We decided almost definitely that our destination is Kinver and it made it easier to plan the voyage giving us a few weeks to get DB unpacked and ready to go to brokerage. I can write this sounding bright and cheery but I do feel sad that DB will no longer be our home. Cptn and I have had a number of life moves over our 27 years together and all our homes have been amazing whether they are little or large. We agree small spaces work and DB on water opens up the Waterways in England to us. I think one day if it is me myself buy yourself this record, I’d land a Narrowboat and live on that, I don’t need muddy waters and I’d put it into a ‘grand little design’ with a veggie garden. Dream on.....
The Oxford Canal is shared with the Grand Union from the Napton Bottom Lock. You don’t really see widebeam boats until the Canal junction, opposite Wigram Turns Marina, and the GU either goes to Birmingham or south to London. The Oxford Canal leaves the Grand Union Canal at Braunston Turn. Best to Google it! Turns or turn.....
We’re on the move. We did see a wide-beam boat once, probably 4 years ago cruising towards the Napton Locks. I remember saying “You shouldn’t be on here, it’s a narrow canal.” They had just bought the boat and brokerage must have said you can cruise until the winding hole before the narrow Locks. So true in hindsight.
We turned to Port and onto the GU to cruise to Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick then the Hatton Flight and beyond. It all felt better than the Oxford Canal (South). There was little moving traffic and when we arrived at the Stockton flight of 10 Locks we had 2 choices. If we were feeling ‘chilled’we could wait but I wanted to keep moving, so I said I’ll work the Locks while Cptn helmed. Sometimes our backs groan with winding the paddles. The paddles, at some Locks on the Oxford Canal were nasty turners. Now on the GU the first 3 x wide Locks back by Calcutt Marina were good, back on the hydraulic paddles and working one side of the Lock means 26 rotations winding up a paddle, upper limb work out but little risk of the windlass biting back!! There’s no need to obsess with working both the paddles either side to empty or fill the Lock. Leave that for Lock sharing. We were going down so if the Lock needs filling for DB to enter winding one paddle to open the sluice is enough. Likewise the same going down the Locks. Get the picture. Same result but it’s either wait and save energy or save 60 secs and use up energy. I’m fit for purpose and have no weight / wait issue but I’m past being a spring chicken.
Anyway we started the Stockton Locks, and pedestrian traffic passed on important information “There is a boat coming up the Locks.” Great I said and ask how many Locks away is it. I would look knowing I could see clearly 3 Locks ahead then more Locks but there was no clear definition of movement. Maybe in the distance there was someone. OK we started the move and after 2 Locks I was told there is a boat coming down obviously a Lock share opportunity for us both. The boat we eventually teamed up with was a ‘Tupperware’. This fibreglass boat dripping with fenders was happy to share the locks with steely DB and we had 3 pairs of hands to work the Locks. I could go ahead getting the Locks ready for ‘us’ boats. There is happiness in sharing a Lock!
At the end of the Stockton Locks we passed near to Long Itchington, the village where DB began as sheets of steel at Colecraft Engineering. We had no reason to stay here, we were on the move and rain was forecast. We found moorings later on in between some sections of Himalayan Balsam. That is near where the Begonias got beheaded!
Next morning DB was starting to ground, in fact the levels were dropping as soon as we moored up. Nothing we could do, cooking on a lean, that’s fun. So the shallows remained but we floated more or less, DB was resisting being pushed out but no big problem, as long as the Bow is floating the stern can be brought out using fair means...
A light rain was falling, Cptn was helming and an hour or so later we had the mooring we hoped for outside Lidl. Perfect, my favourite location to nibble croissants for brunch!
“I remember your beautiful boat”, said a person walking into Lidl’s. We often receive heart-felt comments about DB’s colourful decoration. She brings out a comment and smile in mostly everyone.
There are only so many trips needed to Lidl and I got to Morrison’s as well. Of course a Della-walk to nearby Pets at Home is essential where she could enjoy watching reality Guinea Pig TV. She loves the little creatures, and can get up close but not personal. A visit to ‘Pets at Home’ also includes the Dog Treats aisle where she makes sure to do the housework! No stealing from the bins but there must be some out of sight treat fall-out on the floor.
Enough shopping distraction, there was the mega flight of Hatton Locks waiting for us and we definitely wanted to share the Locks. It was Bank Holiday Monday so there must be boats on the move. We made our way to moorings near the Bottom Lock and it was all quiet on the Hatton front. We could be there for the rest of the day. There was a lot of foot traffic and I was tempted to invite a couple of people to share the Locks, but I kept my mouth shut. Thankfully a holiday boat arrived and we were happy to team up with them. There was a young guy called Billy on the boat who turned out to be a Lock Superstar. He had left his windlass at the previous Lock, at the Cape of Good Hope, only ½ mile away, so I loaned him one of our ‘found’ windlasses and he got to work. His mother disappeared she walked back to try and find the windlass!
I helmed up a few Locks being alert to the previous time we had taken DB up the Hatton Locks and DB’s cruiser stern rail had been grabbed by the protruding Lock gate arm which appeared to over-open and not stay flush with the Lock wall. I say ‘then’ because the gates must have been repaired, thank goodness, and DB was not attacked!!
Billy’s Mum returned clutching the forgotten windlass. I was surprised she found it, great. Her mother who was on board the rental boat had been in tears worrying about her daughter’s safety and concerned her ‘middle-aged’ daughter would go missing. They live in London, what does that say about London?
I got on with Locking. Again 3 people with windlasses make a big job less heavy. We had interest from some gongoozlers (GGs) and I asked them if they’d like to go up a Lock with Cptn on DB. Next thing 2 GG’s were on board with Cptn but their wives chose to remain on land. Happy chappies and I left them to get on with it. Hopefully one of them didn’t lose a hearing aid! At the Top Lock a random GG approached with a found ‘fallen’ hearing aid at a nearby Lock enquiring if it belonged to us. He ended up taking it to the nearby Café.
OK the Hatton done and we cruised to our favourite mooring on the Rowington Ridge. That is a happy place for us and worth a 2 night stop. Nearby I found Damson plums and greengages, I can’t refuse nature’s freebies. Damson jam is yum, I’ve heard damson gin is good but the jam takes the biscuit this time.
We cruised along to Kingswood Junction to move to the Stratford Upon Avon Canal and began another series of Locks. Back in the Narrow Locks and we were ahead of a ‘share’ boat, they were at a water point and I worked the Lock getting DB started going up a Lock giving me time to power walk to the shop to get sugar, how can you make jam without sugar? On my quick return DB was moving into the Lock ahead, helpful boaters (Australian that once was a Kiwi) so all good.
After the next Lock, I had time to be ferried in DB to Lock 14 and the upcoming flight of Locks. I was thinking sweet jam as Cptn was moving DB closer to the Towpath so I could jump to land! Suddenly the prop’ made a sickening-clanging-loud-squeal as a hidden obstacle carried out its attack. The facial expressions from GG’s seated near the towpath, mirrored our feeling for DB and her injured prop’. She could move but she didn’t sound happy. Best to move up the Locks and find a place to moor and Cptn could assess the damage. Cptn has a lot of tools on DB but the one he needed was not in the collection.
A fat hand holding a clamp (I made that vision up) is not powerful enough to bend steel in the confines of a weed hatch and DB was going to have to limp along. Cptn phoned around to find a dry dock and the possibility of repairing or replacing the prop. We both agreed that DB out of water would be an ideal time to black her hull.
Droitwich Marina was selected, they sounded extremely accommodating with short notice and we were booked in meaning we had 4 days to get there.