Monday, 28 January 2008

Rural bliss

Following on from Saturday's mission, I got up early on Sunday morning and began to descend the Stockton lock flight single-handedly and complete the journey to Jonno and Helen in Long Itchington. These were the first wide-locks that I attempted single-handedly, and despite the wind I managed the first two on my own without any real drama before being offered help by a man and his young son out on their Sunday morning walk. I lent them a couple of spare windlasses and made a cup of tea, and they worked all but the very last lock for me. Had they not, I suspect it would have taken me the whole morning, but I would have got there in the end. It's still beyond me how he managed it, but the little boy must have been no older than about 7, and was able to open the lock gates. They were taller than him! Strong little thing - I even struggled a bit with them.

On arrival in Long Itchington, there was no sign of Opposite Lock. Gutted. I had tried to phone them the previous evening, but there was no answer. Perhaps they had moved on, I thought.

Not one to be defeated, I continued cruising. As I hadn't passed their boat already they could only have headed in one direction. It was only about 10:30am, and there was no way I was being defeated now that I had come so far. After a few more minutes cruising, I spotted Opposite Lock in the distance. Victory! 6 months after taking ownership of my boat I was finally where I wanted to be - out cruising. For real. Yeah baby! Moored up behind them (just glad they didn't see the mess I made of tying up, what with strong wind and a tired girl...) and spent the rest of the day enjoying tea and Grandma's home-made fruit cake on the boats. Bliss.

In the evening, the man who shall now be known as Jonno-Oliver for his outstanding culinary abilities, cooked a delicious Thai Fish Curry for the 3 of us. Drunk lots of wine in celebration, then went to bed tired out but buzzing from the feeling of accomplishment.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Epic mission (and a seasick dog)

Today has been a good day! Parents arrived, with dog in tow, yesterday evening. I treated them to a lovely takeaway from Titash, as flailing with bilge pumps and being locked out meant that I didn't make it to Tesco as planned to conjure up an impressive culinary masterpiece. They settled in well, and as soon as the dog learnt that the boat moving and creaking every few minutes was not something that needed barking at, we had a nice, peaceful, TV-free evening. When Dad commented that it was actually quite nice listening to music (OK, I did play an entire Phil Collins album to keep him happy) and making conversation instead of staring idly at the TV, I realised that it was all going to go well.

We got up at 7:30 this morning, and I cruised the boat from Hillmorton to Clifton to turn around whilst Mum and Dad cooked a full English breakfast - result! Back in Hillmorton, I quickly filled the water, disposed of the rubbish, and emptied the loo and then we set off on the Epic mission. The dog seemed to enjoy watching where he was going whilst we were cruising, so I let him sit outside with me. He didn't like locks, however, and decided to try and jump off the boat as we were half way up the first lock. Oops. Dog went splash and ended up being hauled back onto the boat by his collar, looking slightly sorry for himself. Guess he might have learnt a lesson there.

Originally I had planned only to make it as far as Braunston, but we arrived there at around lunchtime and so decided to press on towards Leamington and see how far we could get before dark. It poured with rain all day, and we were already soaked to the skin, but everyone was in good spirits and the constant supply of tea and cake which Mum provided at half-hourly intervals kept me going quite nicely. Napton junction came and went, we bumped into Iain and Alison on the coal boat and stocked up, and before we knew it we were at Calcutt locks and it was starting to get dark. Considering that the coal boat was the only moving boat we had passed all day, we were very very lucky to arrive at Calcutt just as another boat was going into the first lock. We went down the 3 locks with them in what seemed like no time at all, and were advised by their crew that it wasn't very far to the next canalside pub, which would be a good place to stop for the evening. "Not very far" turned out to be about another 45 minutes cruising in the dark and rain, but we eventually arrived at The Boat pub at Stockton and I suddenly realised where I was! Those 45 minutes were quite hard going, stopping several times to try and work out where we were. I slid down a muddy bank on my bum (recommend waterproof trousers for this), and found myself giggling whilst crawling through a hedge, with Dad, to get back to the boat after we had taken a walk to look for landmarks or a pub! With hindsight, I really do wish I had taken my camera on that particular mission.

Along the way, Dad managed to rustle up the most fantastic Chilli I have ever tasted, made entirely from food he found on my boat. I struggle to comprehend how this was possible, giving that I have been living mainly on instant mashed potato recently. Somewhere on a par with turning water into wine, I reckon. And it tasted SO good served with jacket potatoes cooked in the fire when I came inside cold and soaking.

During the last couple of hours of the journey, the dog developed sea sickness. Never, in my life, have I head of a dog getting seasick. But he was. Very. Including on my nice big red rug, which Mum has taken home with her now in the hope that it is washable. Looks like I'm going to have cold feet when I get out of bed in the mornings this week.

Overall, I have just completed my longest boating mission to date, with parents in tow, with virtually NO drama, a full English, and a seasick dog. In the tipping rain. In January. And I'm fantastically happy, and have enjoyed every minute of it. Bring on the summer, I smell fun ahead!

Tomorrow's weather forecast indicates rain all day again, but as I've driven through some serious floods to retrieve my car this evening, NOTHING is going to stop me now. I plan to rise with the sun, hopefully find another boat to partner with, and complete the trek through Stockton locks to catch up with Jonno and Helen on Opposite Lock. Fingers crossed that tomorrow morning goes as well as today has! I'm at last free to cruise for a couple of months, and absolutely determined to make the most of it.

Just realised how much I've written... Time for one last cup of tea and an early night now I reckon, I'm knackered. Just in case anyone ever gets bored enough to read to the end of this uber-babble, there's one thing you should know - I LOVE my boat!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Catalogue of error

Since my last post a couple of hours ago, things have started to go wrong for me.

I popped back to the boat at lunch time to build my fire so that the boat is toasty warm when Mum and Dad arrive later, and discovered that my bilge pump is no longer working, as it has become entangled around the running gear and the wires have ripped away from it. Bit of a silly thing to have let happen, but not THAT big a deal - shouldn't take more than a few minutes to replace the bilge pump tomorrow morning before we set sail, right? Wrong. So wrong.

Whilst messing around in the engine bay with the bilge pump, I also managed to somehow lock myself out! The latch on the door seems to be jammed or something, so now I can't get back inside without breaking in.... and Mum announced at lunch time that they may now arrive earlier than originally anticipated this evening too.

Fortunately, Dave from the boat yard was around and is able to take a look at both of these things for me this afternoon whilst it's light and dry outside.

Pastures new

Wow, time flies when you're having fun! It's been a month since my last post, so thought I should write something quick...

Am planning on taking Muddy Waters to Braunston this weekend - my first "proper" cruise (more than an hour or two). Parents are coming to stay onboard tonight for the first time too, so even if it rains all weekend as the weatherman is predicting there should be some tales to tell on here soon.

Watch this space!