Saturday 22nd October
Yet another glorious day, but almost as cold as mid-October should be due to the wind. As we approached Marsworth flight the crew of nb Vital Spark asked to share with us. We worked alongside them, steerers chatting and lockers grafting, an amiable ascent. They were completing their trip to new moorings at Cowroast marina as we were completing Jannock’s seven month trip back to Bourne End.
Along Tring summit I saw my first Kingfisher of 2011, a bit late but better than no sighting at all.
As we approached Bushes lock a little Springer Waterbug pulled out and lead us to the lock landing. There were five adults and a bouncy teenage girl aboard so we were pleased thinking that they’d lighten the load down the rest of the Northchurch locks. I jumped off and opened the gates and both craft entered. There was one lady on the Springer who knew what to do and the rest appeared to be visitors of some sort as the men stood around a lot with windlasses in their hands without a clue as what to do with them. I tried offering advice to get a sequence going but it was all forgotten by the next lock. I told their captain that I would cycle ahead and get the next lock ready and so left them to sort out the bottom gates. At Gas lock Brenda and I were pleased when they said they were stopping at Waitrose as it would be easier doing the locks without them.
We moved down to the next (bottom) lock and I jumped off and opened one gate for Jannock to enter. The Springer appeared between Jannock and the towpath and declared their intention to come through with us. I set off over the lock and to open the other gate whilst their steerer decided she’d just continue on in through the first gate causing Brenda to hit reverse and do some nifty manoeuvring to avoid crashing into their boat or the still closed off-side gate. Their steerer made some comment about not realising that Jannock had intended to enter the lock on the towpath side so Brenda pointed out that was why I had opened that gate. She was told that there was “ no bl@@dy need to be sarcastic”. The crew just hung about, with windlasses in hand as usual, and left most of the work to me and their steerer. Black looks accompanied my departure, having carried the lock-wheeling bike across the bottom gates, to get Raven’s lane lock ready. Once both boats were in, with the assistance on the towpath side top gate of our local BSC examiner, he then started telling off their steerer for the hazardous state of their gas installation. It was a trip hazard at best as well as being lethal if it leaked. Their excuse was that they didn’t have a cylinder of the correct size for the housing and they had to set off in a hurry. His comment was “the number of times I’ve heard that excuse, still doesn’t stop it being dangerous”.
I continued on down and set Rising Sun lock and left them to complete Raven’s lane. They couldn’t get the offside lower gate fully open due to something being stuck behind it but still wanted Jannock to exit first so that they could pull their boat out and close the gates afterwards. Brenda persuaded them to go back in the lock a bit and then got Jannock out around the obstruction. We sighed with relief when they announced they were stopping at the Riser for a drink so once out of that lock we left them to it.
Just a little further on we stopped alongside Tiami for our regular autumn chat with Debbi and Simon. Debbi injured her foot a while ago and I lent her some Terry Pratchett books, to stop her going mad whilst incapacitated and stuck in the boat, so she returned them whilst we were there. A single hander on a rather old and smoky boat came past whilst we were chatting and so we decided not to hurry to lock share. When we finally set off we found her at Top side lock . It was set with just a single top gate open but she rushed round and opened the offside gate for us before bringing her boat in. What a difference! She was only out on her ‘new’ boat for the second day and was keen to learn all the rules and etiquette of the cut. She wanted to become a safe and efficient boater as soon as possible. The company was as good as our first share of the day and far less effort than our second. We continued on through Bottom side and Sewer locks and explained that we’d be mooring up before Winkwell locks.
We pulled onto our mooring at Bourne End and waved a cheery farewell to her and a very interesting cruising season. We left our mooring heading South in April and returned heading South in October and for once have not had to retrace our steps on the southern end of the Grand Union at all.