Thursday, 25 October 2012

Oxford at Last - This Time in MM!!

Thursday 25th October, 2012, finally in Oxford.
Because we have been running the engine much faster than normal to counterbalance the fast flowing Thames, we have been getting through diesel at a much faster rate than normal and arrived in Abingdon showing only a quarter on the guage. R decided to fill up at the marina opposite our mooring to be on the safe side. Unfortunately a massive cruiser (a real gin palace) pulled into the marina's service bay just before us, so we had to wait for them to fill up with diesel and water and to have a pump-out before we could get on to the service bay. We pulled up behind them and hovered in the middle of the river flow as the gentleman on board reassured us that his wife had "just gone in to settle up."
Hovering in the middle of a fast flowing river is not the easiest thing to do - but we sat there for over half an hour. Not sure what the lady was doing, but she certainly was not in a hurry to do it!! We were not amused. Finally, she came out of the shop and they left.  With great restraint, we refrained from giving them a two-fingered wave. 
We filled up with diesel and found that we had been using 3 litres an hour coming up the Thames - that is more than twice our normal fuel consumption!
Because of the delay in waiting to get fuel, we were much later starting than we had hoped and so we were running against the clock all day in order to get Clare up to Oxford before dark.
Although the sky was a bit brighter, the temperature plummeted; it became very cold steering on the back of MM but despite this, Clare seemed to be enjoying herself very much.
At Sanford Lock there was great excitement as we met nb "Clodagh," another Kingsground boat that was launched only yesterday!!!  She is Kingsground's 112th build (MM is 106) and what an absolutely beautiful boat she is. She is the very last new build to come out of Kingsground's Upper Heyford workshop as their lease is up and they are now having to move their workshop to the marina at Enslow.
It was wonderful to see the happy and proud faces of Toby and Alex, the owners, who were mooring up above the lock for a celebratory glass of champagne. It brought back lovely memories of our first day on MM - in fact, the joy and pride we still feel in MM.
It was a relief finally to pass through Iffley Lock and to know that we are now safely clear of the EA winter maintenance program.  Hooray!
Iffley Lock will close on 1st November for four months for maintenance. Just above the lock was a flock of geese who seemed very pleased to see us too.
Finally, we turned off the Thames into the curiously named "Sheepwash Channel" and then through the narrow "Isis" lock and on to the Oxford Canal at last. The lock felt so tiny after all the broad locks that we have done in MM since last October!
There were still a lot of boats on the visitors' moorings, but we managed to find a space and squeeze MM in - although we were resting against the neighbouring boats at the bow and stern!
It was getting dark as we walked Clare up to the railway station to take the train back to her car in Goring. We said a fond farewell to her. We do hope that she will come back again soon - it has been so great to have her to stay with us.
Today: 9 miles, 4 locks and 5.6 hours.
Trip: 340 miles, 325 locks and 323.5 hours (477.4 total).

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