Coming back from the evening stroll last night we came across a pair of ducks lying at the edge of the towpath. They were getting themselves settled down for the night. I didn’t want to disturb them and we approached slowly but still the male stood up and I knew they were going to jump.

Unsettled drake near Bartimaeus on a snowy bank

It didn’t look a very comfortable spot, but heading into the water didn’t seem any warmer. Perhaps it is though, as the air temperature had dropped but the water may not have changed. He plopped into the water and the female rose to follow him in. We got closer to her, getting level before she dropped down from the bank. She paused contemplating the leap before going to join him.

Duck deciding if she should go down into the water

Being prepared to change plans is helpful to enjoying life on a boat. Many a mood has been spoiled by having a change of plan thrust upon one. I had thought we might stay put in the cold morning, perhaps have lunch in the highly recommended nearby pub then press on in the afternoon. There was ice in the water in the morning but only a thin layer and a thaw was already underway. Shane wanted to get going. He didn’t fancy locking on a full stomach, and the rain forecast had moved to earlier in the day. We had already thought of getting Cornish pasties from the local shop, as an alternative to the expensive pub, so he thought that we should just go there early and have them in stock. We got there and in stead of there being a wide array of warm bakery products, there were none. Either there is no delivery on a Saturday, or it was yet to come, so skip that plan and browse further. There were some nice looking samosas and a wholemeal loaf and we felt equipped. Shane got the lock ready and I set off. All ran smoothly enough. I felt the steering a bit sluggish, just as I was going between locks that were not lined up in a short pond, and of course there was a family watching. Anyway I made the turn alright and Shane reported someone had said “she’s done that before” so it must have looked easy enough. Shane had noticed that it seemed like I was “weeded” and could tell from the engine sound and speed of movement in the lock. Clearly I still had a lot to learn.

Shane was confident enough in the speed of thaw, that, despite previous thoughts about slippery surfaces today, he had recommenced his leap of faith across the narrow paired lock gates. They always make me nervous and I really didn’t want him slipping on the wet and falling in in this cold weather.

We had talked on the walk about what direction we would go at the junction though there would be no great worry about going the wrong way as it would be possible to turn round. To make sure I was in no doubt Shane made a signal to me to take the right hand lock ahead, as I exited the lock at the junction. He had readied the lock and the doors were already open. On the other side Shane had a long run round a house and I went to pull in for water. I felt perfectly lined up and jumped off, with my rope. I then realised that instead of returning to neutral, it was still running in reverse, so pulling the boat in forwards against the engine was unlikely to work. I jumped back on again and but the coil of rope was trailing behind. I was aware of keeping it out of the propellor and it was well away but as Shane arrived he was alarmed that there was rope in the water and a running engine. I was annoyed to have messed up getting in neatly, It had all looked perfect a few seconds earlier. Anyway we needed to be further forward for the water point and Shane was wanting to use the new short hose. The bollards were not well lined up for us for tying off. The hose still didn’t reach anyway. I tied up inelegantly at the back as it wasn’t at all near to the bollard and went inside while Shane sorted the hose out.

There having been very little activity all week, the small pond now had a lot of movement. A boat Smoke arrived and turned in fron the Grand Union. Shane had prepared the next lock, but now we had stopped for water, Smoke unwittingly jumped the queue (to be fair we had come out of the non existent queue) and got the advantage of the lock set for them. Another boat that had been moored set off and left the pond in the other. I looked out to find we were untied at the back. Shane had another suggestion of how to tie off in these less than perfect conditions. Yes still plenty to learn.

Shane had reset the lock when smoke had cleared it and so once he’d coiled the hose it was all ready for us again. I realised with the tying up fiasco that I was grumpy and it was lunchtime but we shouldn’t sit on the water point and we didn’t want another boat coming and having to reset the lock a third time so we went through. I could feel a few spots of rain so it was definitely time for lunch. The samosas were great and a lamb combined with a vegetable one was not far from a Cornish pastie but with an added spice.

We had arrived at a spot opposite a field of sheep and there was no fence so we had a clear view over. Strangely they were in a field set out like a gymkhana, but they did not seem interested in jumping, mind you nobody was riding them and spurring them on. A sheep is quite happy to jump up into the air of its own accord.

Sheep nearby and jumps in the distance

I rather liked the tranquil scene and was relieved that a poor weather forecast meant this was quite a good place to stop. As the rain eased Shane planned a walk and the route looked good, but it didn’t seem to ease enough to feel enjoyable so that plan was also shelved. I was able to enjoy the sheep a bit longer.

Sheep in the dark or late afternoon

We had not made much improvement in the charging up of the batteries but I made a quick tea that wouldn’t drain them too much and the plan, should it come to fruition is for a longer cruise tomorrow over more spaced out locks.