Sunday, 5 March 2017

First outing of 2017 - Taking Sickle to Brinklow

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for 7th to 9th February)

Braunston flight
As explained in a previous post, "Sickle's" current engine is to be replaced by another engine we had agreed to buy, initially thinking it was destined for "Flamingo".

This meant that "Sickle" needed delivering to Brinklow Boat Services for a mutually agreed date, and this was the purpose of this trip.  As there were no further stoppages planned on our route, we simply needed Brinklow to agree a date, and this was it.

"Pub" lock, Braunston
This is, of course, quite a short trip, although at this time of year, we stick to a relaxed schedule, usually based around not getting started too early, no involving travelling after dark.  The usual complication for any trip that starts at one place, and ends at another applied, of course, namely that a car has to be delivered to the end point, before travelling back to the start point.  Two acrs are required, but fortunately we have managed to keep Cath's late mother's car on the road, although the recent cost of putting it through an MOT undoubtedly exceeded any book value it has!  It is adequate as the second car for these trips, but not ideal - our original intent had been only to use it for local journeys, but at least we now have the reassurance that it is capable of passing an MOT, even if the brakes feel a bit tenuous compared to a new car!

Approaching Hillmorton locks
The second complication we now have is that on the sudden and unexpected death of Cath's mum, Ann, we "inherited" her dog Max, meaning we now own two large black dogs. Unlike Odin, Max is not pure Labrador, but is still mostly Labrador, and not far off the same size.  Whilst Cath and I have evolved ways of sharing a back cabin with one large black dog, (largely dependent on the tolerance and good-naturedness of said dog), we simply do not have space to bed both down in the back cabin any reasonable way.  We love Max to bits, but he is a serious impediment to our use of Sickle, so far only part "solved" by taking a second boat with us when we move Sickle!  We continue to consider the problem, (the answer to which can not be "sell Sickle"!), but at the moment "Sickle only" trips mean leaving at least one dog at home with the sons, and if we are doing that, it generally makes more sense to leave both.  So this was a dog-less trip.

Middle lock at Hillmorton
I had feared from the weather forecast that this might be a trip where we got fairly wet and cold, and was planning for fairly regular swapping of steerers.   The reality was pleasantly different to expectations, and we neither got particularly wet, nor particularly cold.  At least one of the days we spent a lot of time boating in considerable sunshine.  To me the Northern Oxford saw far more appealing at this time of year, with few boats on the move.  I really do not enjoy it much in mid-summer, as you queue up along somewhere like Barby straight, with half a dozen boats ahead, usually limited by the speed of the lead boat.  In fact the whole boating experience at this time of year was great - with generally no hold up at any of the lock flights, most of which we passed far quicker than in summer.  

Cath in charge, me on locks at this flight.
The sole exception was our very first lock at Whilton where the first pound up to the second lock contained so little water I doubted we would even get over the top cill of the bottom lock .  We did crawl over that, but on the approach to the second lock, I grounded mid-channel, where the deepest water might have been, had there been enough of it.  I proved to be completely stuck, despite having only grounded at very low speed, but could go neither forwards nor backwards.   Fortunately I was not single handed, because I was stuck on the boat, with no chance of getting off. Cath letting down a  flush of water finally floated me off, but although I then crept over the cill into the second lock, I then grounded actually in the lock on debris clearly on the bottom of it.  It is quite disappointing to find a pound in one of the major flights so devoid of water, but sadly at both Buckby and Braunston now it often seems to be the case that either there is too much water, (cascading over gates), or far too little, (in some pounds at least).  I think CRT have cut staffing on water control duties more than makes sense if incidents like this are to be avoided.

The ritual passing of my late brother Pete's former butty "Angel"
A generally pleasant trip, and great to have a run out in "Sickle" which will always be a more nimble boat than the very much heavier "Flamingo".  We do need to come up with a creative way of travelling with just "Sickle", but with two large black dogs on board though!

Shopping stop near Rugby

Weedon to Brinklow Boat Services, Stretton Arm
Miles: 26.8, Locks:16

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