Sunday, 19 June 2011

Bound for Braunston

This weekend was earmarked to move Sickle up from Stoke Bruerne, (well actually just North of there, at Blisworth), to Braunston, ready for next weeks event.
Not hard in two days, but despite a deliberately late start on Saturday, we decided we really would like to do the trip in one day, giving us the opportunity of an evening meal in Braunston, and meeting people the next day.

Edgeware and Balham looking increasingly unloved.
This trip is quite a few lock-less miles, before the Whilton/Buckby flight of locks, (which never seem to be a "doddle"), followed fairly quickly by Braunston tunnel, (one of the "wiggliest" of the long wide ones), and the Braunston flight of locks, (usually nice and easy).

Whilton waterfall.
Apart from a brief shopping stop in Weedon, we went straight up to Whilton, passing what are now very familiar sights on this stretch, although I think there was more water coming over the bottom gates at Whilton than I have ever seen, plus it never seemed to die down throughout our long approach, until the lock actually started to be emptied.

Waiting for Whilton lock.
Whilton and Buckby were not too bad, but boat crews coming the other way were not behaving themselves, and firstly gates were shut on us, as we were approaching empty locks, and then locks that were ready for us were being actively turned.  Cath went and insisted that this was out of order, and we duly got our lock back!

Cath between locks in the Braunston flight.
Braunston tunnel is probably best glossed over this time.  A misunderstanding meant I was not outside ready prepared in time, and initially I just couldn't get it right.  The tunnel light has been refitted, and was pointing too high, not illuminating the lower part of the arch sufficiently.  Braunston tunnel allegedly contains one bad "S bend", due to a construction error, but the reality is it is so crooked now, if you try and cling to a wall too soon when passing, you are all over the place - and I duly kept falling into the traps!  However, we passed several boats without incident, although one hire boat did prove to have its front against the correct wall, but it's back rather less so!  Once clear of all boats, about two thirds of the way through, I finally was able to open Sickle up, and she roared through with a great crescendo!  She is remarkably good in tunnels if you can go down the middle, but frankly too fast when in gear on tick-over, given the skills of some oncoming steerers.  Unfortunately if taken out of gear, there is not very much steerage at all - I think techniques need to be developed.  But in my view Braunston remains the trickiest of all the longer broad tunnels where you regularly pass other boats in significant numbers.

And then it rained some!
I wasn't great at Braunston locks either, well at least not on the tiller!  Cath sensibly caught on to this, and just took over the controls - without any words being spoken, we both knew we might do better with me as paddle winder and gate pusher.  And indeed we did, getting down very smoothly, despite a mega downpour in the middle of it all.

Sickle passes Chertsey after the worst of the rain.
Historic boats are already gathering in reasonable numbers. The first we encountered was Chertsey, moored one lock up.  Sarah either has to do some serious reversing, or has a few locks and a longish trip to get where she needs to be!

Panther, Victoria, Bordesley and Cyprus.
Some boats are already moored two or three abreast along much of the length used for the event, some of them also having attended Stoke Bruerne along with Sickle.

Not only was Mike Askin towing butty Bordesley up for its owner, he had also managed to take on another load of coal, despite having been laboriously unloaded to another boat at Stoke Bruerne.

Belelgeuse, Renfrew and Owl
Renfrew is under new ownership since last year, and her joint owner is also the man behind reconstruction of Lucy, giving the prospect of this pair being together again at some future date.

Our intention on the Sunday was to spend a bit of time getting on with a few things, before going home early(ish) for Cath to do some essential school report writing.  The reality was we met so  many interesting people to talk to, that we were still there far too late, and Cath ended up having to stay up into the night to get her work done.

Mike Askin on Victoria gives well known Ron Withey a ride.
But we did really enjoy just languishing around on Sunday, a week before the real festivities.  We got an invite on board the butty Angel, once owned by my late brother Pete.  Pure nostalgia, although it's so long ago, I can't really compare in my mind then to now.  I was able to add to some of the information the owner had about the boat, and point her at pictures of it properly working with at least two additional motors in the 1970s, (being Elstree and Bicester).

We had one quick run around on Sunday - I hope I'm better at reversing round the three point Braunston turn when I have to do it in front of an audience, but I imagine if things go as they usually do with an audience, I'll actually be far worse!.  Thanks to a resistor blagged off Owl's owner, we may have managed a work-around to an "alternator not working" problem that has been causing us headaches ever since we first collected Sickle - here's hoping!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to see you safely arrived.
    I'm so looking forward to seeing you and - hopefully many others on Saturday. New email sent!


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