Today started grey again with a cold wind. Late in the morning we went towards town via the castle grounds. It turns out we were a bit late to see Wallingford Castle as Oliver Cromwell had ordered it to be demolished in 1652, but we proved that other routes to the supermarket were available. By the time we’d had lunch, the day was at last starting to get brighter. I decided to give the solar panels a quick clean before we set off.
We had turned to face upstream before mooring, so I had to start by turning downstream again. In the strong flows last month I would have been concerned about the proximity of the bridge. Today I was relaxed as I nudged the bow in to the flow and let it do most of the work.
Yet again we were heading downstream trying to use only the amount of power we were getting from the sun. The river is getting wider, and the flow is reducing, so it did seem slower than previous days. After an hour or so, we arrived at the first of the days targets. I knew of this chandlery because I had bought our special hose for use on the Thames from them by mail order. I had since noticed another item I was interested in, so we moored up and went inside. They also sold ice cream, so that made the stop doubly worthwhile.
While we were eating our ice creams, we were passed by a large boat, the African Queen, we’d seen it moor up opposite us earlier. I’m sure we could have negotiated them passing us if we had still been moving, but it was certainly less hassle just to watch them go by – so a triply worthwhile stop.
We continued our meander down the river. We’ve seen plenty of geese and goslings in recent days, but today a small group decided to follow us for a while, no doubt hoping for a snack. I hope our gentle pace didn’t give them false hope.
We approached Cleeve Lock just as the gates opened for a boat coming towards us. The lock keeper waved us to come in, but Clare had spotted that the water point was above the lock. We told the lock keeper that we were looking for water, and he confirmed the location. He then came along the jetty and offered to help us in to position. I’m sure I could have driven to the right spot, but by throwing him the middle rope as requested, we were soon in place.
This water point has it’s own hose, so ironically the one we’d bought from a mile away stayed in its locker – we’ve already had good use of it. The flow was reluctant to start at first, but the lock keeper persisted in fiddling with the hose until it started behaving properly. He then apologised for leaving us to work the lock ourselves, but said he was finishing for the day. I told him that compared to working a canal lock, pushing a few buttons was a stroll.
While we were filling up, another boat arrived so I expected we would have to cycle the lock again. When the water tank was full, I could see they still hadn’t opened the lock gate. The mechanism wasn’t responding to the controls, perhaps because the crew member who had first gone to operate them was slightly over-lubricated. Clare and I both went to see if we could solve things. We agreed with the skipper of the other boat that we should perhaps just cycle the lock. After we had emptied and refilled it, everything seemed to work.
By now a third small boat had arrived and they headed straight in to the lock as soon as the gates opened. I wasn’t sure if we would fit in with everyone else, but I should have remembered that the African Queen had gone ahead of us, so there must be plenty of room – and indeed there was. We moored up immediately after the lock on the advice of the lock keeper. He had phoned ahead for us and been told that the moorings in the town ahead were pretty crowded. We have yet another open pretty spot to ourselves just below the lock.
Once we were moored I set about installing my new purchase from the chandlery. The life ring on the top of the hatch catches on the pram cover unless it is propped up very high. It is also visually intrusive from the driving position.
It took some fiddly work with screwdriver and allen keys to fit the new hanger to the top of the tiller – if we’d dropped any of the components they were almost certain to end up in the water, rendering the entire thing useless. We now have the ring in what we hope is a more suitable location. We still hope never to need to use it.