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Boat Blog: Mooching (back) along the Grand Union (12)

Posted by indigodream on 12 May, 2013

Monday 6th May

Berkhamstead (above Top Side lock) to Apsley Marina

Seamus and Liam enjoying their lock duty..

Seamus and Liam enjoying their lock duty..

Our impromptu visitors, Liam, Lena, son Seamus and Cassie the dog, joined us just before 9.30am – but we didn’t get off to a quick start. We got up reasonably early and while I was walking the dogs, Richard set to polishing the other side of the boat. He recruited our guests to help so we didn’t get away for another hour or so – though Indigo Dream looked very fine as we left the moorings.

It wasn’t Seamus’ first cruise, but he was very little when he last came on board. We wondered what he’d make of it. As it happened, not very much! Seamus did enjoy helping Liam at a few of the locks, but he was overheating in his bulky lifejacket. It’s a dilemma, the best life-jackets for little people are well-padded but a bit bulky for a hot summer’s day; but you daren’t not have one – locks are so dangerous with their turbulent water. In the end, he seemed quite happy to sit inside in the shade (where he didn’t have to wear the lifejacket) – though later on, we adapted one of our self-inflatable jackets for him – that seemed to help.

It was Cassie’s first boating holiday – she’s young and lively, so the trip was just the best thing ever! She ran along the towpath, played with passing dogs and learnt how to cross the lock-gates. She also jumped into one lock – luckily the men had only just started emptying it, I shouted “drop the paddles” to reduce any undertow and Liam hoicked her out of the water. She was none the worse for her adventure, in fact, she seemed to enjoy it immensely. However she got the message and didn’t jump in again after that. However, we took the precaution of fitting her with the extra-small doggie buoyancy aid that we had on board (legacy of Sybil the pekingese’s trips a few years ago).

Cassie getting the hang of crossing the lock gates - she was quite agile after a few tentative trial runs..

Cassie getting the hang of crossing the lock gates – she was quite agile after a few tentative trial runs..

It was a brilliantly warm day and there were a few more boats on the move. There were no queues at the locks though and we had a smooth solo passage down to Winkwell. Now, we’d read about the stoppage earlier in the week, but the restriction was due to be lifted before the weekend. As I emerged from Winkwell middle lock, I wasn’t surprised to see the swingbridge opening – but I hadn’t realised how lucky we were. The bridge was being opened by CRT engineers – they’d just happened to be there – otherwise we’d have to wait a few hours – they were only opening the bridge at scheduled times, and only around four times a day!

We shared Winkwell bottom lock with a single hander who was rather vague and did nothing to facilitate our entry alongside him; he did nothing to facilitate our exit either. I wasn’t keen to share any more locks with him so I was very pleased to see him moor up above Boxmoor top. We could see two boats about the enter the next lock together, but there was a bit of a mix-up and one boat got left out! It’s a long story – their crew had got confused and shut the lock before the boat was in πŸ™‚

But this was serendipitous – the boat left behind became our new fine locking partner – I’m annoyed because I didn’t write the boat’s name down because it seemed so familiar! The boat’s skipper was definitely familiar – we’d met her walking her german shepherd dogs at Cassiobury Park a few weeks ago and further up the canal last week.

Lena, Cassie and Seamus watching the CRT engineers stop the traffic at Winkwell

Lena, Cassie and Seamus watching the CRT engineers stop the traffic at Winkwell

We were sad to lost our locking partner below Fisheries lock, but we only had a short way to go – our target for the day was Apsley. We stopped below Apsley top lock, and while the menfolk mused about whether to moor there or go down a bit further, Lean and I set out for the train station for the car shuffle. This was not before we’d left the men with strict instructions about paying attention to looking after dogs and five-year old! In fact, Lena took Cassie on the train so that Liam would have one less thing to concentrate on. They hadn’t inspired our confidence when Liam left the deck door open and Ty escaped – luckily for us, Ty ran down the towpath towards me and I caught him; if he’d headed the other way we wouldn’t even have seen him go – phew!

Lena and I caught the train to Berkhamstead – she walked back to get her car and I plodded on to Wolverton – a train guard gave me some bad advice and told me to board his train and change again at Milton Keynes; sadly the train didn’t connect so it all took a while. I was surprised that the drive home included a stretch of the M1 – wow, we really have travelled a distance since Friday.

On the way, Richard texted me a destination postcode – they’d managed to get a mooring space in Apsley marina. Our guests were still there when I got back, but sadly we couldn’t join them for a meal, there was just too much to do to pack the boat and get it ready for cousin Denise and Wyn. We got packed, cleaned the floor then moved over to the service pontoon for a pumpout. With that done, we got back into our space and hooked up to the shore power.

Apsley Marina at its best :-)

Apsley Marina at its best πŸ™‚

It was gone 7pm by now, but our late finish did mean that we did miss the worse of the traffic and we got home before 9pm.

Friday 10th May

I met with Wyn and Denise at Apsley marina at lunchtime and took them down Nash Mills and Red Lion locks – giving each of them a refresher in boating and locking along the way. Then I walked back to the car and headed for home.

So, if you see Indigo Dream ont he move this weekend give her a wave – she’s not been stolen – she’s in the capable hands of my cousin and her husband πŸ™‚

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