Indigo Dreaming

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Archive for May 6th, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 9

Posted by indigodream on 6 May, 2011

Sunday 1st May

Stoke Bruerne (half mile below bottom lock) to Bugbrook Wharf (Bridge 36)

Water being pumped into the canal below bottom lock...

Our mooring spot was utterly silent overnight – no sounds at all – man-made or natural. At 6.30am one bird tried to start up the dawn chorus but was quickly shushed by his mates and peace reigned again. You’d think we’d have had the best night’s sleep here, but Ty was very restless overnight and as the day progressed it became obvious that he had the dire rear – poor boy! However, it was wonderful to see how confident he was at the mooring – I took him for a stroll at 6.30am and he ran around the towpath as if he owned it – we don’t often see “Ty the brave” other than at home. It’s such a relief to see some improvement – we’ll take it slowly but at least we have some hope that he will settle now.

We had a very relaxed start to the day – sadly Sarah wouldn’t be able to join us, having had an overnight doggie drama, something we understand only too well! We were a bit reluctant to move at all – Ty was so happy here.

Our plan was to take a short trip up to the water point below bottom lock and fill up the tank; but as it happens, when we got there, nb Foxtrot had just finished watering up and was ready to go up the locks, so we joined them. We weren’t desperate for water, and with no guests on board we decided we could risk drinking the slightly stale water in our bottles!

This proved to be a good decision – nb Foxtrot with crew Tony and Judy were the perfect locking partners – we had a lovely time sharing the locks and chatting. They are in the process of buying a new boat – nb Foxtrot is a diminutive 37′ and they’re buying a 60 footer – I’m sure they’ll appreciate the extra space. I won’t jinx the sale by telling you the name of their new boat, but we’ve made a note of it and will look out for them on our way back. Their home mooring is in Billing Aquadrome – aaah, we know it well! This gave us plenty to talk about – they have two King Charles spaniels so that was another source of conversation. Judy is a very competent helm so we tried some tandem maneuvers – this worked well until the wind got the better of us! Nevertheless, it was all very efficient and we seemed to get through the flight in no time at all.

nb Foxtrot and nb Indigo Dream moving nicely together at Stoke Bruerne...

But back to the start, our dog plans went a little awry today as we’d agreed to keep all dogs on board until we got to the fourth lock (there being a busy road crossing the third), but Lynx got off at the bottom and bobbled around with Richard. Lynx was so well-behaved that we left him off the boat (Lou and Ty weren’t interested anyway) but then we had a bit of an incident which will haunt Richard’s imagination for some time to come. Richard was lock wheeling and Lynx had followed him to the third lock using the safe towpath beneath the bridge; however on the way back down, for some reason Lynx started down the safe path behind the bike then must have decided to take the path up to the road – Richard didn’t notice, then he thought, for some reason, that Lynx had come back on board. When Richard looked up there was Lynx crossing the busy road – the traffic slowed for him and he came safely back down to the towpath but the “what ifs…..” scare us still. Lynx was bundled back on board, but all three hounds enjoyed a bobble up the long pound later  (when Richard’s heart rate had returned to normal!).

The Stoke Bruerne flight was pleasantly busy – there was a steady progression of boats coming down the flight, leaving most of the locks set our way. We didn’t need to queue – very convenient in the increasingly windy pounds. There was the usual bustle of walkers and cyclists around, but the long pound moorings were almost empty – I was astonished, but then I realised that it was 11.30am so plenty of time for last night’s moorers to have moved on! The Navigation Inn was open and people were already sitting in the pub garden, pints in hand, watching the boats go by – I don’t drink alcohol during the day but they looked so contented I was very tempted to join them…..

There was the usual busy-ness above top lock – we spotted nb Mona Lisa selling gifts and souvenirs on the towpath – on past trips we’ve seen her moored up around Milton Keynes where we admired her artwork – we didn’t realised that she was a gift boat. We passed a couple of boats coming down from the Blisworth tunnel – Richard quizzed them to find out how wet the tunnel was today – they mischievously told him that he’d find out for himself soon enough! Richard got his hat and coat on and I retreated indoors….. The tunnel wasn’t too bad today, but even though the weather’s been so dry there was still a ‘power shower’ torrent in the middle. Richard was very proud because he managed to jiggle the boat around just enough to miss being showered! This is more awkward than you think – it’s a 2-way tunnel and it’s worth staying on the correct side of the navigation in case of oncoming boats. Just one boat passed us today – I much prefer 1-way tunnels but I guess that the Blisworth, being so long, would be too much of a bottle-neck given Stoke Bruerne’s popularity. It seemed to take an age to get through – well, it is the third longest waterway tunnel…

'Street life' at Stoke Bruerne top lock...

The canal emerges from the tunnel into a deep wooded cutting – Richard was unusually poetic here, commenting on the sudden relief of hearing birdsong after the relentless noise of the engine and wash magnified in the tunnel’s darkness.

There were lots of moored boats around Blisworth village – including nb Rivendell – a Dursley and Hurst share boat which used to be managed by the same company as our old share boat Dragonfly. It is very pleasant around Blisworth and once we’d passed beneath the rhythmic thudding of cars driving along the A43 the countryside became increasingly quiet. We waved goodbye to nb Foxtrot at Gayton junction – I hope we meet them again – they were such good company, Of course, they were heading back for their mooring on the Nene – what a contrast – they had a serious number of locks ahead of them while we glided along another easy lock-free pound.

We’d decided to eat lunch on the move when Ty suddenly became very distressed and paced the boat from end to end – oh dear! We made the mistake of cruising on until we found an empty spot between bridges 45 and 44. Ooops – we hadn’t stopped soon enough for Ty – just as well we have easy-to-clean wooden floors! Ty and the hounds popped onto the towpath just as an enthusiastic lurcher jumped off nb Lucy coming in to moor in front of us. Finn the lurcher was a high-octane probably greyhound/labrador mix and had a great time charging around with our hounds. Ty found a gap in the hedge into the arable field next to the towpath, prompting yet more rummaging. Lou unfortunately took a tumble here and soon gave up on the game (she was unhurt though) but the boys stayed out for a while. We chatted to Finn’s owners for ages – they have a scaredy greyhound at home who is too shy to cruise – not a problem with Finn!

With Ty not feeling very well, we were very tempted to just moor up here for the rest of the day. Bridge 44 is a road bridge and there seemed to be cars parked on the verge so it was accessible. The mooring was idyllic – all the more so because I suspect that the railway line nearby was closed so it was another silent spot. But we decided to go a little further nearer civilisation and moved up to Bugbrooke Wharf. There was a perfect mooring spot on the rings opposite the Wharf Inn so we moved in there for the week. The plan was to finish early (it was only 3pm) and make a dash back home. Well, it almost worked out – Richard cycled back to get to the car but got thoroughly distracted chatting to some boaters along the way. They called themselves bridge hoppers yet one boat had a permament mooring and the other used to cruise from Berkhamsted to Braunston in their narrowboat though doing a bit less now in their new widebeam which they are fitting out and very bravely painting. Their boat name is clever – Blue Hawker which apparently is a type of Dragonfly, so they are managing to have a unique twist on what is the second most popular boat name – see http://www.jim-shead.com/waterways/boatnames.php  Then he had a slow drive back. In the meantime I packed the boat up – this too some time as I’d decided to take all the dog beds home for washing. The hounds don’t like it when I interfere with their beds so they were quite out of sorts by the time Richard got back. It’s always hard to extract ourselves from the boat but when, at 6.30pm, Richard investigated and found a leak from our loo (fortunately from the fresh-water inlet) and set out to fix it, I had to call a halt or we’d never have got home. The leak won’t be a problem with the water pump off and no-one using the loo so it was a job for next week.

The Blisworth tunnel emerges to this richly wooded cutting...

We had to navigate our way back round some delays on the M1 (nothing new there) and it was past 9pm when we eventually got home. The hounds were so happy to be home – at last they could catch up on their sleep and so they did, for the next several days…..

Monday 2nd May

We hadn’t planned to cruise today because I wanted to pop up to the Little Venice Cavalcade – just as well, with the gale force winds here I was very pleased not to be on the tiller. The reason for my urgent trip to the cavalcade was that it’s the only place where I can buy the silly patchwork trousers that I like wearing when cruising. I went up by train, leaving behind Richard, who was full of good intentions ref. gardening, and three snoozing hounds. The cavalcade was buzzing, and not just with boaters, I noticed that there were many non-boaters peering through boat windows and expressing amazement that the boats had kitchens, loos, sofas, tellys – just like ordinary homes! I did have a bit of a distraction when I stopped for a chat with nb Api Wanderer – we last met them on the BCN Challenge two years ago. We had a very informative chat – they’re very adventurous boaters so have fascinating tales to tell. I looked out for Simon and Carrie on nb Tortoise but I didn’t spot them, so I got on with the job in hand (success!) and headed for home.

It was great to see the Cavalcade looking so successful – there were plenty of charming boats, colourful stalls and hordes of passersby – long live boating indeed!

Photoblog:

I love these toadstool sculptures....

If you look closely you'll see a girl flying over the water on a rope - her friend swung out right in front of the boat, then over the boat - I'm so glad that they didn't fall off!

Our lunchtime mooring - that looks like parking on the lane by bridge 45....

Pastoral scenes....

This sign made us laugh! Useful though - the moored boat was concealed behind the trees...

Richard's new friends from widebeams Lady Jane (?) and Blue Hawker

Cycling back to Stoke Bruerne is a pleasure as you get to go down this nice steep path

Ventilation shaft over the Blisworth Tunnel

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