Sunday 22 May 2011

Moving Sickle - Second Weekend, second day.

(posted by Alan)

The objectives of the day remained broadly the same:-

1) Make all reasonable progress.
2) Find a solution to no tunnel light before we got to Braunston tunnel
3) Arrive somewhere that we could reasonably cycle to a station from, and get home.
(Cath had to be at work early next morning, as usual).

Had we been doing this days boating in CHALICE, it would have been different for all kinds of reasons.  Strong winds we were promised, and very strong winds we got.  CHALICE is a relative light-weight in the narrow boat world, and had large tall cabin sides.  She would have blown all over the place, and been very hard work.  SICKLE, on the other hand, is heavy, deep in the water, and her low hull and small cabin provide far less for the wind to blow on, particularly as much of her is no more than a "moving patio".  So whilst other boats were blowing around, SICKLE was largely fine, and our major concerns about the wind were limited to either making sure we were not blown off the deck, and that we didn't lose our hats.

Curious lights in Newbold tunnel.
We had a short tunnel to do early on - Newbold.  This has had some curious lights installed in it in relatively recent years, although a photograph never quite captures the incongruity of the situation!  This tunnel is short enough that not having a tunnel light on SICKLE was a non issue.

Between Hillmorton Locks - Narrow boat BADSEY in the background.
Apart from the stop lock at Hawkesbury the Norther Oxford has only 3 other locks, (or more accurately 6, as at each descent there are two  paired locks, and you can use either).  These are at Hillmorton, near Rugby, and often some of the busiest in the country.  today there was little waiting, but there was a very shell-shocked looking woman on a hire boat who had just fallen in.  Her husband looked bewildered, and not over-sympathetic to her obvious distress.

Entering a Hillmorton lock.
The run into Braunston to join the Grand Union was uneventful, although more modern boats were clearly getting badly blown around.

At Braunston we could pull up immediately outside the big chandlers to investigate the tunnel light situation.  Not a chance of a suitable bulb, so instead we bought what was designed to be a hand-held spot-light.  We held on whilst I lashed up a connection to SICKLE's electrics, and a couple of elastic luggage straps proved adequate to lash it temporarily to the mast carrying the existing lamp.

 We were now ready to tackle Braunston locks, (our first broad ones with SICKLE).  Or at least we should have been had the engine not died as I was approaching the gates at some speed.  I asked Cath to urgently check SICKLE's progress with a rope around a bollard, but she rather misunderstood, and didn't let the line "run" at all.  There was the inevitable pulling heavily over to one side, before an enormous twang left us with two bits of frayed rope in lieu of the whole one we previously had.  No damage done, (other than to rope!), but SICKLE's progress was at least abruptly halted, and a lesson learnt, hopefully.

A quick trip to another chandlery supplied the (very expensive!) paint to allow repairs to SICKLE's current colour scheme.

Sharing Braunston locks.
We then shared the locks with a crew taking a brand new share boat to the Crick show.  They were very efficient, and I hope I managed not to add any scuffing to this smart and very expensive boat.

We gave them a considerable head start into Braunston tunnel, as we met some friends moored at the top of the locks.  When we did tackle the tunnel, the temporary light arrangements were fine, and SICKLE certainly seemed to zip through at something of a record pace.  we were very clearly a lot faster than the boat that went in first, and had nearly caught it by the end.

From Near Brinklow (Oxford Canal)
Miles: 18.5, Locks: 16

Total Miles: 80.3, Total Locks: 39

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