Monday, August 08, 2011

Braunston was busy (and wet!)

Sunday 7th August

We arrived at Jannock later than anticipated due to the queues of Fords that were completely blocking the A43 whilst trying to get into Silverstone. Their refusal to move over and queue in the left hand lane added 25 minutes to a 1 hour journey.  Simon and Lois were already on-board, having arrived some when after 3am and so the boat was open and ready on our arrival – however Simon and I did a car shuffle first as we had two vehicles available.

We set off at about 11am and went into Braunston tunnel which was remarkably dry considering the rain we’ve had recently. I got the impression we were following more than one boat through and we met seven coming the other way. Lucky for them this wasn’t a Soddit cruise with DJ Brian on board playing Jerusalem and the Dambusters march at loud volume during our passage.

We arrived at the top of Braunston flight to find ourselves fourth in the queue to descend. We paired up with nb Owl and shared the top lock after two lockings of ascending craft had passed.  In the next pound the two boats in front of us were waiting whilst more ascending craft were coming through their lock and it stayed like this for the whole flight.  Brenda  overheard   a woman walking up the towpath telling her friend that she was suffering from “water can envy” after she had observed the nicely painted cans on Owl’s roof.

We parted with Owl at lock 4 as an earlier singleton had broken up another pairing and so every-one was changing partners. The place alongside us as we descended lock 4 was taken by a Willow Wren hire craft with a 10 strong hen party on board – two of which seemed to know what they were doing whilst the rest just watched on in a bemused fashion. We were told that the ‘bride to be’ was still in her bed and was unlikely to surface before the bottom of the flight.  Seventy percent of the crew were still imbibing and getting worse, lock by lock. I’m glad I wasn’t at Hillmorton when they attacked those locks.

Above the bottom lock we found four boats waiting (and a moored butty) and so were unable to move out of the second  lock until two of them had moved into the bottom lock to go down. This also meant that the two ascending boats wanted to get into the lock we were still in. After the WW boat had moved out, one of the ascending pair came in beside Jannock so that the chain could move and Jannock could get out – you know, like one of those puzzles where you have to move the squares around inside a frame.  We then had to change partners again and the hen party went down with Owl who was now a singleton and we were joined by yet another partner – a bit like country dancing I suppose.

Whilst we waited above the bottom lock, the heavens opened with a really heavy rain storm so Simon and Lois rushed inside whilst Brenda and I got us down through the lock. By the time we were out, Brenda was completely soaked below the waist and so I sent her in to get changed and I took over the tiller. After all, I was in shorts and sandals below my waterproof coat so it didn’t matter about my lower half getting wet. I steered us past the junction and onto the North Oxford canal where we found ourselves ahead of a group of three boats.

The rain stopped and the sun came out again and funnily enough so did our crew ;^) and so it was time to teach Lois to steer Jannock. For a first timer she did quite well, only getting wobbly a couple of times when instinct says push the tiller when she really needed to pull it.  She appreciated my ‘New steerer top tip’ – point the wooden end of the tiller bar towards what you want to MISS!

We ended the day, after mooring up, with a nice hot curry that had been cooking away in the slow cooker all the time we were moving. A quick wash-up and lock-up before we took them back to Simon’s car and said farewell. They were heading back to Manchester and us down to Oxford.


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