Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Trying Out "Max" As A Proper Boat Dog.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Monday 18th to Wednesday 20th April

Joshers "The King" and "Lynx"
So after all the things that have largely kept that away from the boats so far this year, and having unexpectedly acquired a second dog, (see previous posting), we needed to find out how "Max" would cope with going boating.  "Max" has already spent brief time on board on the mooring, and coped well, although having arrived with us considerably overweight, he has occasionally struggled with the flight of 5 steps to climb out of "Flamingo's" cabin, and needed an extra shove from behind for the ascent - he has little trouble getting in, gravity playing its part in that operation!  (Because "Flamingo" is a deep hulled "Town" class working boat, it is over 4 feet to go down inside the cabin - far more than on a modern leisure boat).

"The King" (right) was originally a steamer.
We decided a trip down to Stoke Bruerne was in order - this would give us about 10 miles of lock-less cruising to see how he reacted to the moving boat, but would also take in the long Blisworth tunnel.  "Odin" has developed a bit of a fear of the tunnels, (blame the trip we did with him just in front of a 20 horsepower Bolinder!), and we wondered if "Max" might pick up on this.  Unlike Braunston tunnel, at Blisworth it is not really practical to walk dogs over the top, as most of the route at Blisworth follows a fairly busy road with no path, whereas Braunston is a track without vehicles, other than one quick road crossing.

Waiting for the second lock down the flight.
There were no problems at all for the run to the tunnel, and when we got there I steered, whilst Cath went in with the dogs, and played melodeon to avoid giving specific attention to either dog, whilst actually being with them actively doing something.  Considering "Odin's" insecurity about tunnel passages, both dogs were calmer than might be expected, although neither settled completely, I think.

On arrival at Stoke Bruerne "Max" got very excited - this was something new - getting on the boat at one interesting place, but now arriving somewhere new and at leat equally interesting.  He really seemed to be enjoying it, and, of course if "Max" was enjoying it, then so was "Odin"!

Navigation pub in the background
A walk down the lock flight quickly followed.  "Max" is already starting to behave like one would expect for a fairly fit dog over only about four and a half years of age, and there was positive bounce in him. He seems a "younger" dog than he did on arrival less than 2 moths ago. Over short distances he is much closer to being able to keep up with "Odin", although we rather feel that "Odin" is not going fully into "top gear" very often, to give "Max" a sporting chance!

Dogs at rest - Max (left) & Odin (right).
The "barn" area at the end of the Navigation pub allows dogs in, and we are finding it consistently better for food than the Boat, better meals, better value and better choice, (although their main vegetarian options have changed, and not necessarily what I would otherwise have chosen).  The beer was also very good, so although I would normally prefer to support a family owned pub over a "Pubco" one, the Navigation currently generally has the edge.

On the way back up
A secondary objective of this trip was that Cath was booked in for a "Partnership" related Canal and River Trust meeting on the Tuesday, and this was supposed to be at Stoke Bruerne, so we thought it a nice touch to arrive by boat.  However she learned after arrival that it was cancelled, leaving us with no other commitments beyond chilling out, and eventually getting back to our home mooring.

We had already decided that "Flamingo" would be taken at least part way down the locks to turn it, (not being possible at the head of the locks), and as we set off to do this on Tuesday, I was quite keen to push a bit further South, to, say, Cosgrove.  However I don't think either of us have fully appreciated just how exhausted recent events have left us, and in the end we sensibly decided to turn at the first available pound, after you have passed 4 locks down the flight.  Four down-hill locks, followed by a passage back up through them should easily establish how "Max" would behave.  In fact he didn't disappoint at all, and at each lock Cath tethered both dogs somewhere safe as we locked though.  Both were so comfortable with this, that on the passage back up, "Odin" was recognising the point he had waited at each lock on the way down, and asking for them to sit in the same place going back up!

Filling up with wsater.
A leisurely fill with water outside the Boat caused us the impromptu decision to have lunch there.  The one thing that can be relied upon is their baguettes filled with cheese and mushrooms, and they didn't disappoint!  (Why can't other places be quite so generous with their mushrooms - it is not as if  they are a major factor in the cost of producing such a meal, is it?).

We decided to spend another evening at Stoke Bruerne, and not set off home until the Wednesday.  We walked the dogs again, this time up over the tunnel mouth and across fields, before walking on leads back down the road to the bridge at the top lock.  "Max" is very good on a lead, whereas "Odin" still needs to be reminded he has to walk to heel.  We really should walk on pavements more often to drum the correct behaviour into "Odin".

I still can't quite believe how long it looks!
We made a lazy start back on the Wednesday.  As I entered the Southern end of Blisworth tunnel, a boat entered the Northern end about the same time.  The tunnel basically comprises three different sections of roughly similar lengths.  The southernmost third, and the northernmost third are the original bricked strucure, whereas the middle third is an all new pre-fabricated concrete bore of larger dimensions, when that part was completely rebuilt in the 1980s.  By any reasonable logic, if boats enter at both ends at the same time, they might be expected to pass in this middle section, and to not do so means one boat must be travelling twice as fast as the other, or even more.  I have no idea what the other boat was doing, but I passed the first two thirds of the tunnel, and was well into my final third before I eventually met it.  It's steerer suddenly pulled some move involving lots of reverse, and its bows swung across my path, as I was committed to passing.  I feared a loud bang, but somehow he recovered it, and we just "kissed"!  As he passed he said "sorry, I hit the wall" - but I was just relieved that the dogs had not been wound up by what might have been quite a big bang!  When we emerged Cath said both had been very calm, and she had been unaware that anything had gone on.

At least 5 former working boats in this picture
Later on, unexpectedly we passed our friends Simon and Ann moored up on their boat.  They had come up the Nene and Northampton Arm, which is why we had not seen them before.  After a bit of a struggle we moored up some distance from the side, and put out a plank.  "Max" decided he didn't need the plank, and just leapt for the bank anyway.  He may be overweight, but he is still up for trying quite a few athletic stunts!  After teas and a chat, we realised we needed to move on if we were not to be too late getting home.  Cath walked the dogs to the next bridge, but it was "Odin" rather than "Max" that was reluctant to get back on - "Max" got on with very little bother.

"Midlands and Coast" motor "Jubilee" in background.
It is always a bit of a struggle to reverse "Flamingo" into her home pontoon berth - there really isn't enough width across the cut to easily get between the boats that moor on either side.  Still, no strong winds today, and after a poor start, we got in easier than I at first expected.  All to do then was shut everything down, pack up, load the car, and head for home.

Yes, this boat really is based on a shipping container!
Has "Max" passed out as a boat dog?  Well it is hard to see how he could have done or behaved any better, so I think we would say it is all very positive so far.  Three days, two nights and eight locks of course is not a definitive test, but we think it is looking very positive indeed.  There is not a lot of space on the floor of our bedroom now though, and we have to be very careful what we are stepping on if we get out of bed in the night!

Simply add a basic hull, and front doors!

High House Wharf, Weedon to Stoke Bruerne & Return
Miles: 21.3, Locks: 8, Dogs: 2 (both at start and at finish!)

1 comment:

  1. Basic is the correct description of that hull! At least it's getting about; we saw it in Cosgrove a couple of weeks ago.


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