Monday, 3 October 2016

And so, the end is near!

Well, that is virtually it for us this year. We are now back in the marina. The exterior of the boat has had a good wash and polish, the weather remaining kind for us. Just the interior to sort out now and try to work out the logistics of emptying the boat without my car.

It has been an interesting few weeks since the last post. We have been on very familiar territory, but none the worse for that. The top pound of the Leicester line has some lovely scenery, is mostly rural, with many a mooring away from the crowds.

But. Do not hit Foxton locks on a sunny Sunday!

After leaving our mooring at Welford junction, we wended our way north. It was a bright autumnal day and still shorts weather, although Ali would dispute that... We debated whether to moor up above the locks, but decided to go for it. We were fourth in the queue and initially, it looked as if it may well be a long old day. But, once the three boats ascending had cleared, it was decided that all six waiting would proceed down.

It was however, a very slow passage. I really do not know why, as the boats ahead of us had a good number of crew, but progress was slow. The gongoozlers were out in force as well. Whilst Ali can engage with them, me sitting over a diesel engine, in the lock, is a tad more cut off from conversation. But yes, we do have a toilet!

Once at the bottom, we did a shuffle and reversed out of the junction to the visitor moorings away from the footfall and left in relative peace. On the Monday,we had arranged for Sam (Foxton Boat Services) to service the boat and our mooring allowed him to walk from his home, over the bridge, to complete this. Monday was miserable, cold and wet, so we were glad to sit tight. The only problem here was the poor telephony. We had internet, just. And TV after a bit of jiggling. I suppose it's not that surprising when you look at the geography of the area.

Later on Monday afternoon we had a phone call from Karen & Ian, NB Serenity, they were moored behind us, we knew they were heading to Foxton but didn't expect them in the rain, but they had not had not hit the rain until nearing Foxton.  We had a lovely afternoon catch up followed by an evening meal and a few drinks.  On Tuesday they were heading off up the locks so we gave them a hand (with a little hang over!), John even found a windless and used it!  At the top we were kindly rewarded with a bacon buttie before they set off towards Crick, on their journey around the Leicester ring. It was lovely to meet up with them again.  On return to Triskaideka, NB Suffolk Punch passed us, so 3 Beacon boats within the space of a mile, that doesn't happen very often!

After a few days in Foxton, we made the five mile excursion to the lovely Market Harborough. We like this market town. Not too big and with a good range of shops. We decided to moor up in the basin. This costs £10 per night, but electric is included in this. I think some resent paying for a mooring, but since the last time we were hooked up was in Bristol, we went for the luxury option. This enabled us to do a mega wash and dry, on the boat. When you consider that a launderette visit often costs us well over £20, that ability alone paid for our visit.

We had three days in the basin. Meeting up one day with Ali's niece Helen and her rapidly growing son Noah. His vocabulary is now expanding enormously. We also managed a mega shop and used the very reasonably priced local taxi to get us and our baggage back to the boat.

By Saturday morning. It was time to unhook the landline and bid farewell to this lovely town. Then the debate. Should we ascend the locks today? Well, given the internet is far better above and that as we arrived with not a boat waiting to ascend, we decided up we go. There were four boats on the way down, which enabled us to have a spot of lunch and as we waited, another boat rolled up to ascend.

We have done this flight, many many times. That is not to say we are blasé about them, as we take care in every lock, but they are very familiar. Passage is controlled by a lock keeper, assisted by volunteers who now form the bulk of the staff. They are present to police the movement and advise and assist when required. The helmsperson always remains in control. It very nearly went badly wrong for us!

Now I should state, that I am not a CRT or volunteer detractor by any means. But...

It all started well. Me at the helm and Ali actually working the locks. Entering the lower staircase we began the ascent. About half way up the first staircase, I had entered the upper chamber. There was some form of obstruction preventing the gates closing behind me, very possibly a pipe fender or the like. No amount of jiggling or prop wash appeared to be able to shift it, so Ali went to look for one of the CRT staff to assist. Both of us imagined a Keb (a long handled rake like tool) would be employed in an attempt to remove the obstruction. So I sat in the upper chamber with the gates open behind me awaiting development's.

A pair of volunteers arrived. Ali explained the problem and without any consultation, one was instructed by the other to open the paddle in the lower chamber. And I do mean fully open! I suddenly became aware that the boat was being drawn rapidly backwards into the rapidly emptying lower chamber. Now a number of things computed here. Am I going to end up pivoting on the cill, then plunging down into the rapidly emptying chamber being the primary thought. I engaged near full power to maintain the boat in the upper chamber, whilst shouting for the paddle to be dropped Now! Ali was having the same conversation. Ali can be extremely forceful when required.

The paddle was dropped and the relief was palpable. It appears the intention was to drop me onto the floor of the upper chamber, thus exposing the cill and the offending obstruction. Apart from the fact that this put both me and the boat in jepordis, it was the total lack of any communication that was really concerning.

The obstruction cleared by possibility dropping into the lower chamber whilst I was engaging full power to maintain position . I probably blew it off with manic prop wash! Anyway, our equilibrium restored, we carried on up without further drama. That is not to say we were not perturbed by the incident and the more we thought of the possible consequences, the more we believed that this must be reported. An incident report was duly submitted and we have had an initial contact from a chap called Lee King! ( You really could not make it up!)

With hindsight, this was the nearest we have ever been to sinking. That was a very sobering experience and somewhat scary.

So Sunday we rested and went to the pub. Then we wended south, calling into Welford as a diversion and to make use of the services. We were due to enter the Marina on Saturday, but the good weather we were enjoying was due to end then, so we decided to go in early. This has enabled us to wash and polish in sunshine and also attend a rugby match. We must be talismans, as Northampton won, just.

The forecast rain arrived on Saturday, so a good move to call it a day a little earlier. We have jobs to complete over the next few weeks, but effectively our summer cruise is now over. Bar a resume of the year, it's time to put the blog to bed for a while.

40 miles.
22 locks.
4 moveable bridges
Husband's Bosworth tunnel x 2