Bryn left yesterday morning. Having moved Bartimaeus to get electricity, backwards and diagonally to the other side of the canal, we saw him to the station. It was bright on the way and coming along the other side of the new development there was a glimpse through to the old town and the dome of the church, St Mary’s, we had passed by the day before.
The wind was still high and we were in no hurry to move, so we stayed put having no long distances to cover. We did a load of washing, as is customary after visitors, and I made a brief foray to hand some crumbs to a very loud swan, grunting and croaking with his neck extended.
We had a short walk along to check if a water point was working. We had used a different water point a few times but Shane felt it was not as easy to pull in to and the flow was not strong so it filled slowly. We had been told that the toilets didn’t work so we felt it was worth checking out facilities in advance. Several of the electric points were non-functioning due to a feature of the app which meant people had to sign out when they left and many people forget to do so, meaning it remains “occupied” on the system so that the next person cannot use it. We were lucky to find a functional one. We established the tap worked and the weather made us unwilling to do any further walking but we did a small job by the water point. We “rescued” a life ring that was floating in the canal and returned it to its post at the side. Someone might need rescued one day, but we really hope it is never needed.
Back at the boat we were very pleased with the choice to stay put and rain turned to hail and very few boats moved. Today was bright though and our water was very low so Shane wanted to get that tank filled as soon as possible. The guage was at red. We had noticed however that the boats that were moving were bumping into us almost without fail. The wind was most likely being a sneaky steerer.
Still we needed water and it was sunny so Shane decided to set off. A boat was just mooring and conversing with another boater who was thinking of leaving and asking if it was any better further on. “Not really” the new arrival replied. I pushed off and Shane put on the bow thruster but before we got into the channel we were blown back against the side. He tried again and this time kept the thruster on until we were well out.
The water was behind us so we had to find somewhere to turn to get to it. Shane thought he would try at a wharf in a gap between boats, and turned in to the space but the curve of the canal and the nearest boat being a plastic one that would not do well if a few tonnes of steel blew against it, made him back out again without completing the turn. We continued down and found a wider spot, where there was a Y shape in the canal with a marina arm.
We made our way back to Banbury and it was my turn to do the lift bridge. People were approaching and I let them across. As I started winding another person approached, so as Shane had not reached there yet I let it down again and she went over. I began again and could see Shane was near now and was grateful it was one that lifted reasonably quickly. A lady with a walking frame appeared , and then two others, questioning where the boat was as I was still winding. I promised it would not take long – and it didn’t. Shane was relieved I hadn’t let the bridge down again for them as he did not fancy trying to hold the boat still in the wind, if the bridge was not ready in time.
We found the same man who had been about to set off at the same time as us, had done so and was on the water point. He was a jovial chap with a stream of funny lines and friendly banter and even better he was just about finished at the water point and was happy to move on.
Mission accomplished we went through the lock, with a man coming to help with the gate saying this wasn’t really women’s work. I can open it but not close it. I can’t lean on it the same way when it is open. At the double gates at the other end he helped by opening the other gate. Once out and away it felt like a more relaxing sunny ride.
We passed the repaired towpath and I found the lock with the lifted plate had already been repaired too, at least that plate was screwed back down but there is still an obvious lip where a boat can catch below it. Another plate or board needs to go across in front.
I got on with the task of turning a heel in the knitting of the stocking. I have had a few false starts, but this time I thought I knew what to do and it went without a hitch. I needed a bit more help with understanding the next bit about the gusset, but hopefully that is coming together too, with help from a friend who sent a pattern with clearer instructions than mine. I am eventually at the foot of the stocking.
Shane wanted to get through the short river section before it was impassable as we are booked into a boatyard on the other side in a few days time. The fields beside us were flooded and it had been high two days ago and it had rained since. Shane spotted an egret in the water in the field. I waited for a gap in the trees and then we realised there were herons too, about a dozen of them, though they are mere dots in the picture as they were further away.
Shane swapped over the driving and went to do the next lock. Here was a decision point as to whether the river looked passable. He decided it looked okay then yelled a mixture of apparently conflicting instructions, keep the diesel engine on so you have plenty power if the current is strong, don’t go fast, wait till I have opened the lock gate. I was worried that if I needed a lot of power then going slow and waiting were not going to be options. He clarified that he meant not to go past the lock bollards as that would be the fastest bit. I had taken a picture of it the other day flowing over when it was on amber. Fortunately there are barriers to prevent you being washed down.
Shane went ahead to the next lock while I went not too slowly. He signalled to me that a boat was coming, so I thought I should stay on the weir side and may not have to try to rope up at the bollards as the lock might be ready. Shane signalled several times that the lock would be ready for me but there was no sign of the exiting boat and I didn’t want to have a tricky slow manoeuvre close to the lock-in the river. There was a very narrow bridge arch just ahead of the lock so I couldn’t see ahead into the lock well, but also I could see him opening the lock gate and no boat was in the bridge hole. So once through I could see that the other boat was waiting beyond the lock. This lock has hardly any visible drop and it is hard to see which way the lock is set. I looked round at the level indicator behind under the bridge and could only see red right down to the water surface. Shane assured me that the level was at the top of amber. I thought it said red. It was a bit of a glass half full or half empty situation. I feared we were doing it on red and he said it was fine as the water wasn’t over the red. Certainly I had not struggled to steer at all into the narrow bridge arch. Tomorrow it may not be passable so now we are safely through, we can stop.