Careful Planning

One of the things that keeps me occupied when we are on the boat is planning.  We have to keep an eye on levels in our tanks and batteries, not to mention stocks in the fridge and larder, and where we can get them sorted.  We sometimes have to co-ordinate getting guests to and from railway stations.  We also have to travel only in daylight, and preferably when it isn’t raining.  This week, the broken central heating has meant I have had to add in to the mix making sure we have enough charge in the batteries to keep warm.  We have mostly managed this by driving long-ish days with the heating on.  By the end of the day we have a warm cabin and full batteries to keep us warm overnight.

Yesterday morning there was frost on our mooring rope when we cast off at 10am despite the steelwork on the other side of the boat feeling warm to the touch in the sunshine.  The clear sky had allowed the overnight temperature to drop, but gave us an enjoyable days cruising.

The clear sky continued in to the evening.  When we came back from our curry, there was already frost on the grass alongside the boat.  The batteries kept us warm in to the evening, but by the morning, inside the boat was pretty chilly.  We took the edge off the temperature during breakfast, but then set off in the rain to the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum hoping it would be warmer than inside the boat.  It was, but not by much.  We all wandered around with our coats still on.

By the time we’d had enough of the museum the rain was off.  We went across the canal and straight in to The Boat pub.  Apparently this had been called the Navigation Inn several centuries ago.  That name now belongs to the other canal-side pub, a few boat lengths away.

The fire in the bar made my mind up straight away, we’ll stay here for a bit!  We weren’t all ready for lunch yet, so we ordered drinks. Clare spotted an unusual skittles game and insisted we all had a go.  My rib had been a bit sore in the morning, and I winced at the thought of lifting a heavy ball.  Skittles in the Sheep Heid in Edinburgh involves flinging myself full-length after the ball – that wasn’t happening.  It turned out to be a much gentler game – “played under-arm” with small wooden discs.

Pub Skittles Game.  A small table set in to the wall has an arrangement of small skittles to be knocked down.  A player has just thrown a small disc which has knocked down many of the skittles.
Shane Knocks Some Skittles Down
We didn’t have a long game, but I seemed to be getting the hang of it as my score went up one each time I tried.  I’m assured by Clare and Bryn that they were letting me win as it was my birthday.
Skittles chalkboard.  A chalkboard for recording skittles scores.  four scores each are recorded for B C and S.  S has the highest total having scored 5 6 7 8.
Skittle Score Board

Once we were all hungry enough we all settled on their “small” Sunday Roast.  We were all happy with our portion sizes.  I don’t usually have a Sunday roast without a bike ride, but I’m reckoning I’m using up a few extra calories trying to keep warm.

We cast off just before 2pm and were almost immediately in the Blisworth Tunnel.  This isn’t the first time we’ve been through it.  The canal is pretty quiet just now, but even so we managed to meet a boat coming the other way when we were about half way through.  The reflections on the water and the lack of other visual context makes it difficult to see just how close the oncoming boat is.  On close approach we both slowed right down and passed each other without touching.

Two narrowboats passing in a tunnel.  The view is from the steering position of one of the boats.  The light at the end of the tunnel can be seen over the roof straight ahead.  The tunnel walls are made of jointed rings of concrete illuminated by the light of the oncoming boat.
Meeting in Blisworth Tunnel

We didn’t meet any other boats in the tunnel, but the northern end seemed to have a few more cascades of water in the centreline.  We were all out on the back deck, so unfortunately got a little bit wet, but nothing to be upset about.

Narrowboat driver in a tunnel.  The face of someone driving a narrowboat is illuminated in a ghostly fashion from below by the light of a control panel.  Behind the light from a receding narrowboat casts a ring of light on the tunnel wall.  The light at the far end of the tunnel is bright but small.
Ghostly Boat Driver

Those of you who have been paying attention might by now be wondering how we are going to get the boat warm and the batteries charged before nightfall.  Less than two miles from the tunnel exit is Gayton Marina – a very short distance down the Northampton Arm.  As I had hoped, we were able to stay in the marina for a night with electric hook-up.

The very helpful staff opened the bridge to let us in and guided us to our berth.  There was £5 worth of electricity on the post when we arrived.  They were initially surprised when I said I would like to buy more for just one night, but I explained that we were going to be using it for heating.  As soon as we were plugged in, we turned the oven and a fan heater on.  We’ll let things keep warming up, we don’t expect it to get too hot inside.  Meanwhile the batteries are also being charged.  Tomorrow we will be able to start cruising with a warm cabin and full batteries.  The overnight temperatures are forecast to be a little warmer for the next couple of nights too.