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The Odyssey 2011: Day 42

Posted by indigodream on 7 September, 2011

Watford Top lock to Weedon (Bridge 24)

Sunday 21st August

View from the Watford staircase...

We had a reasonably relaxed morning – the locks didn’t open until 9am so there was no point in getting up very early, but we did make sure that we were ready to go as soon as the lockie gave us the go-ahead. We had been assured that he would let the boats down first before starting on the queue below and we entered the first lock just after 9am. We were glad to get started – the lockie believes that the stoppages will be extended with shorter opening hours and potential “one up, one down” working.

The Watford flight is very interesting – a mix of single locks and a quadruple staircase – I’d thought there were two staircases, because what else could cause such a boating log-jam?! Once again the staircase makes good use of side-pounds and they provide a scenic backdrop to the locks.

The lockie let five boats down – the three of us that had spent the night above the locks and two others that turned up at 8.30am – they were very lucky indeed! As we descended, boats started to ascend – there is room to pass in the lower pounds but it’s quite a logistical exercise.

Nonetheless we got down quite quickly and moored up at the bottom to top up our water tank and give the hounds another bobble – not that they were interested – they just slumped on the towpath, though I’m sure they weren’t suffering from CO poisoning! We’d come down the flight quicker than expected to we were glad of the interval while the tank filled as it gave Sarah time to catch up with us. She was bringing favourites Ranger, Henry and Archie for a cruise, culminating in a late-afternoon greyhound gathering in Stoke Bruerne. We had some logistics of our own, we’d also made arrangements to meet up with Roger and Margaret of nb Mary Beth and their two greyhounds Bess and Shari, who came cruising with us back in April when we passed through their home town of Berkhamstead.

Looking up to Watford top lock...

We picked Sarah and the hounds up at Welton Station Bridge and Richard moved the car down to the Buckby flight, where we joined him later. Mindful of our speed, I put Sarah on the helm and saw to coffee/food instead! We enjoyed a girlie cruise and Sarah relived some more memories of cruising with her dad as they used to hire boats from Welton Hythe. All too soon we were at Norton Junction. It was a strange feeling – I was mightily relieved to be off the Leicester Arm – it’s well worth exploring but the water shortages/stoppages have been tedious and frustrating. Nevertheless, coming back onto the familiar Grand Union mainline was like leaving Oz – we’ve explored some fantastic new waterways ‘over the rainbow’ but it was also pleasant to be back on our favourite home waters.

We met up with Richard at Buckby top, where there was a queue of 6 boats waiting in front of us – at least they’re double locks! At first we had to brest up to a BW workboat, but as the queue shuffled forward we got a spot on the lock moorings so that the hounds could come off for a bobble. They really enjoyed themselves as they got lots of fuss from the boaters and passersby. As we entered Buckby top we acquired a locking partner (with a terribly smokey engine – we did our best to stay away from the ‘exhaust’ side), which made things a little easier. Richard lockwheeled while Sarah and I took turns to steer, make coffee and entertain the hounds. The middle locks are well-fenced so the hounds could have a good bobble, when they could be bothered! Towards Buckby Bottom lock, a spot where Blue would escape and explore at every opportunity, Lynx just found a patch of deep shade to lie in and flat refused to come back to the boat! While the other hounds ran back to the boat joyfully, Lynx lay on his side and used his amazing hypno-powers to persuade random passersby to rub his tummy!

The Buckby flight was very jolly with banter between passing boaters and walkers, but it was so so slow. After a couple of locks we caught up with the boats before and had to wait at every one. We already knew that we wouldn’t make Stoke Bruerne bottom lock today, but now we knew we wouldn’t even make Gayton junction. I fed the crew and Richard cycled back to get the car from Buckby. In the meantime Sarah and I cruised on  – it was up to us to decide where to stop – somewhere between Weedon and Bugbrooke.  As the canal was so busy we decided to moor up in Weedon, just before Bridge 24. There is a long line of 14-day mooring rings, plenty of other boats and good access to the road. We directed Richard appropriately and he brought the car down. We then changed crew – Richard fed the hounds and packed the boat while I took Sarah back to get her car from Watford bottom lock – a surprisingly short distance away via the A5!

Side pound in action...

When we got back, we quickly bundled the dogs into the cars (mindful of the fact that nb Leo moored in front of us had 2 cats) and drove to the greyhound gathering at Stoke Bruerne.

We had a lovely afternoon – we met up with Margaret, Roger, Bess and Shari and enjoyed the company of many other hounds. Considering it was a barbecue with lots of loose food around, every hound behaved impeccably and peace reigned. The event raised over £1000 for GWRE (Greyhound Rescue West of England). There was stand with lots of greyhound goodies – I confined myself to a greyhound mascot for the boat and a new winter coat for Lynx.

It was gone 6pm by the time we left – we’d had such a good time and when five boating greyhound-mad people get together there’s never enough time to talk about everything that needs talking about! We dragged ourselves away with great difficulty. Luckily we didn’t have a bad journey home but we’d have to take a close look at our cruising schedule – it’s essential that we get back to Limehouse by the 8th September and the stoppages have put us under real time pressure….


The tall top gates in the staircase are alarmingly leaky - I was glad Indigo Dream is only 60' so I could avoid the shower!

That's why the locks are restricted...


Queueing at Buckby top....

The crew back together again...

Such a pretty cottage...

We really do need a bigger back deck...

With the deck full, Henry had to take the sofa - it's a hard life!

At the GWRE barbecue - it was reassuring to be among a crowd of people who are even more besotted with their hounds than we are 🙂

2 Responses to “The Odyssey 2011: Day 42”

  1. Greygal said

    We were looking at the back deck of a 60′ x 12′ 6″ widebeam. My god, you could have got 20 greyhounds on it with room to spare. I think we may need to reconsider narrowboat living…

  2. indigodream said

    So, Greygal, what you’re saying is that we don’t have half enough greyhounds and should get a few more in readiness for your widebeam 🙂

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