Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Crick 2014 - getting there

I haven't blogged for ages - very remiss of me. I came to the boat last Monday, arriving at Wolverton Station on a delayed train at 1410. After a brief visit to Tesco for essentials such as milk, bread and Cherry Bakewells I cycled on to the marina. Once I'd made a cup of tea I disconnected the shoreline and untied Jubilee, setting off towards Crick. I was pleased to see a boat preparing to enter the bottom lock at Stoke Bruerne just as I got there; we shared all the way up the flight. My partner boat was Etoile du Nord, a Dutch barge-style boat which had hydraulic steering controlled by a wheel. At the top of the locks I tied up and went to The Boat for a tasty "Bruerne Chicken".

Following us all the way up were Alder and, er, I think it was Emu. I joined the crews of both boats in the Navigation for a post-prandial tipple later. Sarah had very helpfully accompanied us up the locks setting them for us and working gates etc.

I awoke early the next day and set off at 0600 just as a thunderstorm passed overhead. Fortunately I'd dressed for Blisworth Tunnel in that I'd put on my waterproof jacket. Just as I entered the tunnel there was a flash of lightning and an almost simultaneous crack of thunder. I was glad to get into the relative dryness of the tunnel! Yes, it was actually drier in the tunnel than outside. About half way through the change of air pressure caused by an oncoming boat (towing a butty) created a dense wall of fog, making it quite difficult to judge my position. In my rush to get out of the rain I'd neglected to switch on any lights inside the boat, so I wasn't sure quite how close to the side I was getting. We passed each other without touching, but I managed to catch the rubbing strake on the wall. It's what it's there for, so I wasn't worried. Just pleased that it wasn't the top of the cabin.

I emerged into much lighter rain the other side, and this dwindled to nothing by the time I reached Blisworth. Here I stopped to nip up to the shop for some cheese to go in my lunchtime sandwiches. Why didn't I buy it in Tesco the day before? I forgot. I made myself a coffee, put my sandwiches and a cherry Bakewell within reach, and got going again. My original plan was to stop in the vicinity of Bugbrooke so as to get to Crick on the Wednesday, but it was becoming clear that I could well make it all the way from Stoke Bruerne in the one day. This change of plan was helped when I paired up with another boat for the Whilton/Buckby flight. This boat was Sola Gratia, crewed by my BCF friends Tracey and Tim. They believe they are the only continuous cruisers assisted by a guide dog. Tim steers while Tracey and Oakley work the locks - an amazing sight. Sorry about the pun.

At the top lock I stopped for water and to empty the cassette while T+T continued up the Leicester Section to get a pumpout. I went past just as they'd finished, so we were together when we got to the bottom of the Watford Locks. Here we had a bit of a wait while boats came down; and there were three or four boats in front of us going up. One of these was Bendithion, crewed by Adrian and Chris - more BCFers.

Once up the locks it was an easy run to Crick. I had hoped to tie up immediately after the tunnel, but there were already three boats there, and the moorings from then on were reserved for those who had booked (and paid for) moorings for the boat show. I hadn't booked a mooring, so I continued to where the signs ran out, just past the winding hole between bridges 14 and 15. It was tricky getting in to the bank as it was shallow and a bit overgrown, but I managed it in the end. I banged a couple of pins in, tied up, and hopped into Ally's car. She had come to pick me up to take me back to her house for a spot of painting and decorating. Well, just painting, actually. In my rush, not wanting to keep her waiting too long, I probably didn't check that the mooring pins were secure enough. When I returned to the boat, with Jan, I discovered that one of the pins was now in a slightly different place, and the centre rope was loosely chucked onto the roof. Oops. The back end must have come adrift and a helpful fellow boater must have resecured it for me. Thank you, whoever you are.

But I've jumped ahead. I'm at Ally and Ben's house, painting skirting boards, door and window frames. After two days of this I caught my train home on Thursday. I'd planned to go and vote (in the European Election) late that evening. The train was due to get into Wymondham Station at 2123, giving me enough time comfortably to cycle the four miles to the polling station at home. Unfortunately this train, too, was delayed. It got in at 2140. I had just 20 minutes to cycle the four miles on a heavy folding bike with a rucksack on my back. In the rain. I pedalled like fury, calculating as I went that if I averaged 16 mph I should get there with five minutes to spare. I arrived at the polling station at 2155. I had my five minutes and I cast my vote. They weren't very busy.

That's enough for now, especially as there are no pictures.

Time for bed (said Zebedee).

No comments: