Friday 27th September
We arrived at Jannock at dusk and found working boats Northolt (FMC) and Kestrel moored in front of us. We opened up and awaited our guest crew, Simon & Nina. Once they had arrived and had a cup of tea Simon and I went off to do a mini car shuffle as they are only with us until Sunday morning. Brenda was showing Nina the working boats when their owner returned and invited them in to admire the back cabin. Northolt has just been bought back by him, Martin, having been in his family for years. He was brought up on it. He has also restored it to it’s original name, Northolt as it was renamed Sunny Valley, the boat that appeared in the black and white film Painted Boats. He has paired the boats back together and is selling coal again.
Saturday 28th September
Saturday morning was cool and misty and we set off towards Blisworth tunnel after a ‘French toast’ breakfast (that’s twice in two weeks for me as we had that on the Soddit cruise last weekend) Nina is Swiss and has never been on a canal boat before but her yachting experience showed in her ability to steer – an experienced helmswoman. So, her first UK canal experience was ‘Blisworth tunnel’. It was our first ever run through with no-one coming the other way and not full of choking fumes – excellent! We were planning to stop for water above the locks but as we approached we spotted that the VLK’s were setting the top lock for a solo hireboat so we decided to go down the flight instead. They started to close the gates after the hireboat had gone in so we tooted the horn to attract their attention and they re-opened them again. We shared the whole flight with a willing crew of first timers who were very keen to learn. Brenda instructed their steerer, I looked after the lock crew and Simon and Nina set ahead. We stopped on the water point at the bottom of the flight to fill Jannock’s tank. S & N went for a walk back up to the village whilst Brenda went walkabout. I stayed on the boat and managed to rescue a baby adder that was stuck in the canal. It was getting very tired as it could not find anywhere along the high concrete bank that it could use to get out of the canal. After I fished it out with our net and released it in the hedge Brenda returned bearing blackberries and a couple of pears. Once on the move again we did some off-side blackberry harvesting. I placed Jannocks bow into the bushes and held her in place using the boat pole whilst Brenda, Nina and Simon harvested the fruit from the front well deck. Near Yardley Gobion we passed nb Justice and had a brief chat with the ‘Haywards’ as the wind carried us past far too quickly. Kit (their cat), being of good judge of character, didn’t bother to show her face. Onward to Cosgrove where Nina was going to steer through the lock to complete her ‘instant’ training course. When we arrived there was a boat waiting to go in and lots of people hanging about because there was something stuck on the top gate cill and the gates wouldn’t seal properly. CaRT had been called and were estimated to be there in about 3 hours. We put the two boats into the lock and I used our boat pole to clear all I could feel from the top gate cill. We closed the gates and they didn’t quite meet properly in the middle so I had another go and this time they closed and we could use the lock. We moored for the night just below the lock.
Nina has written - “We spend a wonderful weekend on the canal. Meeting film stars, trying not to get wet indoors (in the tunnel), working lots of locks and after that getting rewarded with home made beer and sloe gin. And we had a wonderful family-pre-Simon’s-birthday party with the whole family assembled. Thank you for giving me the experience of canal boating and providing me with a warm welcome to the family. I had a wonderful time and I’m sad that we already have to leave again”
Sunday 29th September
Simon and Graham went off to do another early demi-car-shuffle while Nina and I enjoyed our cups of tea that had been delivered to our beds before they left. When they returned we had prepared a breakfast feast of pancakes and freshly made blackberry, pear and nectarine compote. Yum and loadsa vitamins. After an explore of the Iron Aquaduct at Cosgrove, Simon and Nina set off towards Manchester via the Black Country museum historic boats meet. We set off towards our winter moorings taking the whole day to move through Milton Keynes.
Surprise 1 – Not a fishing competition in sight.
Surprise 2 – the weather was just gorgeous and here is photographic evidence.
At Fenny Stratford lock Graham managed to bump the stern of a Wyvern Shipping boat. They’d got into the lock at a jaunty angle and had settled onto one side so that he could slide Jannock in alongside to ease their boat gently over. Then the Wyvern skipper hit hard reverse and started coming back out at speed. Despite avoiding action the loud crump was inevitable. Sorry Wyvern. Out of the lock and onto Willowtree for our last diesel fill for the year before mooring up and having our dinner. All done in beautiful sunshine.