There’s Something Funny In The Water

Last night we were pleased to arrive next to the friendly moorhens – it is very unusual for them to come very close but they were really enjoying the breadcrumbs and apple. When they were done I looked outside to see one that had been on the towpath was carefully stepping across our mooring rope and then crossed our boat to get back into the water – a strange step for the usually timid bird since they can fly across without coming aboard at all.

I fed them a few more crumbs this morning. Having rained last night, it was a sunny morning. Many people throughout the day that we met at the locks or in passing, remarked on what a lovely day it was. For a change I sat down the front for a bit. I looked up and saw a small dog in the water on the towpath side. Dogs often go in briefly but this one looked smaller than the usual breeds. Labradors and spaniels are particularly keen on going in. It was looking right at me, and quite composed. I looked around to see if anyone was around who might be worried about their dog but saw nobody. Then I realised it was a fox face – the tell-tale tail wasn’t visible. The fox swam right across in front of the boat then as we went passed I saw it reach the other side and wondered if it might struggle to get out or through the thick mass of brambles on the bank. Some movement in the bushes showed me it had made it on to the bank and then we got a good view of it running across the field. Its tail looked less perky than usual, weighted down with water, but it was certainly energetic enough. No pictures of the drookit fox I am afraid!

Before a group of moored boats with a bridge beyond, Shane slowed to let a boat pass and exchanged pleasantries, as usual then moved to pass the boats but one was well swung out as we approached. We realised it was not just loosely tied, but completely adrift. The mooring ropes were dangling down into the water. Shane managed to get round but we were now well over in the trees and it was coming further across so we thought we should try to do something about it. We were grateful when someone had retied our boat for us only a few days ago, in Braunston. Shane managed to reach the front rope (with spike attached) and tried to pull it over, but I was hard to move the other boat from a floating position and hard to hold it and drive (watch out for dangling ropes in your own propellor!) lt was also hard to tie to us with a spike on and there was not much room for manoeuvre anyway with it having drifted from between two other boats.

Unmoored boat playing hard to get into position

We needed the purchase of land so Shane went forward to the bridge to let me get off then reversed to the boat, now right in the trees. Drawing alongside he managed to walk along the gunwales between them and tied the centre rope of the other boat to the centre of ours. He then drove our boat sideways towards the bank and got the other one to come along. Once close enough, he threw me the other boat’s centre rope, chucked a mallet on the towpath. He drove Bartimaeus up to the bridge out of the way while I pulled the boat over and disentangled the (very muddy) rope and hammered a spike in. I got on the gunwale to walk along and get the other rope and spike at the back of the boat (even muddier, I washed the rope a bit by dunking it back in a few times) by which time the back had drifted far from the bank. I couldn’t get back ashore with the rope, as it wouldn’t reach far enough along (and it was muddy and drippy) and so I walked back along the gunwale empty handed and got off again and, at Shane’s suggestion, tied the centre rope to a tree to stop it drifting. He brought Bartimaeus back level to help get the boat closer to the bank. Then I was able to retrieve and hammer in the spike and get that banged into the bank too. This spike was a bit damaged and harder to tie. Also they had already come out before so I don’t know if our efforts will be in vain but I got the rope back to the boat and tied it as well as I could. I was glad my hair was tied back for all of this procedure but just as I was dealing with the last stage, my hair scrunchie fell out. It landed on the boat deck luckily so I was able to retrieve it. I had felt it slipping but didn’t want to grab it with my muddy mitts.

Pulling the drifter into its mooring spot
Clare Tying Boat to Tree
Clare Tying (or untying) Centre Rope to a Tree

I almost forget to untie the middle rope from the tree but Shane reminded me – the boat might have been better secured if I had, but it would have been a trip hazard for walkers. I have no idea if it will hold. All achieved in my slippers. We already had a load of washing running – too late to chuck them in!

We were overdue for lunch by that time so shortly found a suitable spot, managing to moor up without getting nettled or stepping in the cowpats – Result!

In the afternoon there were a few locks to work scattered along the way and we met friendly folk at each of them. As I was getting one of the locks ready, I saw Shane was talking to a man with a canoe. Usually canoeists carry their craft round locks. It is quicker and safer than going through the lock but this one had a sea canoe loaded with camping equipment and had a windlass at the ready. Unloading and carrying all his luggage was a no go for him. Shane drove in and invited him to share the lock. He was reluctant, saying he thought our boat might be too long and there was not enough room, but after a couple of exchanges about it being safer in an emptying lock than a filling lock and checking boat lengths, he agreed. They fitted easily. Shane had to go back carefully when it was time for the gate to open but no problem. The man shared that he had some more scary experiences in locks with nearly having his boat crashed into. We told him about the fox, and he was surprised as he didn’t think they liked water. I don’t think the giant pancake or gingerbread man are reliable sources, but foxes definitely swim! He was disappointed to have never seen an otter. Shane regaled him with his otter winning a fight with an eel in Worcester tale.

Canoeist Holding Canoe in Lock
Canoeist Looking After his Canoe Behind Bartimaeus

On exit we warned the group waiting to come in that there was a canoe in the lock behind us too. “Don’t want to crush it …..again..” Shane joked to a receptive bunch of guys. Once out he overtook us quickly and disappeared.

When we reached the next lock he was there waiting and approached me saying “Same again?” All went smoothly until he realised he couldn’t pull the canoe out with the rope this time as there was a bridge in the way, so climbed down the ladder in his bare feet and paddled out, taking care not to scrape his paddle, which is wider than the lock. Again we warned the incoming boat to wait for a canoe, and they wondered what else we might have in the lock with us…. a fleet of kayaks? Paddle boarder? Lilo?