Thursday, 23 May 2013

Crick a Day Early!

Thursday 23rd May, 2013 at Crick.
We made an early start, taking advantage of a window of sunshine and hoping to get ahead of the forecast rain. It was very cold and windy, but we loved the journey up to Braunston Junction where the Oxford Canal meets the Grand Union. M remarked that canal junctions are always fascinating as the turning one doesn't take always looks so inviting! However, this is a good thing as it means that there is always something to look forward to another time!
Braunston was familiar to both of us, having visited it a couple of times. We finally moored up there and enjoyed a (very) late Hobbit's first breakfast. In the course of the morning, we were joined by a number of boats also heading for Crick, including two brand new exhibition boats built by S.M. Hudson, one of which was a sailaway painted only in primer. We also passed another Kingsground boat, nb "Bosley Bell" whose owners said they were still delighted with her after 13 years.
Braunston tunnel, at 2,042 yards, is the longest that we have done to date.  It was weird to see the light of an oncoming boat and very difficult to judge distance until suddenly the other boat was very close!
Norton Junction is where the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union splits off from the main line. It is a very tight turn past the Old Toll House but we were soon heading off to the north.
After a brief but heavy shower, we arrived at Watford locks, a set of seven locks with the middle four being a staircase, where the top gate of one lock is the bottom gate of the next with no "pound" in between. This was our first experience of a staircase. We arrived to find a queue of half a dozen boats in front of us, so we had a long wait before we could start through. M walked up to reconnoitre, which turned out to be a good thing as she discovered that you have to book your place in the queue with the lock keeper. Eventually the two very friendly lock keepers told us to go up through the first two "normal" locks and then to wait at the bottom of the staircase for three boats to come down.
As we started up the staircase the rain, which had returned, turned (to our astonishment and discomfort) to hail - then we were even more astonished when it started to snow! Well it was nearly June in England after all, so perhaps we should not have been so surprised! M remarked very drily that we shouldn't have left the electric blanket at home. It was cold enough to see your breath in a cloud in the air.
The staircase of locks looked very attractive with troughs of summer flowers. It also looked quite intimidating although dealing with the weather did take our minds off our apprehension. Once the lock keepers explained the process, it became quite straight forward and we reached to top about two hours after we first joined the queue.
After that, it was plain sailing into Crick through Crick tunnel, just 1,528 yards long. Almost immediately beyond the tunnel we arrived at Crick Marina. We had made such good time that we were a day ahead of ourselves as we had not planned to arrive before Friday. Many boats had already arrived and were moored up two abreast along the towpath. Boat names for each mooring point were written on notices hung in the hedge running along the towpath, but the writing was so small that we couldn't read it from the boat. We pulled in to an empty space so that M could jump ashore to find our allocated place, only to find that the space we were in had our name on it! Serendipity!
As we moored up, we saw that the boat behind us belonged to Terry Darlington the author of the book "Narrow Dog to Carcassonne".
We were also interested to see nb "Cumbria", which featured as the Canal Boat Magazine "Boat of the Month" recently, the first boat built by a new company in the Lake District.
After dinner we walked in to Crick village to take a look around. Surprisingly, the little Co-op store was still open and we were able to pick up a "few bits" to see us through the next few days.
Today: 11 miles, 13 locks and 7.0 hours.
Trip: 51 miles, 45 locks and 28.1 hours.

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