Friday, 3 January 2014

Blacking bottoms

Our next target was to get to Bulbourne in Buckinghamshire to get our bottom blacked in the first week of January 2014.  Narrow boats have to come out of the water every two or three years to have their hulls cleaned and repainted.  Sometimes they are craned out but we decided this time to go into a dry dock as this causes less stress to the boat.

Our journey entailed going back up the Oxford to Braunston and then picking up the Grand Union and heading south through Milton Keynes and Aylesbury.  A total of 62 locks over 78 miles.

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This was a largely uneventful journey until we moored overnight on the summit just before Norton junction.  At 4.30 in the morning we were woken by a wine bottle dropping on the floor and then another. Up we got and immediately fell over!  The summit level had dropped dramatically and we were listing badly (not that apparent in the photo).

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We ran to the next lock at Buckby but the gates were closed and the paddles were all down so all was OK there.  It must be a problem at the other end of the summit - 2 miles and a tunnel away at Braunston.  We rang Canal and River Trust (CRT) first and they were aware of the issue.  Someone had left paddles open at the top lock at Braunston since the previous evening.  They were closed as soon as CRT were aware but it took until 1.30 in the afternoon before we levelled up and could move off.

 We found some smashing places overnight moorings on our way to Milton Keynes.

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The swans in the Stoke Bruerne area had learnt to tap their beaks along the side of the boat until someone gets up and opens the hatches to feed them; however, we generally make a point of not feeding the waterfowl.

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When we got to Gayton we took a short detour up the Northampton arm to get our Boat Safety Certificate renewed (the equivalent to an MoT on a car).  Karen took the opportunity to do some late summer spring cleaning.

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It was October when we hit Milton Keynes; the canal runs to the east of the town and you are hardly aware Milton Keynes is there.

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We spent Christmas and New Year at Marsworth, making good use of the Red Lion of course!

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Karen insisted on having Christmas lights on the boat - the LED ones inside were so bright that we didn’t need any ordinary lights on!

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This is the view we woke up to on Christmas Day.

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There was a cracking New Year’s Eve sunset; quite different to New Year’s Day.  New Years’s Day 2014 was incredibly stormy and we had seven locks to climb to get to the dry dock in time.  Going past the reservoirs at Marsworth was like being on the beach on a windy day - waves were being whipped up and the water blown horizontally over the canal.  We were lucky enough to lock up with a fuel boat; they had to be out as well as they were delivering coal and gas to the lock houses on the Marsworth flight that did not have road access.

Anyway we finally made it to the dry dock and had to leave the boat there for the first two weeks of January.

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Here are the locks from Norton junction to Bulbourne:

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I must have fallen asleep as I missed locks 19 - 21 and 27/8.

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I also missed three of the Marsworth flight - still, it was lashing down with rain and really windy.

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