Monday, April 29, 2013

Fishing matches – it must be closed season.

Flora of the day – Kingcups.

An early start from home saw us un-pegged and moving off at 09:30, king cups just as a fishing competition was setting up on the banks either side of Stoke Hammond bridge. Before we’d reached Stoke Hammond lock we passed STEAM nb Hasty heading south so we looked forward to a lock in our favour. The bottom gates were leaking so badly that the level within the lock had dropped by about a foot by the time we arrived. We came across the next fishing match, much bigger this time, by Willow Tree marina. They seemed a cheerful bunch who requested that we stay straight down the middle of the cut so as to not disturb their chosen offside swim. One fisherperson stood out from the rest, he looked severely handicapped with a distorted upper torso – however as we passed we discovered that he was in fact the “ hunch-fisherman of Nokia”.

fenny lock On through Fenny lock and then into the Milton Keynes marina shuffle – one going in, one coming out whilst we and another passed the entrance going in opposite directions. We’ve been at Fradley when we’ve had three boats moving about in different directions but this was a first for us – four boats all moving different ways at the same time. The sun has been hiding behind high clouds all day leaving us at the mercy of the biting cold wind.

At Linford wharf we narrowly missed a boat coming south through the bridgehole. Once through he started to wind at the wharf. Meanwhile, once we were through the bridge we happened across yet another boat reversing towards us. They then proceeded to wind just north of the bridge, much to the disgust of a southbound boat who had to try and stay put in the high winds whilst this happened. In the meantime the boat we had narrowly missed then appeared back through the bridgehole to find his way blocked by the turning boat. Brenda and I were glad that we had cleared that one before it started.

We continued on against an ever more cold headwind until we stopped and moored up on a 14 day mooring until next weekend. We can have up to five days boating over the bank holiday weekend as I’ve taken a couple of days holiday.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What a difference a week makes.

Saturday 20th April

We arrived at Jannock, unpacked and were off by 10:45. The swan @ Marsworth - No - not a new pub! Down through Marsworth locks and on past Pitstone wharf where the trusty lock-wheeling bike, fresh from it’s winter maintenance, was unceremoniously dumped onto the towpath under the railway bridge so that it could be my trusty steed all the way to Ivinghoe locks. Luckily none of the Pitstone trip or day boats were out today so Brenda didn’t have to perform Jannock descends Marsworth locks any last minute avoidance manoeuvres. We stopped for lunch before Horton lock, the sunshine was nice and warm but we had to stay inside behind closed doors because the wind was very chilly and blowing straight down the canal.

All along this stretch we have been meeting the “Aylesbury Escapees” who are heading south from Milton Keynes where they were craned back into the water having been lifted out from Aylesbury basin. One of the locks on the Aylesbury arm has collapsed and so all of the boats became stuck in Aylesbury. I understand that this was done by CaRT at no cost to the boaters – Well done CaRT!

The sunshine has been a long time coming this year, the cloudless blue sky assuring us that spring has finally started. We’ve hear a Skylark and Woodpeckers as well as the more usual chaffinches, tits and blackbirds. There are lambs in the fields and we even saw our first brood of fluffy ducklings. Going out for a walk seemed to be a national sport. We even saw a teen riding a NEW chopper bike. They turned heads in the 70s and nowt has changed.

Brenda is not quite up to full mobility since her operation but she has carefully closed a couple of top gates that swung open as Jannock entered the locks. Once through Linslade and Leighton lock we started looking for somewhere nice to moor for the night. We finally tied up near Old Linslade, as far away from the railway track as is possible along that stretch.

Sunday 21st April

A short day today as Brenda is aware that she was active yesterday. We set off after a leisurely breakfast, it’s a bit cool in this sunshine but it is still spring. At Soulbury 3 we were aided by two volunteer lockies and abetted a vicious cross wind. Above the locks there were some fishermen sat amongst the bollards on the lock landing. We warned them we were coming in to tie up but they were not happy about the situation. When the top lock was ready Brenda gave them a choice, either they could push Jannock out from the side or she’d reverse to get off the Hood at Soulbury landing and trash their morning. They chose to push her out. As she left them she suggested that if two boats came along together then their fishing would be compromised in any case. As we moved down into the second lock – guess what? Hood and Hawthorne descend the top lock behind us. Hawthorne’s crew confirmed that fishing had indeed been curtailed for the day.

We moored on a suitable 14 day mooring behind a boat with lots of yappy dogs. They were pooping all over the grass either side of the towpath – 5 of them – deep joy! When I got the Di Blasi out to fetch the car, their owner came out for a chat and promptly stood in a fresh landmine - Result! There was much towpath clearing done immediately afterwards.


Monday, April 15, 2013

2013 starts here

Spring Soddit Cruise 2013

Saturday 13th April

A bit late starting this year due to carp weather and incapacitated crew due to a medical hoperation – how-ever while the crew is still recovering I persuaded Ian and Brian that a Soddit cruise was in order. Only problem was we needed to go North and Jannock was still pointing South.

No worries, we left Bourne End at 09:40 and headed down to Winkwell windy-hole. At lock 60 Ian found a little frog clinging to the lock wall about half a metre down from the top and so he rescued it and set it free into the hedgerow. Both Brian and Ian had one go each at operating Winkwell swingbridge – their first hydraulic experience. As Jannock left the bottom lock there was another boat waiting to ascend and so we shared the return passage through the lock with it. He was stopping at the boatyard above which was quite good considering the amount of smoke his engine was emitting. There is no way I fancied sharing all the way up to Berko with that one. By 11:15 we were passing Jannock’s mooring again and on our way North.BerkoBridge

A new badge has appeared on the bridge north of Ravens Lane lock.  I’d decided to stop at Waitrose in Berko to get some rolls for Sunday breakfast so we decided that this would be a lunch stop as well. By the time the lunch and maggot drowning session was coming to an end the heavens opened and so we sat tight and played four games of Soddit waiting for the rain to stop. Once the 4th game was over we noticed that it appeared to have stopped raining and so we set off again. At Gas 2 lock it started again and became quite unpleasant. We were just leaving Gas1 lock when Brian’s hand slipped on the windlass and it span off into the canal. I left Ian holding Jannock on a rope above the lock and returned to fish out the missing windlass with the trusty sea searcher magnet – found it first go,  what a result!

Once Brian and I were back on the boat Ian pushed the front out and then walked down the gunnel to the rear – or at least he tried to. He missed his footing and into the canal he went, Brian and I pulled him out onto the back deck and so we decided to moor up for night just above Gas 1 lock and let the rain do it’s worst whilst we played more cards inside. I’d cooked a chicken Jambalaya in the slow cooker which was well received and a further 4 games of Soddit were played.

Sunday 14th April

We were up at 08:00, breakfasted and fished out by 10:00 and so set off in the sunshine towards Cowroast. No more unexpected events occurred today. We passed up through the rest of the Northchurch, Dudswell and Cowroast locks and onto the summit where we spotted two kingfishers. The first was sat on a branch halfway up the bank. Ian got his camera out but was going to miss it as we were moving quite quickly past. I reduced the engine revs and the change in sound prompted the little devil to take flight before a picture could be taken. The next was seen flying along in front of us so Ian moved to the front deck with his camera but alas, all he got a picture of was a pigeon that flew down to the water for a drink. Once we were clear of the main cutting we stopped for lunch. The sun was bright and we could hear the wind in the trees above us but our little sheltered spot was glorious. I managed to remove the evidence of winter from the whole of the starboard side because the canal water was quite clear here.

We flew down Marsworth flight amidst hundreds of gongoozelers with the assistance of two CaRT volunteer lockies. As we passed under Red Lion bridge I became quite concerned as there was a giant showman's engine going over the bridge at the same time and I could not help thinking “what will happen if it’s too heavy for the bridge”. It appeared that there had been a small steam rally at the Red Lion with real as well as model engines in attendance. They were just packing up so we didn’t manage to stop and visit. We continued on to a suitable 14 day mooring and then I returned to Bourne End on the Di Blasi to fetch the car for the journey home whilst Ian and Brian tidied up the boat.