Lock Heavy

We planned our itinerary for this week to give Heather and Benny an interesting ride while ending up at a railway station.  We had plenty of time for a trip through the Braunston Tunnel yesterday as long as we came back through it today and continued along the Grand Union Canal.

Bartimaeus Exiting Braunston Tunnel
Bartimaeus Exiting Braunston Tunnel

We had just moored up when I saw that I’d had a message from Rob at Ortomarine offering to come to replace the solar panels (and the drive belt) on Thursday.  We immediately accepted the offer, and then started to work out how to get to a railway station despite a day unexpectedly spent stationary.  We decided that we could continue with the original plan, but that we would have to make a bit more of a dash than originally planned.

I had a quick breakfast and set off before the others had finished theirs.  A quick spin at Long Buckby Junction got us heading back to the tunnel.  There was light rain before the tunnel, but the usual rule of tunnels applied – the weather is very often different at the other end.  In this case, we emerged in to sunshine and it stayed with us for the rest of the day.

The Braunston locks were surprisingly busy for the end of October.  There were two boats coming out of every lock as we approached.  We worked through the first lock alone, but waited for another boat that had appeared behind, and went through the remaining five locks with them.

Approching Braunston Junction
Approaching Braunston Junction

We were trying to make up time, so after we left Braunston we had lunch in shifts on the move.  That way we were fuelled ready for the lock heavy afternoon to come.  By early afternoon we were approaching the Calcutt Locks.  In stark contrast to the morning experience we met only one boat in the locks in the afternoon.

The paddles on the locks on this section have a different mechanism to most others.  The square spline at the foot of the posts is the wrong size for the fancy windlass we normally use the most.  Fortunately we have three “vanilla” windlasses, so our crack locking team were all able to be fully equipped.

Shortly after leaving the first flight of locks, Heather excitedly shouted from the front “two kingfishers”. And there they were – perched on the side.  They flew before we reached them – as usual.  Just as we were reaching their new perch, a third flew past us from behind and all three took off together along the canal. Heather managed to get a better picture than we ever do.

Kingfisher on a Branch
Calcutt Kingfisher

I had concluded that if we reached Bascote, we’d have a reasonable chance of getting our guests to their train on Friday.  We arrived there a little before 4pm.  The water was running low, so we went straight to the water point.  Filling up can sometimes take half an hour or more, but the flow here was extremely fast.  We were completely full and and it still wasn’t 4pm – probably our fastest water fill ever.  I flung the hose aboard and tidied it away as Heather drove us towards the next set of locks.

We managed to get through another small flight of locks (including a staircase) and reach Welsh Road Lock before sunset.  We should have no trouble getting to the station from here on Friday at a more sedate pace.

We are all pretty tired after a nine hour continuous day with 23 double locks.  It felt a bit like some of the holidays that first got me in to canal boating – trying to get as far as we could (at least around the ring) in the rental period. I’ve enjoyed it immensely, but I’ll happily go back to dawdling.