The signpost outside my port-hole, where we moored in Milton Keynes, reads 31 miles to Braunston.
Really, we have done all those miles over a couple of days of cruising not to mention 2 tunnels and 17 Locks.
We did take a rest day and spent a day in the middle taking time out doing what life on the Canal is believed to be all about. Resting, no hurry, what a wonderful life. The thought is there. We do variations on the thought it has to be said and mostly we are focused on moving!
We moored DB in a Lock pound, 3 Locks up from Braunston outside the pub that does great food, The Admiral Nelson. Our intention was to moor just before the third Lock as there had been space for DB. But when we got there ‘holiday-boaters’ had taken 'our' space. 'You can't always get what you want...' is luck on the Cut. We could have reversed back 100m to a mooring but we were moving on up and that would mean one less Lock the following day. The mooring was good and quiet and we had tied up using mooring pegs.
The pub dinner was excellent and we slept well that night. I woke before 4am as dawn was over. I got out of bed and I immediately realised DB was leaning to port and there no motion of being on the water. A look through a Porthole confirmed the ‘pond’ was empty and we were grounded on mud.
“Right” I said, “DB has grounded and I’m going outside to check the Lock below to make sure the paddles have not been left open and then I’m going to walk up alongside the 3 Locks ahead and wind up the starboard paddles and get water flowing to flood ‘our’ pound.”
|Who pulled the plug?|
Wow, once upon a time when I was a ‘newbie’ boater I couldn’t have acted dynamically in this situation! Now it is the obvious solution and with my windlass. at hand, DB refloated within 30 minutes. Luckily Cptn, carrying a windlass was following my footsteps and wound the paddle I had missed.
Anyway I had planned for an early start because the Braunston Tunnel (2042yds) was close and I was chancing that there would be no oncoming boats and I could get DB through that black hole with no steel on steel kisses.
As soon as DB was floating Cptn untied the ropes and I got the Lock Gates open. We were underway. I worked the Locks and took over the helm before the Tunnel entrance. In my head I crossed my fingers for no boat traffic and once enveloped by the tunnel the view ahead was the dim daylight at the exit hole beckoning a long way away. But I could see it and the tunnel was clear. Focus Sarah focus. You may think helming a more-or-less straight path of water would be easy but to keep DB in line meant constant turning of the wheel (clockwise..anticlockwise..). Cptn says the tiller is easier than the wheel negotiating a Tunnel. I had one meeting with the wall of the tunnel but I got myself in line.
My line of vision in the black space is always looking along port (left) and using the water line as the measure. The tunnel opened in 1796, is 1.867m long and 4.8m wide 3.76m high. It has a slight S bend. There is room, just, for 2 Narrowboats to pass. I was glad to get to the end and said “Yay no boats!” as DB exited the tunnel.
I shouted (that’s the only way to be heard over a running engine) to the first oncoming boat that met DB and I said with a smile “Nice morning, good to see you, I’m glad we didn’t meet in the tunnel. Haha.”
|Wide Locks, DB can share or stretch out|
We teamed up with NB Elizabeth Jane to go down the 7 Buckby Lock flight. I and the Cptn from NbEJ worked the final 4 Locks after helming down the first 3. There was a boat, in front of us, who were new owners and they got into difficulty at the next Lock. Obviously when you are Locking you keep your eye on traffic ahead which determines whether to leave the Lock gates open or shut them. I could see far enough in the distance that the boat ahead was going up the Lock, the paddles were up letting in water and the Stern end of the boat was coming into view. Aha he people in front of us. Hmmm what is going on. Once I had opened our Lock Gates I walked the distance to the next Lock and met a slightly distressed woman who had managed well when their boat had got its ‘prop’ caught on the Cill as the Lock was emptying. Quick reaction means close the paddles immediately to stop any more water leaving the Lock and open the paddles at the other end to refill the Lock until the boat is floating again. I think that it happens to every boatie, once and then it will never happen again. It has happened to us. Always keep the boat stern forward of the white painted line marking the Cill when going down Locks. I gave reassuring words to the woman and her partner and said it happens to most people on canal boats and that was part of the boat learning curve. Respect for the Cill and staying alert working the Lock.
Next day I had another Tunnel and Lock challenge. The Blisworth Tunnel opened in1805. There was major rebuilding of the Tunnel in the 1980’s. It is 2.813m long and 4.6m wide. There is enough room for 2 Narrowboats to pass. I just realised, as I’m writing this, that the Harecastle Tunnel is 2.676m long, hah 137m shorter than the Blisworth!!
|This is like my view helming the Blisworth Tunnel.|
I entered the Blisworth Tunnel with obviously the boat light on but the tunnel is dark with no glimmer of the tunnel exit ahead. Cptn had turned on a halogen light to shine out from the wheelhouse but this was too light-bright near me. I struggled with myself keeping DB comfortably in line. I had a mild panic but held it together and was better when the halogen lamp got moved out of my visual field. All I could see was the shine of the water in my visual-line beside me and I aimed to keep that as my marker. For a short time, I was going at tic speed and Cptn said it would be better to increase my speed so I did. Phew no oncoming boats, and it seemed like ages until I saw daylight signal the end of the tunnel in the distance. Focus Sarah focus. There were the occasional heavy showers of water along the way. First I could hear the sound of water then I could see DB getting the shower of water which meant I was going have a hair wash. Oh well the shower was over until the next one.
What joy to get out of the Tunnel and I was keen to operate the 7 Locks at Stoke Bruerne to take away my tunnel tension. That turned out to be physical work-out. Those Locks are hard, it wasn’t winding the paddles but the weight of opening some of the gates into the overfull pounds. Quad strength and good shoe grip were called for! Man I’m nearly 60 but the girl is still there!!!
Live and let live. Hopefully my hormones are moving towards an even keel!!
|Inside DB looking out!|