The southern end of the Oxford Canal is Isis Lock which drops on to a back water of the River Thames called Castle Mill Stream. We don’t want to head off down the Thames just now, so we need to turn back. There is a winding hole just above the lock, but it is only suitable for boats up to 52 feet in length – no use to us. So we have to go down through the lock to have the space to turn.
At the lock is a board indicating the strength of the stream in the river. Unsurprisingly, this was flashing green lights – there hasn’t be a significant flow since spring.
The board also had a sequence of diagrams showing the safe way to wind below the lock. I suspect there have been one or two scary incidents in the past where an inexperienced or overconfident skipper has tried to cross a strong stream. There is a floating jetty just below the lock which many complain about – it is in just the place you want to put your boat to get out of the stream. The recommendation is to tie the bow of your boat to this jetty and then push the stern in to the stream, while moving the bow rope back along the jetty.
I decided that in today’s conditions I could manage without the rope – or even a helper – but I did keep to the spirit of the guidance by putting the nose against the jetty. The flow in the Castle Mill Stream was undetectable and I turned with no difficulty at all.
While I had been turning, another boater had arrived above the lock and was waiting (facing backwards) to use the lock after us. The winding manoeuvre took under five minutes, and filling the lock takes about the same time, so we hadn’t held him up very much.
We headed off back up the canal, passing last night’s mooring point after more than an hour – turning a narrowboat is something you can’t always do on a whim. In this direction I was keen to operate the locks and bridges as Clare had done them before. I was still caught out by the bridge that operates like a see-saw. I knew it needed to be unlocked, but the key goes in to a strange post that is part of the bridge. A helpful boater who was getting water nearby put me right and I enjoyed swinging on, and then sitting on, the counterbalance arm. As Clare went through she said there was now a boat coming the other way. I stayed seated and she waved them through after her. By the time I had shut the bridge and retrieved my key there was a car waiting to cross. Altogether a much busier experience than before.
We stopped for lunch and then walked to two supermarkets in Kidlington (the other supermarket was available). On the way we saw a sign suggesting a well known fast food chain had changed direction (other fast food chains are available).
We continued on to the peaceful moorings in Thrupp. I’d hoped that we might be able to get electric hook-up at the Thrupp Canal Cruising Club to run an equalisation charge on our batteries. I spoke to someone there about it. He explained that the amount of electricity drawn by boats like ours meant they could no longer afford to simply include it in the standard price. The rules on re-sale of electricity require them to take meter readings before and after our visit. Their existing systems only allow this to be done manually, so they had decided not to bother at all. We have simply stayed on the public moorings.
Meanwhile, we have heard back from Ortomarine. Rob now thinks he should be able to replace our solar panels while we are in Edinburgh. He seems to have confused himself about our itinerary and didn’t realise we were going to be in Banbury last week. He did however find a video of us travelling through Banbury that is yet to go viral on twitter.