Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Sometimes There Is Nothing As Odd As Folk.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Tuesday July 15th

This is an absolutely standard day's boating for us, either in one direction or the other.  However it is one where it is almost impossible to predict just how long the whole thing may take.  There are two lock flights, as well as two major tunnels.

Entering a lock in the Buckby flight
As far as the lock flights go, we always used to reckon that the one at Buckby took far longer than that at Braunston.  Buckby has 7 deep locks, whereas Braunston has only 6, and which are each much shallowser.  Buckby's gates are often heavy, but some still manage to blow open again when you have shut them, and some of the paddles are ill maintained.

However recently most of our passages through Buckby have been smooth and predictable, whereas Braunston has become somewhat of a nightmare, usually because of people just being very slow, somewhat daft, or often both.

Today followed recent experiences.  At Buckby a hire boat turned up, and declared this to be their first lock, and that they were total novices.  As is so often the case, they proved to be solid, even if (unsurprisingly) a little cautious at first.  Their steerer could steer, and their lock crew quickly got to grips with how to do things.  We came up with them in good time, and they learned fast.  They however were turning off up the Leicester, so we waved them goodbye.

Things went downhill after that!

In Braunston tunnel a private boater with an expensive looking boat was stopping each time someone approached them the other way, then when the passing boat tried to carry on, was then berating them because they were in gear, and hence (apparently!) drawing them away from the wall.  Perhaps if they were actually moving they might have hld their position better, if that was the claimed problem.  Each passing boat apparently got the same tirade!

At the head of the locks the boat ahead of us in the tunnel moored up on the visitor moorings, so we set off down the locks alone, initially - very slowly, because of people ahead.  We were aware of boats arriving at the top lock that we might have shared with, but David went back, and there were two together, so we confirmed there was no point in us waiting.

However, when we were already in the third lock, a lady hurried down, and said actually three boats were now behind us, so would we wait for one of them.  As they were two locks behind it was a very long wait - about half an hour, I think.  The boat that eventually shared with us was the one that had moored at the top of the flight - they could have come down with us in the first place!

If that was not enough, after only two locks they announced they were mooring up again - we had waited for them far longer than we had shared with them.  Our waiting had held us up a lot, and almost certainly gained them almost nothing.

Our path becoming blocked as this boat swings across from its usual moorings.
Apart from all this, a boat moored in the flight decided to fully break loose before we got to it, taking some considerable time and effort to retrieve and tie up again.

After all this we decided to ring up a friend and see if she would come and join us for a meal.  She would, and we took a chance we might moor right outside the Boathouse.  We could, (about three times in a row now we have pulled this off!), but also some more friends were moored opposite, and they said they would come round later and join us too.

Unfortunately the Boathouse was very obviously understaffed, and service was incredibly slow.  It wasn't just our food they struggled with, we sat for literally ages without our drinks either.  Our side orders didn't arrive at all with the main meal, but an embarrassed young man tried offering them to us long after we had finished.  In fairness the few staff they did have were both polite and deeply apologetic, but it really was farcical.  We spoke to the manager as we paid our bill, and he also apologised profusely.  I can laugh about it now, but clearly their staffing levels are inadequate for the demand, or at least they don't have contingency if someone becomes unavailable.

However we still had a very convivial evening, and the walk back to the boat could hardly be a shorter one!

Stoke Bruerne to Braunston

Miles: 21.1 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks 13

Total Miles: 54.8, Locks: 36

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