Sunday, 18 September 2011

North to Fenny

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

After a couple of months at Cow Roast, (thanks to Mike for a loaned mooring, for much of that time!), it was time to shift Sickle further North.

The plan was to drive to Cow Roast, but to take bikes, so we could go back there afterwards, and collect a car.

The move we wanted to do was more than a day, without going mad, but looked easily done in well under two.  Leighton Buzzard was an obvious overnight stopping point, to allow us a choice of places to go and eat, so we didn't need to worry about cooking.  The weather forecast didn't look too bad for the Saturday - just maybe a bit of light shower.

I rather enjoyed Tring summit, feeling I am starting to get more of an idea where the best channel is, and choosing engine speeds that mean we make good progress, but don't wrestle needlessly with the boat.

Approaching the middle lock at themain Marsworth flight.
We nearly always enjoy going down the Marsworth flight, and doing it on a sunny Saturday with an interesting boat, you get a lot of attention.  Normally it is when you are distracted by someone admiring your boat that you then do something not very clever in front of a large audience!  Today we managed to avoid that, I think, but with all the locks against us, Cath was buzzing backwards and forwards on the bike, and I think we learnt a bit about how to get along faster, as I was trying to climb on and off to do lock work too, but actually probably doing not a lot that speeded us up - sometimes its probably better to stay at the controls more, and leave it to her.

The sunshine gives no hint of weather to come.
By the bottom of the flight we had caught another boat which waited for us, and we then shared several locks with them.  It was a very new and expensive looking narrow boat, but was wheel steered from a seated position.  The couple in charge were very friendly, but the man explained to Cath that they were now taking the boat to brokers to sell it - it never ceases to amaze me how much people spend for a life on the water, only to offload the boat before not very long at all.  Although they had boated a fair bit, the lady really hadn't got to grips with the wheel steering, and her husband was obviously very frustrated as she relied heavily on a bow-thruster for just about every move.  This made my life a bit tricky, as I was asked if I  "shadow" her into locks to help guide her in, but she had a habit of heavy use of bow-thruster at critical moments that sent me off course, and into the walls of the lock approaches!

However our partnership was quickly ended by a "systems failure" on Sickle.  The "speed wheel", (basically a brass wheel, which is the engine speed control), had become stiffer and stiffer, and I was having trouble winding it away from "minimum".  Suddenly I was holding most of it loose in my hand, leaving a stump that I couldn't turn at all!

The brazing between the two brass parts had failed, and at first I had little hope of effecting a fix.  But when I realised we had an electric drill on board, I tried to drill through the two parts and bolt them together, (not elegant, but needs must!). It took several hours to solve, as the battery powered drill went flat, and the only available drill bits quickly blunted or broke.  A second stroke of luck was a small and never used inverter on board, which allowed me to produce enough 240 volts from the boats 12 volt battery to recharge the drill just enough to complete the bodged repair.

The threatening clouds start to hang low.
We were now very much behind schedule, and hope of reaching Leighton buzzard before dark has now all but gone.  Then "the weather" started!  First dark clouds started to obliterate most of the daylight.  These hung onimously very low over nearby hills, and lightning could be seen in the distance.  Then came the rain, though never quite as much as initially looked inevitable.  When lightning overhead produced an almost immediate crash of thunder I decided the time had come to at least fold up the umbrella!

By now we had been watching a rainbow at least 15 minutes.
Then on the long pound from Slapton Lock to Grove Church Lock, we were treated to probably the best double rainbow both of us agreed we had ever seen.  I so wish we could have photographed it properly, but only a small part filled the cameras widest angle of vision, the camera was getting soaked, and then the battery started to die!  The pictures fail to capture its magnificence, so you will just have to trust us!

At Grove in failing light.
By Grove Lock, (the last one before Leighton), it really was getting quite dark, although again my photographic "prowess" has managed to produce a picture that implies it was still quite light!

I decided not to put on the tunnel light, and to try and let my eyes adjust to the failing light, but long before arriving at the town centre moorings, had to call Cath out on to the front deck to help me spot what was what.  I do like boating after dark sometimes, but after a longer and more tiring day than planned, by the time we moored up I was bushed.

We went to the same restaurant as we had done when we visited the Linslade Canal Festival, and once again enjoyed an excellent meal.

We decided not to hurry off the next day, but instead to wait and get a few things at the canalside Supermarket.  With only a further 5 locks up to our destination, Sunday was an easier day than Saturday had been.

Destination Fenny Stratford.
Or so it should have been!  We miscalculated planning our setting off for Bletchley station by bike, resulting in a bit of a rush to catch the train to Tring, which are fairly infrequent on a Sunday.  I thought we had fully made it, as we settled on the train.  Only then did I realise we must have left the single key for the car we were returning to on Sickle!  David was not too impressed to receive a call to turn out on his bike to Cow roast with a spare key, but duly did so, and we finally arrived home after a weekend of enjoyable boating, but where we could have done without one or two of the things that happened!

Cow Roast to Fenny Stratford
Miles: 20.3, Locks:24

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