Monday, 17 September 2012

The Big Two Boat Summer Trip Finally Reaches Completion.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

I remember boating back in the 1970s, after long distance carrying had ceased, but leisure boating was very much in its infancy, that it somehow seemed to be considered not the done trhing to start your engine up, and set off before (say) 8:00 am.  I can actually remember wanting to make an early start, and pulling or poling the boat the first bit, so as not to disturb those still in bed!

By the time we set off, nobody else was waiting to go down.
All that has changed over the years, and it is now not at all unusual to find significant number of boats going past well before those times, particularly where there are lock flights, and people think they may gain an advantage by being first way.  And so it was this morning, with quite a few boats moving before 07:00 am, there was no way we were going to be one of the early ones down the flight.

In fact by the time we set off, a lot of boats had gone ahead, but we were initially on our own.  With the back-pumps running, and water over the gates, the notices to wait and share locks seem a bit out of date, and certainly the lock-keepers at Stoke are now making no efforts to enforce sharing.

Actually the lock keeper at Stoke was far more intent on getting boats moving through quickly, and in minimising delays, (good man, and sensible in the circumstances!), so if a particular crew appeared to not be ready to move at their turn, he simply waved boats behind past!  So, when it looked like a couple of boats who were logically ahead of us, were not ready to get moving again, we got waved through past them.  This seemed to not meet the approval of one boat being overtaken, but of course one must do what the lock-keeper instructs!

So we worked along through the first locks of the flight.
It was genuinely fairly busy down the flight, and although one or two people seemed unhappy that the lock-keeper was additionally "turning" some locks to speed the flow, the reality is both that no water was wasted, and in fact he had still managed to get additional boats moving, and cause zero delay to those who were complaining.  Quite an interesting spectator sport, it proved to be, and we made better progress than it looked like we might at the start!  These guys get some stick - this one was adding value.

However, we were not so lucky later in the day, when we stopped for supplies at Wolverton.  A boat untied and left maybe 20 to 30 minutes before, us, but we caught it up after not that many miles.  Despite being clearly aware we were behind them, the crew then decided to look steadfastly only forward for several miles, whilst boating at a speed that is little more than Sickle's default "tick-over" speed.  It would have been desperately easy to wave us past, but I can only assume they felt nobody should reasonably expect to travel faster than their own sedate pace?  Eventually, after a very long while, we were let past, but there really is, in my view, no excuse for delaying people in this way, particularly on long lock-less stretches like this, where there is no question that those that go past are gaining any additional advantage by doing so.  It seems to me a common courtesy to let a faster boat past, if you only wish to travel slowly yourself.

Anyway, after that we progressed well, back to Sickle's home mooring.  We probably spent far longer chatting to people there than we should hav done, particularly as we still had a car to retrieve from Braunston.

So at this point, I think we can declare our extended big summer jaunt officially ended - staggeringly the two boats together have accumulated approaching 600 miles during the trip, and our combined mileage for the year for both boats now exceeds 1000 miles.

Stoke Bruerne to Fenny Stratford

Miles: 18.3, Locks: 8
Total Miles: 581.3, Locks: 336 (Worked)
(I'm treating the delayed return of Sickle as part of the overall summer trip with both boats).

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