Tuesday 11 June 2013

(Retrospective post after failure to keep blog up to date)
 Saturday 25th to Sunday 26th May

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Tony Byfield is reunited with the boat he used to steer.
Whilst Cath is working, and it is term time, we continue to be in a position where most boat moving only happens at weekends, so "Sickle" had remained at Rickmansworth after the festival for a week, awaiting collection.  In practice I went down to visit once in that week anyway, and Odin was able to have a very fine explore of the Aquadrome.

Imposing, but hardly attractive M25 bridge at Kings Langley
"Ricky" presents a problem because there isn't really anywhere to leave a car safely over the weekend anywhere obvious near Batchworth, and it is not directly accessible by train either.  So we decided that I would deliver Cath and all our needs to Sickle, drive home again, then retuen by a combination of train to Watford and cycling to "Ricky".  I knew what to expect, having broadly done the reverse when we delivered her there, but the end result was not actually leaving until Saturday lunchtime, meaning we would need to work reasonably hard.

Lawrence Williams on "Tench" with "Australia" in tow.
Unfortunately as soon as we were underway we caught up someone working two boats together ahead of us, and single handed.  He did not seem to want to use top gate paddles at all to fill his locks, and the first lock, Lot Mead, was leaking so badly at the other end, I doubted for some time it would "make a level" at all.  Eventually it got there, but it was obvious we were going to only make slow progress for a while!

After the next lock, we never saw them again!
Fortunately, though, as it turned out, these boats were not going that far, and eventually pulled over to use a water point after a few locks, a bit of a relief, as we could see our available time ticking away.

We had been previously made aware that "Tony" who lives at the lock cottage at Cassio Bridge "used to have the "Sickle", but we knew little more.  However on this occasion Tony (Byfield) made himself known to us, and we spent some time chatting about his history with the boat.  He used to work with Alf Best, who can be seen steering Sickle in the various pictures I took of her in the Boxmoor area in the 1970s.  Tony had tales to tell about just how fast "Sickle" is claimed to have moved on occasions in the past - all I can say is I'm fairly sure that with her current set up she is not capable of it now!

I first photographed "Sickle" here more than 40 years ago.
After this we made steady progress, largely at our own speed, unimpeded by other boats, but approaching Kings Langley it was apparent we had caught someone up.  Inevitably this was not until they had worked Kings Langley lock, probably now the slowest to fill on the entire Southern Grand Union, (now Iron Bridge is fixed!), so when they volunteered to wait for us at Nash Mills locks, they actually must have waited a while!  We worked with them as far as Apsley, where they planned to stop, but we decided to press on through Boxmoor, and moor above Fishery lock.

In the early 1970s though my pictures were black and white.
If nothing else this gave fairly handy access to a local off licence, so I was able to cycle up, and get two much appreciated bottles of wine, whilst Cath used our elaborate new "Cobb" barbecue to cook an evening meal.  This had been a major unplanned purchase at "Ricky", but I must say we are mightily impressed by its capabilities, and how much cooking you can get out of a small amount of fuel.  It really does increase our cooking options on fine days, when it is too hot to light the cabin range.

South of Berkhamsted
On the Sunday morning we were just about to make a fairly relaxed start when we noticed the lock being worked.  Our immediate reaction was initially to get going quickly, but I'm glad we didn't, as it proved to be the Josher pair "Tench" and "Australia" moving along very briskly with a crew of four.  No way would us two "wrinkleys" have managed to stay ahead of a youth team like this for very long, without them being up our tail!  We never saw them again after the next lock, but it did set a pattern of nearly every lock for the day being against us, so relatively hard work again.

"Rising Sun", Berkhamsted.
Shortly further on, above "Slaughters" lock, but before the railway crossing at Winkwell, and with Cath steering, I tried to remember exactly where I had taken some of my "Sickle at work" pictures in the early 1970s, and to take some "fourt years on" equivalents.  I didn't guess quite right, but I wasn't far off!

Above Winkwell we were joined by a single hander, and shared locks up into Berkhamsted, where she stopped for water, and us for shopping.

Joshers "France" and "Holland" by new development in Berkhamsted.
By the time we got going again, she had left ahead of us, but we fairly quickly caught her up, and worked through some more locks, until she tied up for the day.  She seemed most surprised we intended to not only carry on across Tring summit, butr also drop down the Marsworth flight today!

Between the final two locks on aglorious evening.
When we started this trip, our plan had been to take the boat right on up to its home mooring, but I came to the realisation that we might still be able to borrow a mooring for a further week where we keep "Chalice", our other boat.  a few exchanges on the Internet, and it was confirmed - we could end our journey early, for the time being.  This would leave "Sickle" closer to home, and with extra facilities, so that we might well be able to get some much needed work done on her, if the weather stayed OK.

Cooks Wharf to Rickmansworth
Miles: 21.7, Locks:46