By the time we got up this morning, a number of other boats had moved on. Our breasted-up neighbours had suggested they would be away quite early, so I made a point of opening up the rear doors and hatch. As I did so, I could see the folk who had been squeezed in immediately behind us moving their boat along the moorings a bit. The two large boats that were the other side of them from us had clearly left already.
Our neighbour returned from the shops and soon they set off too. Almost simultaneously, Early Byrd cast off. Both boats had to go round another boat arriving to take Early Byrd’s place. The jetty was thinning out, it now looked quite full, rather than packed. Clare went to the shop before we set off ourselves. I was keen to get going because I could see the sun on the other side of the river, but not on our panels – and it was chilly in the shade.
The panels started soaking up the power as soon as we set off – and I pulled back on the throttle let the current do the work. It wasn’t long before we were overtaken by a couple of people in a canoe. They seemed to have the benefit of a sail to catch the wind too, but I’m not sure it was being very effective.
Several powered boats passed us. The river was so wide that it was usually possible for them to pass on whichever side they chose. Mostly the un-powered boats passed on our right, and the powered ones on our left. We spotted a moored boat we’d glimpsed in Wallingford but didn’t managed to photograph – called Shane!
Clare took over driving for a bit – the river seemed wide, slow and empty. She hadn’t been driving long when we saw something strange happening in the water ahead. As we approached it became apparent that Early Byrd had gone aground upstream of a little island. A plastic boat was tied to her bow and trying to tow her off. Some canoeists were also in the vicinity and a man was wading in the water nearby.
As we approached things started to resolve, so we decided to drift on by. We could hear confused shouting over engine noise about disconnecting the towing line as we drifted away. The rescuing boat overtook us a short while later and we praised their heroics.
Shortly before the lock we were overtaken by a boat we had seen mooring up last night. They seemed to make a point of passing us on our left despite there being several boat lengths of clear water between us and either bank. Perhaps they viewed us as hogging the middle lane. As we approached the lock half a mile or so later, I recognised them again on the lock jetty. I could also see the “Self Service” sign at the lock, which explained why they were still there. The lock gates started to open so I speeded up so as to follow them in and not hold things up too much.
Before I reached the gates they started to close again. I sounded the horn, but the gates continued to close. It wasn’t very hard to stop, but it was slightly harder to then manoeuvre towards the lock jetty. Clare was at the front holding a rope and trying to tell me something. The white noise from the weir made it impossible to hear, but I reckoned we had the time it takes for the lock to empty and I was expecting to have to fight the current as it refilled.
We’d just got to the jetty when the gates started to open again, so in we went. The woman who had been operating apologised for the confusion. She obviously hadn’t noticed us, but seemed to think she couldn’t simply open the gates again when half closed, so she had closed them fully and then closed and re-opened the sluices before opening the gates. I don’t think this was necessary at all, but I was grateful to her for doing what she thought was the right thing after a simple mistake.
Just beyond the lock, mooring is permitted for 24 hours at Pangbourne Meadows. It was already lunch time, so we decided to stop. We noticed a section of bank between trees that looked the right length for us. I turned to let Clare jump off the bow with a mooring spike. The stern drifted in with less than a foot to spare – perfect.
In the evening, when Clare had nearly finished making dinner, I took a table on to the stern deck so that we could eat up there. A narrowboat came by and the woman driving asked if they could moor up alongside. She seemed surprised, and then delighted, when I called out “Yes”, and promptly turned and drove in. Her boat is exactly the same length as ours, and also fitted very snuggly. So we have a second night with a restricted view of the river from inside the cabin, but the warm evening sun on the stern deck wasn’t obstructed at all.