventure: Day Four

Oh Gods and Godesses, I ache. I had no idea it was possible to ache this much.

We had a late start because I had a work zoom meeting, so we didn’t actually set off until noon. And the sun came out. Our first sight of sunshine since we started.

We set out with a goal. We weren’t terribly optimistic, but it’s still nice to have goals. We wanted to reach the Tring Summit. We did it! Admittedly we had some help from Phil who joined us for part of the journey, but we did it. We sallied on for 9 hours straight, through 18 locks, and ended up moored for the night at the highest point of our journey. Top of the world ma, top of the world!

Jenny checked the fitness app on her watch to see how much exercise she had. It responded with “who are you and what have you done with Jenny”

From here on, it’s downhill all the way. Unfortunately going down in a lock is no easier than going up in one, but it feels like it ought to be.

Our current projection is that we will arrive at Milton Keynes only one day behind schedule, which we have decided to count as a win.

Of course, that assumes we’re actually able to move in the morning.

Adventure: Day Three

Today was grey and wet. It rained almost all day. Not heavy rain, not enough to keep us inside, but a fine drizzle that is enough that, over time, makes everything wet. But we sallied forth, and kept going, and managed 12 locks before our energy ran out.

we did pass a milestone. At noon we passed under the M25 which means we are now officially out of London!

There was one other minor emergency; the toilet became full quicker than we expected. We had to keep our legs crossed wile we motered full speed towards the next disposal point.

We ended up in Apsley near Hemel Hempstead, within walking distance of an Indian Takeaway, so that was dinner. We both agreed that we deserved it. Dinner was followed by another very early nigh and another 12 hour sleep, with left over curry for breakfast the next day.

Adventure: Day Two

We made it through the lock!

After breakfast, about 09:30, we noticed another boat was coming through, so we joined them. It turned out that two fit young people plus two 60 year old women are stronger and better at opening gates than two 60 year old women on their own. Who would have guessed?

The rest of the day was basically trying to make up for lost time. We just kept going. The locks on the part of the canal are numerous and close. We came through the Colne Valley and numerous nature reserves, and ended up at Cassiobury at 17:00

We managed 10 locks. We stopped where and when we did because we were absolutely worn out. I had no idea how physically demanding canal boating was. One lock was fine. Two locks is not a problem. Ten locks in fairly quick succession has left me with every muscle and joint I have aching.

While having dinner (Jenny has very cleverly got a microwave to work using something very clever called a Victron inverter) I discovered that she had never heard of ‘The Rhyme of the Nancy Bell’ by W S Gilbert. So I made her listen to a reading of it that I found on YouTube.

Tomorrow….we’ll, I just hope that tomorrow I am physically able to get out of bed.

Adventure: Day one

Today started well. We slept well (our first time sleeping on the boat), had breakfast (my first time cooking on the boat), filled up the tanks with water and diesel (£200 worth of diesel! Ouch), and sallied forth.

It was very pleasant. Quiet and peaceful for the most part, despite being so close to London, and lots of wildlife to watch as we travel past at a sedately three miles per hour. We didn’t hit anything, we didn’t cause anybody else to have an accident, and we didn’t sink. Plus we managed three locks, including Downham Deep lock, the deepest lock (at 11 feet) on the entire Grand Union canal.

Three locks. Our provisional plan, made with the help of was 14 miles and 12 locks. We managed 7 miles and 3 locks. We made it to just before the Wide Water lock at Harford and decided to moor up for lunch and a rest before going through.

We did that. Lunch and a little nap. As we were preparing to go though the lock a helpful passerby told us that the water in the canal had dropped two feet in the last four hours, that the river authority was letting more water in to compensate but that some boats on that stretch had already grounded. We were advised to get through that stretch of canal as quickly as possible.

We didn’t 🙁 We didn’t even get through the lock. The problem is that the lower lock gates would not close properly, and leaked so much that water coming in through the sluice gates of the upper lock gates were not enough to equalise the water level, and so we couldn’t open the upper gates. Eventually we gave up, reversed out, moored up and sent an email to the river authorities.

And that’s where we are now, at the start of Day Two. Waiting below the lock for…..I don’t know. A miracle? The river authority to perform an emergency repair? Jenny is skipper and chief engineer; I am cook and head ritualist. I think my job this morning is to try to propitiate the Genius Loci and ask them, very nicely and politely, to help us out.

And to make breakfast, of course.

Going on an Adventure!

We bought a boat. Long story short; we hired a narrow boat and spent a holiday on the Norfolk Broads last year. We enjoyed it so much that we sold our camper van and bought a narrow boat. That was last winter. We spent the Spring doing repair and refurbishment, and are now ready to set off [1]

The boat (renamed ‘Lady Sharrow’ from ‘Elysium’) is currently at a marina in Iver, on the Slough arm of the Grand Union canal. Over the Summer we intend to move her to be much closer to home, to a marina just off the Great Ouse.

The plan was to set out from home on Friday morning by 10:00 to arrive at the boat by 14:00 and get four of five hours of boating [1] in. We ended up leaving home at 14:00 and arriving at the boat at 18:00, then loading the boat and stowing thing, in the rain, until 19:00. Then collapsing into bed.

New plan. Set off in the morning, on Day One. Today is now designated as Day Zero.

[1] Dammit, the urge to write ‘set sail’ or ‘an hours sailing’ is very very strong. But it’s a narrow boat. We don’t have a sail. I haven’t yet come up with a narrow boat equivalent of ‘set sail’.