Going It Alone

My train journey from Edinburgh went almost to plan.  There was a problem with the overhead wires near Wigan, so my train was diverted via Manchester instead, taking an extra hour in doing so. A further diversion to avoid Birmingham then saved some time and took me to Rugby without my original change at Crewe.  I was still nearly an hour late at Northampton, but I’ve had worse journeys.

I found an electric scooter at the front of the station and soon found my way on to the towpath.  The scooter zone extends to the foot of the main flight of locks but no further.  It only took me 25 minutes to do the five miles or so to the scooter boundary.  Holding the throttle with my thumb was starting to get uncomfortable by the end, but otherwise it was a pleasant trip. I had to take my steed a little distance from the canal before it would let me park and then walk the remaining two miles.

It was a pleasant evening, though the wind was strong and cool in my face.  I got back to the boat before the bus I could have used instead had arrived at the station.

I set off this morning with a mission to deliver the side doors to Gary in Nether Heyford.  As arranged I manoeuvred on to the slipway inside the marina.  It involved two right angle turns in a brisk wind.  It went well enough, but I did arrive at the jetty with quite a thump, I was blown sideways on to it, there was little I could do.  Gary sent one of his team to remove the doors – to my surprise he brought no tools.  It took him several seconds to simply lift each door up off its hinges.  No time for a photographic record!

Boat doors.  The side of a narrowboat with a pair of doors visible between two large windows.
Original Side Doors on Bartimaeus

I agreed with Gary that we’d come back next week.  The wind made it difficult getting away from the jetty, but I had just about managed when two of his team arrived carrying a barge pole.  They had assumed I would need help and were coming to provide it.  I had just managed to get away by then, but thanked them for the thought.  Once out of the marina I reversed back a few boat lengths and tied up.  It was lunch time and I knew the farm shop in Bugbrooke was a short bike ride away.  I returned with a pastie and another loaf of marmite bread.

I have a choice of itineraries for today and tomorrow.  Either way I need to be somewhere convenient for Clare to join tomorrow.  In the pleasant conditions I opted to press on.  There wasn’t much else moving, but it was disconcerting as I approached a sunken boat and could see something else in the water.  With nobody else on board to go forward to look I steered slowly past.  I think it was a floating piece of the inside of the sunken boat.

Mystery Object.  View from the driving position of a narrowboat looking down the side of the boat.  In the water ahead is the top of a large white boat sunken at the side of the canal.  An object pokes out of the water nearby.  It is brown so could be rusty metal or wood, and may or may not be floating.
Wreckage on the Starboard Bow

I didn’t want to moor up each time I wanted a hot drink, so several times I found a straight section of canal and slipped the boat in to neutral – it keeps going, but doesn’t tend to slew sideways.  I was then able to pop down to the kitchen and put the kettle on.  A second visit to pour got my my usual drink as I drove along.

By mid-afternoon I had reached the bottom of the Norton Lock Flight.  There are seven double locks, each quite deep.  I had thought to to have a short rest before tackling them, but as I approached I saw a boat coming out.  One of the crew beckoned me in, so in I went.  He closed the gate behind me and then wished me well and headed off.

I grabbed a windlass and the centre rope and headed up the ladder.  I tied the rope to a bollard and then opened the near side ground paddle and then the far side gate paddle.  I’d recently seen someone use this technique in similar locks.  The water flow from both tends to push the boat to the side it is already sitting at.  Once the water is high enough the other paddles can be opened too.

By the time the lock was full I could see two boats coming out of the next lock – great timing.  As I came out of that one, I used the strop at the back of the boat to ensure it wouldn’t drift off while I was closing the gate behind me.

On a Strop.  A narrowboat sits at the side of a canal.  I short length of rope -  a strop - ties it to a bollard at the stern.
Bartimaeus Taking a Strop

I took a little longer to get through the flight than when we had been with Bryn in November, but this time I didn’t have a curfew of sunset before 4pm.  I came on through Norton Junction and moored up for something to eat.  It wasn’t far by bike to the high-class supermarket in Daventry (other high-class supermarkets are available), so I went to top up our coffee supplies.

I realised that the network connection was a lot better a little further on, so once I got back to the boat I moved on to a handy spot I’d seen from the bike.  It’s been a long day, but very satisfying.

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