Friday, 22 May 2015

Over the Summit

(Thursday 21st May - Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

"Gas" locks, Berkhamsted
This has been a slightly unusual trip, as it has involved us breaking it in both directions to spend time at home, rather than on the boat.  To some extent this has been down to pure practicalities, and on this occasion I faced some unpleasant dentistry, (and unpleasant it proved to be!), and being in the middle of the day, it seemed sensible spend two nights at home "regrouping" before carrying on with returning "Sickle" to its mooring.

Entering Northchurch lock
Again, even by Thursday there was no great rush, although we did need to get a reasonable amount of the remaining trip under our belts, if we were not to run on late tomorrow.

In keeping with much of the rest of this trip we found all locks against us, often with top gates left open, even at the locks clearly marked as "leave empty".  Only on reaching Cow Roast did we catch up a boat, and share a lock with it.  Unfortunately the owners of this boat apparently had a damaged gear box, and their "antidote" to this seemed to be to turn on us, and have a right go at as, but apparently with no obvious justification.  I couldn't hear the obvious ranting over the Lister, but apparently Cath was shouted at that we should only go into a lock on tick-over.  The obvious implication was that they had wanted us to crawl in even more slowly than we had - a bit odd, as when I had entered the lock, I had actually taken "Sickle" out of gear, and just drifted in under no power!  It is (fortunately) highly unusual to find yourself locking thrrough with another crew set on being abnoxious, so we were mightily relieved when they immediately turned into Cowroast marina!

Coming down from the other side of Tring Summit, through Marsworth locks and beyond, we again found ourselves sharing, but this time with a more typical crew who were pleasant and efficient.  Our load was lightened by two volunteer lock keepers who were often setting ahead for us, and, indeed also for a boat coming down behind us. Volunteer lock keepers come in for mixed press, but these ones were good, being helpful, but without prescribing how things must be done.

"Arcas" tied up exactly where "Sickle" regularly once was.
The crew we were working with had initially said they were going on to Leighton Buzzard that day.  This had sounded highly optimistic, and so it proved, as they stopped after just the first of the Seabrook locks.  We didn't intend to press on late, and thought we might stop just above Ivinghoe locks, but were uncertain if "Sickle" could be got close to the bank there, (important because of getting Odin on and off the back deck - he is reluctant to walk planks).

Setting off in tandem down the Marsworth flight.
However about half way between Seabrook and Ivinghoe we spotted a boat moored up that a former work colleague co-owns with another person.  So far we have only ever seen this boat when it is not being used by my friend Steve, but on this occasion it was, so we attempted to pull in.  This proved somewhat of a challenge - Steve's modern boat was at the side, but we struggled to get front or back of "Sickle" within three feet of the bank.  We couldn't really see how to stay at this point overnight, until I decided to use some of "Sickle's" substantial deck boards as a planks.  Would Odin be prepared to cross one?  No, not one, but two side by side did the trick!  I have not seen Steve in 10 years, since our firm made us redundant when they "off-shored" to India the activities we were involved in, and had never met his wife Claire.  As former dog owners they were more than happy for Odin to go aboard, and indeed we ended up taking food that Cath prepared on "Sickle" aboard, and also enjoying a couple of bottles of wine with them.  There was quite a lot of catching up to do, after so long. You never quite know where your next mooring may be, or who you might find there!

A very pleasant day, apart from that one brief unpleasant interlude.

Berkhamsted to Ivinghoe
Miles: 9.2, Locks: 19
Total Miles: 59.9, Locks: 110

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