Yesterday was Bryn’s last full day with us. It was a bit chilly but the sun was around at times and he told us he had had a lovely relaxing time. He does love nature so had taken as much pleasure from seeing geese, ducks, herons, cormorants and kites as we do, if not more. He had been lucky enough to see the colourful mandarin drake and kingfisher. His last day saw his closest kingfisher yet and a lengthy view of a kestrel hovering.
It was a windy start to the day but we were waved off cheerily by the staff at Gayton marina. They were quite the smiliest group of staff I have met. It seemed a shame to be leaving so soon. Still we had places to be and people to see so leave we must.
We stopped off at a boat yard where Shane wanted to catch up with his new best friend, Gary. As we moored someone asked if we needed help. We were managing but it was a bit of a challenge in the high wind. It seemed to calm down after we had moored. The man told me where to find Gary and Shane went to find him. As the back deck was up, Bryn and I stayed inside and left Shane to chat to Gary and Josh. He was very satisfied with how it all went.
We had a rain shower and Bryn and I put the rain cover up – that stopped the rain. It was down again to get through a bridge. Despite the weather Bryn was still having fun and was delighted with this rainbow.
A boat in front of us was slow but pulled in to let us drive past. Then Bryn and I got off to do some shopping, leaving Shane to drive on and catch up with us two bridges further on. He had told us where to leave the towpath but it seemed further than expected and no sign of the bridge. He tooted at us and explained that his map didn’t match quite what we saw and we had already past the exit and gave instructions for a different route.
In the afternoon we had some locks to do. Shane had his eye on a boat ahead that he felt were making tracks for the locks and thought it would be good to catch them up and share the locks. That way we had lots of help on a set that we could remember were quite heavy going. We achieved our goal and the group in the other boat prided themselves in quick locking so were very happy to do whatever speeded up the whole procedure. The boats drove in simultaneously and the locks were all worked ahead so they could go straight in. I struggled to close some gates but help was on hand to get them done. At lock number 9, I was making no headway with closing the gate. A woman from the other crew came to help. We tried pulling together, then one pulling and one pushing, then one of us at each end pushing while the other pulled. A man from their crew came across and started likewise with us pulling then going round to try pushing but in the process fell backwards into the full lock. There was a look of panic or shock on his face but his head stayed above water and she managed to reach his hand. I went to help but he sensibly realised that being hauled out when he was out of his depth would be both hard for us and sore for him. Having reached the edge he said what he needed to do was get to the ladder at the side of the lock. He got himself along and out quite quickly. His companion said he should get straight back to the boat and he seemed unhurt so he dripped away . We soon concluded we would have to give up on the gate and report that it was stuck and we had had to leave it open.
When we had caught everyone up their wet friend was back aboard and pleased to say that his phone had been in the boat and not his pocket! Bryn was ahead helping with the last in the flight but there was a good gap and Shane decided we should stop here. At least we had helped right up to the last lock before leaving them to it.
Today Bryn and I did that last lock together. I was pleased it was one where I did succeed with the gate, though he had said we would manage with two of us. There was an unusual combo of items for sale in an honesty box.
We moored up and Shane got the tandem out so after helping pump up the tyres and connect up the cables, I had to let them leave. Bryn had packed light. He waved goodbye from the back. I don’t uually get to see the tandem in action from the side myself.
Ahead of us was another flight of locks going downhill and the Braunston tunnel. I drove in the tunnel and found it had a few wiggly bits. Again we met a boat coming the other way in the tunnel. One good thing today about driving in the tunnel was that there were no leaves there. All morning we had been slowed by leaves clogging the propeller and having to blast in reverse to free it up.
I was happy enough to be driving when we reached the locks, assuming they were heavy going again, not that it let me entirely off the hook for closing gates. We met a couple coming the other way and was told that there was a volunteer at the last lock to help. Unfortunately next time I reached a lock and had to get off to close the paddle, I saw that my windlass was not there. I realised I must have left it at a previous lock gate in my hurry to jump back on the boat. I had to run back two locks where the woman who had told me about the volunteer was walking towards me swinging two windlasses. That was a relief, not lost or taken. She must have wondered what idiot leaves their windlas behind and said the belts were good. She wasn’t wearing one herself and I wasn’t sure the long handled one would hang well from it, but it is worth considering.
When I returned, I found Shane had taken the opportunity to become the driver and I was on lock duty. We caught up with a pair of boats lashed together that had stopped half out of the lock. The man said there seemed to be a hold up ahead. I couldn’t see an issue but went to look. There seemed to be no problem but his travelling companion came to set the lock and I helped her. She was grateful as she was probably pretty tired having done them all herself. I walked back and let the man know the lock would soon be ready so he could move forward.
It was now starting to rain and the reported volunteer at the last lock was not in evidence. I hid from the rain in a doorway at the lock, while it filled.
I was glad of the warming quick lunch of leftover haggis. It brightened after lunch and though we were behind some slower boats, both pulled aside and took time to enjoy the sunshine. Shane complimented them on their sunny spot and scenic mooring.
He was glad they had pulled aside as we had not a lot of afternoon left to reach our destination. We made it before sunset to the moorings where we will be leaving Bartimaeus for the winter.