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The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 39

Posted by indigodream on 23 September, 2008

Seend to Horton Bridge (134)

The famous view up the Caen Hill flight

The famous view up the Caen Hill flight

The crew of nb Somerset Joy proved to be boaters after out own hearts – they like to start cruising at 10am! That suited us perfectly so we set out for a day’s locking with Phil and Christine. It was ‘wife swap’ but without the drama – Phil and I drove our respective boats while Richard and Christine did all the hard work!

I do like this stretch of canal – it’s very rural again and dogs had a very busy morning running around the locks above Seend and Sells Green. There’s particularly fine rummaging to be had at Bridge 150 which leads to open fields where they could have a good run. This maybe explains why they were so quiet on the main flight itself!

We made good time up to Foxhangers but with the main Cean Hill flight towering above us (and a slow single-hander in front of us) we stopped for lunch and prepared ourselves for the toil to come. This is really the only place you can moor once you get into the flight and seems to be a welcome stop for the boaters who have just toiled down!

Some crew members toil more than others on the Caen Hill flight!

Some crew members toil more than others on the Caen Hill flight!

Actually, I say toil, and it surely is for the ‘ground’ crew, but Caen Hill is a beautiful place. The views unfolding below you are magnificent and looking back from the top is a sheer joy. Although it was a weekday and relatively quiet, there were still plenty of affable walkers along the flight. People are so interested in the locks and the boats. I retained my reputation as the font of all knowledge when Richard referred a walker to me to identify a snake he’d seen swimming through in one of the side-pounds. Out came the wildlife books, and, as I suspected (of course!) he’d seen a grass snake, which can grow to over 4 feet and are consummate swimmers.

Phil suggested that we move the boats in sync through the flight. Adam from Debdale recommended this technique for flights of double locks but I hadn’t tried it before. I wasn’t sure of the proprieties – do we rope up? Who decides on speed? Would we stick together on longer pounds? As it happened it was surprisingly easy – all you need is a co-operative frame of mind and a forgiving attitude to the odd rub (though we didn’t really have any!). [Richard’s note: Actually it was really impressive as most times they got into the lock whisper quiet and somehow stopped dead straight]. We did not rope the boats together, we just moved off together and kept an eye on each other’s relative speeds and adjusted as necessary – easy

Tandem boating!

Tandem boating!

peasy! I don’t know whether it saves time, it certainly relieves a certain amount of stress. I hate being first into a wide lock because then there’s the drama of getting the boat steady against the lock wall which inevitably involves rope and Richard lying full out on the ground to catch it! Some of the locks here are a tad narrow to we both removed some of our fatter pencil fenders.

Note: there is a lock about one-third of the way up where the tandem boating doesn’t work as the lock is slightly narrower than the others. Two boats can use the lock but you need to enter/leave separately or it’s easy to get jammed! There’s a clear sign on the lock so you’ll know which one it is.

We had a good trip up Caen Hill. Somerset Joy were good company and good crew. For the record, Phil and I weren’t just doing nothing – we were exercising great skill and judgement in manoeuvring our boats. I thought I’d tell you because NONE of the passing walkers believed us!

Bit crowded for a short pound!

Bit crowded for a short pound!

We had to cross over two sets of boats on the flight – this is always entertaining – like an old fashioned western gunfight but without the guns. The gates open and your respective boats face each other – who’s going to draw first? Who’s got the guts to go for it? It helps if your crew has talked to their crew – having a plan saves a lot of messing around. We found two ways to solve the problem:

  • Somerset Joy vacated the bottom lock and tucked into the side while the first oncoming boat took her vacant spot in the lock. Somerset Joy then moved into the vacant spot in the top lock and we repeated the process with Indigo dream and second boat.
  • Somerset Joy vacated the bottom lock and tucked into the side while the first oncoming boat took her vacant spot and Indigo Dream moved into the vacant spot in the top lock. The second boat then took Indigo Dream’s place in the bottom lock and Somerset Joy moved into the final vacant place next to us. All sorted!
Bit blurred but I hope you get the picture!

Bit blurred but I hope you get the picture!

The first technique means that your locks briefly end up with two boats pointing in different directions – I thought this was quite droll!. Funnily enough, where we did the exchange with a pair of hire boats the plan worked perfectly (they obligingly did as they were told). When we did it with a pair of what should have been experienced owners the plan went pear shaped. Mainly because oncoming boat no. 2 drifted all over the lock, blocking Phils’ access and generally getting in the way. I just sat in the bottom lock until they’d got sorted – sometimes you have to stand still to move forward – zen boating at its best!

I mentioned earlier that we had been behind a single-handed boater. We let him get a good head start and then proceeded behind him. Curiously, though, we started to catch up even though he now had a mate with to help with the locks. Richard, who was lock-wheeling, noticed that they had not moved whilst we did 4 locks and we were getting a bit close. So he went up to ask if they were ok, they simply replied “lunchtime” and then looked shocked when Richard suggested that we overtake them. Fortunately they moved on before they were nudged in the behind by the inimitable combination of Somerset Joy and Indigo Dream.

Look at that view - priceless!

Look at that view - priceless!

As always, we had the chance to chat and chew the fat as we went up the flight. We found that we had odd things in common – Christine’s dad was Polish and so was Richard’s (his mums still is!). We seemed to share a common concern about ageing parents and I hope that my mum is still fit enough for me to be fretting about her when I’m retired. We may also bump into them over the winter – they’re in the process of moving to Willowtree Marina on the Grand Union – just up the cut from where we used to moor and a short hop from Cowley Peachey where we’ll be overwintering.

I thought that Somerset Joy looked very fine but Phil was concerned that the paintwork was looking a bit tired. I forgot to mention this at the time but 3M do a great boat polish which is perfect for refreshing paintwork as it contains a mix of cutting compound and very good wax finish. It’s 3M Marine Ultra Performance Paste Wax. Unfortunately the cost will make you cry (£21 a tin) but that will do 2 – 3 polishes and we think it’s worth every penny.

Tandem boating away from the main flight.

Tandem boating away from the main flight.

I was also touched by the story of the name ‘Somerset Joy’ – it’s a poignant tearjerker that belongs to the boat’s previous owners. As Phil pointed out, they’re not from Somerset and his wife’s name isn’t Joy! But the previous owner’s wife was, and the boat was named after her. Unfortunately a short while after the naming, the marriage failed and the romantic gesture of naming the boat after his wife was wasted. Aaaah! Richard and me are not at all romantic (never have been!) and the notion of calling the boat after either of us just made us laugh incredulously!

The main flight went smoothly and we continued to cruise with Somerset Joy to just past Devizes Town Lock. We both tied up there – Somerset Joy for the night and Indigo Dream just for a break. By this time Richard was hobbling badly on his sprained ankle and needed some chair time and I needed to find a supermarket for some milk – our latte’s were under threat (and Blue’s bedtime drink)! The Nespresso machine from Richard’s generous sister is working really well with our 2.5kW invertor (we now even heat the milk with it) but Richard is thinking that we will need something like a smartguage so we know how many latte’s we can have when the engine is not running. Don’t want to ruin our nice new shiny batteries.

There’s a choice between Sainsbury’s and M & S – the easiest route (if you moor by the town bridge) is actually to walk past the wharf to the next bridge, cross over, carry on ‘til you reach a T-junction then turn left – walk on over a mini-roundabout and you’ll get to the shopping area. If you need to shop then it’s well worth trying for a mooring on the wharf – it’s the right side of the canal and is a much shorter walk as well as being easier to access with your shopping! The wharf has 48-hour moorings which were unusually empty when we passed by.

We said goodbye to Somerset Joy at this point. We wanted to get a little further down the canal as Lou had won herself the ‘worse behaved dog on the canal’ award earlier by chasing another greyhound down the towpath right onto the road bridge – the traffic fortunately stopped and both dogs were unhurt and unrepentant – I think they both enjoyed it immensely. I think my heart will take a week to get back to normal speed. The greyhound was a dainty black retiree out for a walk with her foster mum who tried hard to persuade us to give Lucy a home. I was game but Richard went a bit monosyllabic and I think that Lou had the final word. We decided we needed to moor a little further away from the road and cruised on quickly……

We moored up at Horton Bridge (Br 134) – there’s a fine pub here (The Bridge Inn) with good overnight moorings. They do very good pub grub and they allow dogs in one of the bars and are very dog-friendly.

It was here that Blue narrowly beat Lou for the ‘worse behaved dog’ award. The moorings are well-fenced but Blue didn’t rest until he’d found a cunning cut-through to the pub car park back by the residential moorings, followed by Lou who’d picked up that there was mischief afoot. I’d almost caught them in the pub car park when they took off – out of the car park onto the road then down the lane until they found a way into the adjacent ploughed field. They’d spotted rabbits to chase and instead of squiggling safely under the fence by the mooring they’d decided the road route was best. I ran after them just in time to see them leaping into the field just a short way down the lane – thank heavens they did – at least they were out of the traffic. I went off in hot pursuit (though slower by about 25 miles per hour) and by the time I got into the field they were joyfully racing around at the far end. When I did catch up with them I was absolutely at the end of my tether. I dragged the pair vengefully back to the boat promising them that if we’d been closer to London they’d have been back to Battersea Dogs home that very instant. They ignored me – they’d had a grand adventure, they were unharmed and not the least bit remorseful.

Richard wisely decided that the only way to soothe my nerves was with beer, so we spent a convivial evening setting the world to rights with the crew of nb. Pipe Dream who were moored up behind us. We also had a very good meal here. It was a good end to a good day. After a pint I eventually forgave the dogs and they finished off a splendid day (from their perspective) by scoffing a few sausages and getting a load of fuss (and biscuits) from the pub staff.

5 Responses to “The Odyssey Summer 2008 – Day 39”

  1. Greygal said

    Those dogs will do for you one of these days! Lou sounds more and more like Susie….Delighted that we have the same priorities – there must always be power for one’s latte

  2. indigodream said

    I think that Susie and Lou are probably both TOP girls – ‘commotion’ probably doesn’t even start to describe what would happen if they got together!

  3. Lesley said

    Let me get this right Sue, you chased two Greyhounds who were busy chasing rabbits – There’s a cartoon in there somewhere me thinks… Oh, and it was ‘a’ pint singular was it?

  4. indigodream said

    A cartoon with associated wobble – it wasn’t a pretty sight! And of course it was only one pint – my mum might be reading…..

  5. Adam said

    Glad the synchronised boating worked for you. I’m amazed more people don’t do it, especially on flights where the locks are close together and in a straight line – so much easier than all that trying to keep straight, then the second boat bumping you around.

    I haven’t had much chance to read blogs while we’ve been away, so I’ve just caught up on your Severn and Avon exploits, which sounded very exciting.

    By the way, we made good use of the BCN mooring guide you posted out — I wouldn’t have been so confident of mooring in Walsall basin without it, so thank you for the tip.


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