Saturday 27th September
We set off from Hillmorton at 11:10 and had a good clear run into Braunston, meeting Mike, Krystina, the dogs and ferrets on Draco, about to go fetch Success, en-route. We stopped briefly for a water fill and pumpout at the sani-station before making our way to the bottom lock. As we arrived, a single hander had just opened a gate and so we joined him in the lock. He complained that the ten strong crew of fit males on the hireboat in front had failed to wait for him and had ascended the lock solo. He was only passing up into the first pound as he wanted to be close to the Admirable Nelson and the second pound was well down with the top being far too close to the bottom. It turned out that the whole flight was like this, we know not why.
We shared the second and third locks with a pair of gents delivering a boat from Leeds to Cambridge. The boat was quite old and it’s gearbox worked on the ‘one armed bandit’ principle – you waggled the stick about to see what you could get. How they’d made it this far we do not know. Once through the third lock and opposite the Nelson they decided to moor alongside the hireboat with the 10 fit young men on board and join them rather than continue up the flight. A mooring rope was thrown across the roof of the hireboat dislodging a zillion empty bottles and cans from the roof. As we were ascending the third lock, the gent who’d stopped two pounds down waved his pint at Brenda and said “you want one of these love” She responded that she didn’t want to get arrested for drunk-in-charge. He replied “that’s the benefit of being a live-aboard. If it’s your home they can’t do you for drunk driving” He also thought it applied if you owned your own boat. Worrying if it is a shared belief – explain that to a magistrate.
We continued up the next couple of locks solo and were slowly catching up a single boat ahead. The water levels were between 12 and 24 inches down in each pound until the summit which made transiting between locks very difficult, It’s at times like this that I’m glad we have a shallow draught boat.. As we ascended the penultimate lock in the flight we spotted that the other solo boat was waiting for us in the empty top lock. At least something worked out well.
On through Braunston tunnel where Brenda steered most of the way through, only handing over to me as we approached passing the first of three boats heading the other way. Sod’s law dictated that we met him in one of the bends within the tunnel and removed a bit more paint from the top of the cabin side at the front. When we arrived at Buckby top we were fifth in the queue as there had been a three hour stoppage after a boat had lifted a top gate out of it’s seating. I went down the flight, on the bike, to identify what was happening and spotted a single boat at the head of the queue which would mean all of the pairs would split up. So, with no-one else wishing to descend, we passed down through the first lock solo and then shared the rest of the flight with nb Silkwood. The gates and paddles on this flight have not got any easier and I ended up helping the lady from Silkwood with her half of the lock as well when there were no ascending crew about to assist.
Out of the bottom lack and it was rapidly getting dark but I had no intention of mooring up alongside the M1 so we continued on to Landing Spinney where we moored in the dark adjacent to the A5 road bridge.