Up and Down

The first order of business for today was a pump out.  We now know that the tank can be full despite the electronic gauge reading 90%, though last winter we had no such problem.   Fortunately, the overfull tank only floods the bowl, so it is not a calamity.  We were only a few boat lengths from the pump out jetty, so getting there before we’d eaten breakfast seemed prudent to me.  We also got the diesel tank filled while we were there.

We had just sorted all of that when a boat came out of the lock ahead – now a couple of boat lengths away – and at the same time another boat arrived going our way.  It seemed too good a chance to miss, even though we hadn’t yet had breakfast.  As our boat got high enough in the first lock, I hopped on long enough to grab a piece of toasted fruit loaf to eat before opening the gate.

As we travelled through the flight we learnt that the younger couple were celebrating their silver wedding anniversary today.  The silver-bride’s parents were the older couple.  The silver-groom was driving, and seemed very competent at it, but this was his first experience of driving in to locks.

Bartimaeus and Partner Rising in a Lock
Bartimaeus and Friend Rising in a Lock

The first locks went fine, but something seemed wrong at the third.  I went ahead to look.  There was one boat waiting to come out of the lock, and several others queued up behind wanting to follow.  They had not managed to open the gates, presumably the top gates were leaking.  Eventually, with five people on each gate we managed to get them open.  Clare had chosen to drive because she knew these lock gates were tricky – I wasn’t expecting them to be that tough.

The last of the seven Long Buckby locks is immediately after a large concrete bridge which takes the canal under Watling Street.  The lock entrance is hard to see on approach, but the bollard on the step is probably intended to make boaters think about how slippy the step might be.

Bollard at Foot of Steps
The Bollard is to Warn Those Stepping On or Off

Our new friends invited us to drive away while they sorted the last lock behind us.  We thanked them for their help and company.  A short distance on we came to the junction with the Leicester Arm.  We turned left on to a new section of canal for Bartimaeus – though Clare and I had cycled along here on our cycle trip to Braunston.

We stopped for lunch, and then drove on towards the Braunston Tunnel.  This is not as long as yesterday’s, but is still over a mile long.  As we approached a boat emerged, but we could see there was another inside.  The helmsman was wearing a head-torch that was brighter than the boat’s tunnel light which was not ideal on approach. We met them about halfway through.  They had stopped to wait for us and described my manoeuvring as “perfect” in what we thought were Dutch accents.  We met two more boats before we emerged, I also noted that there was a boat coming behind us.

When we reached the top lock a short distance after the tunnel, I proposed we should put the kettle on and wait for the boat behind us rather than working through solo.

Bartimaeus in Open Lock
Bartimaeus Waiting for Locking Company

I had just finished my drink when our companions from this morning arrived behind us.  They greeted us like long-lost friends and together we worked (down now) through the six locks of the Braunston flight.  At the bottom of the flight we saw a strange manoeuvre going on ahead which turned out to be a boat reversing back to the marina.

NB "Poohsticks" Under a Bridge
NB “Poohsticks” Going Under a Bridge

It wasn’t long before we reached the junction with the North Oxford Canal.  This confusingly named canal connects the Grand Union Canal to the Coventry Canal.  The route to Oxford itself is a little further along the Grand Union.  The junction has clearly been engineered to allow horse-drawn boats to pass quickly in all possible directions.

Junction of Oxford and Grand Union
The Grand Union Canal Continues West

We passed through some beautiful countryside.  We don’t really have time to linger this week, so we passed on, but I have made a note that we should return this way when we have time to savour it.  We moored up in a quiet rural spot once we thought we’d gone far enough for today.