Friday, 28 September 2012

Once More Back To Stoke Bruerne

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

We like the events at Stoke Bruerne, and like last year have already visited the main canal Gala earlier in the year, but particularly wanted to also repeat the rather charming "Village at War" event.

We had booked in to it some time back, but this weekend was also when Cath's Mum would celebate her 80th birthday, so a bit of "flexibility" and a fair amount of rushing about was to be required to put in an appearance at both!

Starting off up the flight - waiting for the coal boats in the next lock.
However the task for today was simply to get "Sickle" from her home mooring up to the event.  As Cath was working, I have to single-hand the boat most of the way, but then hope Cath can drive up in time to help me up the seven lock flight into Stoke.  (Although I will go through an occasional lock on my own, since I broke my pelvis I am simply not confident enough on or off the boats to do large numbers in a row without someone else there).

"Southern Cross" and "Sickle"
The problem with this single-handing lark is that with a large mileage to cover in a limited time, you can't actually really stop for food and drink, without introducing quite a delay.  So I tend to just go straight through, but I do get hungry, and normally I am such a coffee addict that after 4 or 5 hours I'm starting to get withdrawal symptoms.  In fact I had mistimed my journey a bit, and could have managed a break en route, as I eventually turned up at the foot of the Stoke Bruerne locks well before Cath was likely to arrive.

Trying to have a conversation over the Listers
Three coal boats were getting ready to go up - the local boats "Towcester" & "Bideford",b ut these were preceded by "Southern Cross" which also loads on behalf of the same business run by Julia Cook.  I went and watched "Towcester" and "Bideford" through the bottom lock, and it was explained that there was a plan to unload a ton of coal from one of the boats into a van whilst in a lock further up, but that there should be no great delay.

Eventually I decided I need to make a start behind them, if we were not to arrive at te top in total darkness, but shortly after I set off alone, not only did Cath arrive, but also Adam from "Briar Rose" who had offered to help me up the locks earlier.  Whilst "Towcester" and "Bideford" worked ahead of us, "Southern Cross" held back, so we could go up together.

This gives an idea how much "Sickle" was shortened!
I'm always interested in "Southern Cross" as it was owned and restored by the same family as "Sickle".  Even though the two boats are of different "Grand Union" types, ("Southern "Cross" being a Harland and Woolf built "Woolwich" boat, whereas "Sickle" is a W J Yarwoods "Northwich" one), the two restorations show considerable similarities, and I felt the boats looked "right" together.  Both even have similar Lister HA3 air-cooled diesels, (and produce similar amounts of smoke on occasions!), and when I normally struggle to hear much against the noise of one in a lock chamber, I can attest to the fact that two together makes conversation very difficult indeed.

We were fortunate it was nearly a full moon, and with clear skies, because well before the top lock we were delayed enough that otherwise it was well after night-fall.  Fortunately the largely reserved moorings at the top meant we had little difficulty to find a suitable slot for Sickle's modest forty foot length.

We have joked before that "The Boat" pub is as close as Cath and I come to having a regularly visited local.  Not wishing to spoil this tradition, we once again ate there, washing it down with the usual "Frog Island" (me) and Thatcher's cider (Cath).

Frankly by this stage I was knackered - although I'm able to move the boat around largely on my own for much of the mileage, "Sickle" does tend to make you feel you have had a good work-out!  None the less, we had made it, and now only had to worry about the fact we had a party many miles away to fit in as well as being at Stoke!

Fenny Stratford to Stoke Bruerne

Miles: 18.3,  Locks: 8

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