Tuesday, 30 August 2011


(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)

Classic Stoke Bruerne view
Some weeks back on the trip out I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder or neck, which I have largely managed to ignore. Alan has massaged it a bit, which has done a lot to keep it within tolerable levels, and I have taken painkillers when it got bad. The most important thing has been to keep active, as it isn't too bad during the day, but gets worse overnight while it is immobile.

I woke up this morning in real agony, barely able to get out of bed. It was the second really bad night in a row, where I had slept very little. I was so tired.

Alan walked Charlie, as although he has been trained to walk to heel, he can be very over enthusiastic, and any pulling on the lead would make the pain worse. After breakfast (and more painkillers) we set off, down the Stoke Bruerne flight, with me steering, and Alan working the locks. 

Earnest discussion about student motivation
Part of the way down we met up with a couple on another boat, the man told me that he teaches piano in independent schools, and we had a very interesting discussion about education today - it left me with some things to think about how I teach some aspects of our courses.

They suggested that we go on ahead after the flight, and we headed off until we got to the big supermarket at Wolverton. All this time the pain in my shoulder, neck and head didn't get any better.

I went shopping, Alan came to help me carry the bags back to the boat. He took one look at me and said, "you can't go on, should we stop?" We decided that I would take some more paracetamol, and go to bed, he would steer around lockless Milton Keynes.

Filling with water at Fenny
Despite the roar of the engine only a yard or so beyond my feet I slept quite well for some time. I woke, still in pain, but much refreshed, just in time to get some coffee made, and help to work through the next lock, Fenny Stratford. After that I took over steering through Stoke Hammond and to the bottom of Soulbury Three Locks.

Despite it being quite late in the day we were passed by a lot of Wyvern hire boats heading north from their base in Leighton Buzzard - surprising numbers for that late in the day.

At Three Locks
At Soulbury we found that there were no moorings left on the piling below the lock, and it was impossible to get Chalice into the muddy side anywhere else. There is more piling, but we had come past it some distance back, and nobody fancied reversing that far. So we opted to go up through the locks. Yet more Wyvern boats were coming down, and others were waiting at the top.

This is an empty lock - all paddles down

We became aware of large amounts of water pouring over some gates towards the top, Alan went up to investigate and found the worst leaking gates he had seen in a long time. They were not properly closed, and there seemed to be something stopping them closing against the cill. David went off to find a 'keb' (big rake with tines at an angle), and found a BW employee, who said he was off duty, and the 'keb' is not a 'keb', it's a 'drag'. Fair enough, I've always known it as a keb - we have one on Sickle, which was not a lot of use at that moment.

Leaky gates
So, without a keb/drag, and with a concerned German hirer looking on, they tried to clear the cill, by closing one gate on it's own, as fast as they could, then the other. They met together much better after that, so we didn't think that we'd wake up to find the pound we were mooring in drained in the morning.

We, and the young German couple, moored just above the lock. I began to cook dinner, David took Charlie off for a walk.

Alan and I had finished our food, and it was dark, we were starting to wonder quite where David and Charlie had got to. David's phone was off, so I set off in the direction they had gone, with a lantern, only to find David returning with pictures of the bats that he had been photographing.

Stoke Bruerne to Stoke Hammond Three Locks
Miles: 22.7, Locks: 12

Total Miles: 405.0, Total Locks: 375

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