Indigo Dreaming

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Archive for May 12th, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 11

Posted by indigodream on 12 May, 2011

Sunday 7th May

Braunston to Long Itchington

We've been musing on a collective noun for boating hounds - a 'gongoozle of greyhounds' would seem to be appropriate!

What a night – the moorings themselves were very quiet but then the rain started – it drummed on the boat roof, accompanied by the occasional staccato ping when a drop bounced off the mushroom vents. Ty was a bit restless overnight and needed to go out a couple of times – how I groaned as I pulled on my waterproof jacket and went out into the weather. But I got lucky – every time I went outside the rain slackened, and when I went back inside the downpours started again. Of course, once I was awake,  my hand started throbbing so cue another largely sleepless night.

Poor Catherine arrived at 9.30am and was treated to the full horror of my morning face – poor thing! Beren didn’t seem to mind – he was sprucing himself up for a visit from another of Sarah’s hounds, the lovely Miffy.

With the crew on board, we did a truly unique car/boat shuffle. Richard and Sarah headed off in the car – Richard was going to our end destination – Long Itchington, but dropped Sarah off at the appropriate bridge along the way so that she could pick up her new narrowboat Henry H. Catherine and I set off along the canal in Indigo Dream – the plan was for us to meet up with Henry H then cruise together down the Calcutt Locks; Richard would cycle down the towpath to meet us both.

The weather had improved substantially and we had very little daytime rain, but the gusty wind was a BIG problem. We set off along the canal and were amazed by the amount of boat traffic – the stretch between Braunston and Napton junction is like the M1. There was plenty of room, though the winding hole was a little tricky because there’s a sunken boat on the towpath side which reduces the width substantially. I let an oncoming boat through but regretted it immediately as the wind pinned me to the towpath. Never mind, I waved the next boat on but they signalled that they wanted to wind so there was no choice but to struggle off the bank and get going. I missed the submerged boat by a whisker – phew!

I was starting to fear that I’d missed Henry H when, in the distance, we saw the little puffs of smoke indicative of a vintage Gardener engine making its mellow way down the canal. We had our first sight of Sarah’s new boat – it gave me shivers of delight when I saw how happy she looked on the helm – a perfect partnership! She was heading for the winding hole – she’s tried to wind the 40′ boat in the width of the canal before with apparently disastrous results! We carried on, enjoying the sweeping countryside that surrounds the canal hereabouts.

Sweeping views - no wonder this is a popular stretch...

I was bobbling along quite slowly in order to give Sarah the chance to catch up when I got a slightly distressed phonecall from Richard wondering where we were. I’d completely forgotten that he was cycling and wanted me to speed towards him! We eventually picked him up just beyond Bridge 107 and moored up for a little while to give the hounds a break and to give Sarah a bit of time to reach us. We had a very pleasant stop – the hounds had good walk – even Ty! Though unfortunately he did manage to acquire a cut on his toe – it looked quite nasty but manageable. I just had time to wash and dress the wound when Henry H hove into view.

We then had a great little convoy to the Calcutt locks – Sarah was an expert locking partner, as you might expect. We locked down very smoothly considering that there was a bit of too-ing and fro-ing of boats across the canal at the hire base.

We had a re-distribution of crew at bottom lock – Richard hopped onto Henry H while Catherine got onto Indigo Dream. We moved off together but I was on the towpath side and the strong wind blew me straight into the side. There followed a great learning experience for Catherine as she saw me struggle mightily to get the boat off the side – the wind defied a spring, pushing out with a boat pole and a great shove to the bow by a kindly passing boater. The only thing that eventually worked was a huge shove to the stern from the passing boater which enabled me to reverse the stern out enough to give me room to swing the bow round. Lots of revs later I passed a moored BW boat by a whisker and we were on our way.

Of course, nb Henry H was just a dot on the horizon by now, but we soon caught up and we looked for a secure mooring on a section of armco. Sarah would leave the boat here for a fortnight – Henry H is due to have some work done in Braunston and is being shuffled around while waiting for the ‘slot’.

Sarah looking perfectly at home on Henry H....

We tied up behind Henry H and had our second Ty drama of the day when he misjudged the step onto the bank and his back end fell into the canal. I hoicked him out of the water – luckily the pound was brim-full so it was easy to pull him out. But he was very grumpy and told me to ‘gerroff’ when I tried to re-wash the wound on his toe – I left it, which was a mistake, as it subsequently got infected – sigh!

It was a nice spot, and having made the effort to moor in the wind we decided to stop for lunch here. This gave us the opportunity to have a nose round Henry H. I think Henry H is a ‘he’ – he is a unique boat – a dainty little love nest for a pack of greyhounds – I’m really looking forward to seeing him after Sarah’s modifications.

We bid Henry H a sad farewell and with the full crew on board headed off towards the Stockton flight. The hounds had the time of their lives here – they met a dainty white lurcher whose owner was entranced by the sight of our hounds. They had a thorough rummage at top lock, were lying down for a rest by the second lock, and most were on board by the time we got halfway down. Only Lynx stayed the course and was a bit disgruntled when we made him get on at the bottom lock – no more unsupervised crossing of busy roads for you boy!

We had a little debate as to where to stop for the day – the car was at Long Itchington so it made sense to drop our guests off there, but would we then go on a little further? Our decision was made when we saw that the moorings below Itchington bottom lock were empty – they’ve always been jam-packed on previous trips but I think there was a beer festival on at the time. Long Itchington is pub-central – there are two right on the canal and another four in the village – we’ve always meant to stop here, so tonight we did!

So we had an early finish for a change – Richard took our guests back to their cars and I washed the boat floor. Now, a clean floor on Indigo Dream is a state as fleeting as the most elusive sub-atomic particle in the hadron colllider, and as mythical as shangri-la. No-one but me ever gets to see it because the minute the hounds pile on board it’s disappeared!

In the meantime, Richard enjoyed an interesting drive through the various local villages – including Willoughby, where the 8th May is ‘Scarecrow Sunday’ with scarecrows arranged all over the village in bizarre places. Following the royal wedding everyone seems agreed that britain knows how to do pageantry; you can’t beat this country for sheer eccentricity either!

More grand views...

Richard came back and we wandered down to the Two Boats pub. The canalside entertainment was provided by a hire boat coming in to moor – they seemed to be in a pickle because half the crew (including the helm) thought they were mooring but the other half thought they were moving on – a disagreement guaranteed to have the boat slewing across the canal. We took a rope from the helm and pulled the boat in – we found ourselves in the middle of a domestic which we innocently heated by recommending Long Itchington as a good source of pubs. The lady of the boat didn’t want pubs, she thought it would be a noisy mooring (well it was with them yelling, though it was perfectly quiet later on!!!)  and expressed her views to the helm in no uncertain terms – they offered us their helmsman for free! We left them to it….

The Two Boats pub was a real surprise – every time we’ve passed the moorings have been full and the canalside tables heaving. Because of this we expected it to be quite ‘touristy’, but it was as local a pub as you could hope for, with a friendly atmosphere and down-to-earth pub grub. The right-hand bar is dog-friendly so we got the hounds and had a pleasant meal in the company of a local man who used to keep lurchers. He drew up a chair and Ty consented to be fussed and to be fed sausages – by a stranger. This is a big improvement for him.

With the crew fed and beered, Richard took the dogs off for a walk – there is a field off the towpath adjacent to Itchington bottom lock where the hounds could have a run. Richard did mention that it is open to the road at the far end, so some vigilance needed. Unfortunately we had a final Ty incident to finish off the day – I was on board when I heard the distant boom for a bird scarer. I went on deck because I had a feeling that Ty might run back to the boat – the next minute I get a phonecall from Richard to warn me that Ty’s on his way! A minute later and there Ty was, speeding down the towpath – I stepped out to intercept him but I needn’t have – he leapt straight onto the boat, intent on finding the safety of his bed. Well, that’s an improvement too – he does see the boat as a safe place!

That was enough drama for the day so we settled down to watch the last of Valkyrie – very grim indeed, but even someone with the slightest knowledge of history could predict that it wasn’t going to be a happy ending….


A better view of Henry H...

Miffy and Beren having a bobble down Stockton Locks - this a good spot for hounds....

Scarecrow (1)...

Scarecrow (2)

Scarecrow (3)

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