Sunday, 12 May 2013

"Ricky" Bound

(Boat Sickle - Friday 10th May 2013 to Sunday 12th May - posted by Alan)

Held up in the Marsworth flight.
Timings have not so far allowed us to get "Sickle" to our relatively local Rickmansworth Canal Festival, so we decided we would see if we could fit it in this year.  We are of course mid school-term, so into weekend "positioning" moves of the boat.  From "Sickle's" home mooring to "Ricky" in a weekend is a challenge too far, particularly while Cath is heavily snowed down with work.  Hence this is why we moved "Sickle" down to a borrowed mooring the previous weekend, to reduce the remaining distance to something more practical.  (Once you get South of Tring summit on the Grand Union, the locks come thick and fast, seldom even a mile apart, and many of them far less - so it's the locks that take most of  the time, usually, not covering the pounds in between).

Moving again after CRT have put some more water back.
We decided we would get on board on the Friday evening, but were not able to get going particularly quickly.  Although it is staying light quite late now, it was a cloudy evening, and we thought night would close in quite quickly, and almost certainly before we could complete the Marsworth flight.  So we contented ourselves with going up just the first lock of the main flight, to where there are good quiet moorings.  We went and had a pint in the"Angler's", leaving the cabin range slow cooking our meal, which we enjoyed later on.

The "troublemakers" gather in Berkhamsted - "Sickle" and "Jenlyn".
Now we should have got away smartly on Saturday, but didn't, and some boats passed and set off up the flight ahead of us before we started up, so we were expecting to have to re-empty all locks before we could use them.  The, while Cath went to set the first lock, I found the pound we were in was dropping rapidly, and the boat heeling over.  I had an almighty struggle to get going on my own, but eventually managed it.  However our progress didn't last long, we had hardly got going when two chaps from the Canal and River Trust said we would have to pull over for a while,because a lot of the flight was short of water, and they were refilling pounds from the top, and didn't want boat movements upsetting things.

This hire boat is taking 4 weeks to do the Thames Ring - Expensive option!
They were actually very apologetic, and said they usually try and sort the flight out before most people move, but had instead been called to a problem right down at Hunton Bridge.  Apparently, (according to them), only three bank staff are now expected to cover the whole of the canal from "Stockers" at the South to Stoke Bruerne at the North.  If something goes wrong at one place, then they struggle to keep people moving elsewhere.  It seems that Marsworth doesn't get the benefit of the much vaunted volunteer lock-keepers, or at least if it does, only when any want to turn up.  Today there were none.

"Sickle" further South than we have previously been with her.
This seems to me to further emphasise that CRT has its priorities wrong, and is cutting essential staff who actually keep the canal running to the bone, whilst engaged in questionable and expensive schemes, like the South East Visitor Moorings, which are very hard to justify.  I feel given the choice most people who actually go boating would put enough staff on water control duties as more important than unnecessary short stay time limits on moorings.  Some of us are meeting CRT directors and trustees next week, so I think this may get a mention!

The "Rising Sun"
In fact the delay was not much over the stated half hour, and we were on our way again.  We worked a few locks with two chaps on a GRP boat who were expecting to get it quite quickly to Slough.  They didn't realise the Slough arm is currently closed, but also they had no map, and hence no concept that there were dozens of locks, and hence several days travel required to reach Slough.  Once they did, they started asking where they could tie up and find a railway station!

At "Bushes" lock at Northchurch they did what so many people seem to do.  Or more accurately they must have done it before "Bushes" lock, because having left the last lock just behind us, we waited, and they never arrived at the next.  I simply don't understand if you are sharing locks and someone intends to drop out before the next one why they can't tell you.  But they didn't,and after a wait  we pressed on.

"Sickle" passes "Holland" ("France" is following "Holland").
In Berkhamsted we stopped for Cath to visit the supermarket and buy supplies for the next meals.  My friend Steve who I have been working with in many of our exchanges with CRT had his wide-beam there, so it gave us the opportunity to update each other on some of the latest news.  I tried to post a picture of "the troublemakers gathering" on Facebook, (CRT's initial visitor mooring proposals for Berkhamsted were totally over the top, and we have had to fight for something more sensible), but my phone wasn't having anything to do with posting pictures.

South of Berkhamsted we met the two superb "Joshers" "Holland" and "France.  "Holland" is owned by "Sickle's" former "skipper" Ian and his wife Tina, and it is the first time we have seen it in all its splendour.  It has a particularly large engine, and we were told Tina had been making use of it!

We knew we wanted to get as far as possible today, and though Apsley might be feasible, despite the morning's late start.  It was and we pressed on, finally completing 28 locks for the day - maybe not a lot to those younger and/or fitter, but we are out of practice.  We rewarded our efforts with a an excellent meal at "Calzone".  Initially they said they couldn't fit us in, but eventually agreed, and said they would send someone to "Sickle" and knock on the cabin - now that's a first for us, particularly as it was by then raining!

Old Fishery Bridge, near Boxmoor.
Moving between the Hunton Bridge locks.

By Sunday we were well over half way to destination, but knew we had no car at "Ricky", and that I would somehow have to use a combination of bike and railway to get home to fetch a car, and this might take some time, so again we tried to progress at a good pace.

However yesterday's remaining bread had dried out, and lunch was in some doubt.  The canal quide shows a stores at Hunton Bridge, but neither of us could recall ever having seen one.  The good news is that there is, and it was open, so lunch was assured.  We also made a stop slightly further on for a purchase at the aquatic centre - don't ask, but we don't actually keep anything aquatic!

After this I was aware someone was catching us up after our multiple stops, so we waited at Cassiobury locks, and the small tug "Storm" appeared.  She was "Ricky" bound as well, and wewere able to work together through the remaining locks.  By now the weather was deteriorating - well I was about to try cycling from "Ricky" to Watford Junction!

"Sickle" and "Storm" - Iron Bridge lock, Cassiobury Park
If I had thought the boating was tiring, I had not bargained with the cycling.  The bike had spent about 6 months in "Sickle's" hold, and wasn't in the best of condition.  The saddle didn't want to adjust to any position that wasn't very uncomfortable, and I had not bargained with how much more tiring the loose surface of the "Ebury Way", (a former railway line), is to pedal on than a metalled road.  I was truly knackered by the time I arrived at home for a car.

And I still had not only to go to "Ricky" to collect Cath, but we also needed to retrieve the other car from where we had set off on Friday evening.  The "non-boating" bits are the hard ones - the boating seems relatively straightforward by comparison!

Fenny Stratford to Cooks Wharf (Grand Union)
Miles: 21.7, Locks:46

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