Leicester Ring 2011
Crick to Rugby
22 April 2011
19 miles - 16 locks - 9 hours (plus four stopped)
This was the day the plan went to Hell in a handcart.
As you will have gathered, this trip has been slightly marred by an excessive amount of clock watching. We have had to maintain our schedule if we are to make it back to base in the days available, allowing me to return to work. My employers are happy to let me juggle my diary but the do draw the line at failing to show up!
We started our day on the "wrong" side of Crick tunnel so set off at 7.45 am to be sure we didn't have any problems at Watford Locks. Faint hope. At 7.30 an ABC hire boat came past triggering our departure but by the time we reached the top lock they were third from first but we drew up in 12th place. Suddenly I came to appreciate the frustrations these narrow staircases placed on working boats. We were on holiday but still we had time pressures and the minutes waiting soon accumulated and turned into hours. The lock keepers allow six boats up and six down and our turn came after 3.5 hours meaning we didn't exit the flight till 1.30pm.
Our delay did offer scope for a variety of boating hobbies. One of the rising boats knew the crew of the boat behind us and thet paused for a cup of tea and a quick folk jam session. Others polished their boats and as for me? I fired up the laptop and edited a few days photos. It's amazing how time passes on the water. Oh the joys of bank holiday boating.
Descending Watford locks
The Grand Union came as a relief, broad and deep. By now it was sweltering hot and I had donned my sunglasses, striking a vary cool dude image, but then came my undoing. We were following a boat with a very smoke vintage engine and as we entered Braunston tunnel we discovered just how bad the fumes were. The tunnel was full of smoke reducing visibility to that of a pea soup fog. Sunglasses were just too much and I was marginally better off with no glasses, but also no clear vision beyond 12 inches! It was all very disorientating till Jeff saved the day by finding my regular specs, after which we shivered our way through in very inappropriate shorts and tee shirts.
Take out pints at Braunston
We were pleased to find no queues at the Braunston locks, slaking our thirsts with a couple of pints at the Admiral Nelson half way down. With provisions low I had promised Belle a visit to Tesco's at Rugby, still three hours away. But as it was already 5.00pm when we exited the flight a late finish was inevitable. To compound the issue I noticed a familiar boat as we approached the twin roving bridges at the junction. We had planed to meet Bones at Braunston but in the end she wasn't expecting to arrive till Saturday whilst we expected to pass through on Friday morning. Bones got ahead of plan just as we fell behind so, by a fortunate set of circumstances, we finally met up. We breasted up, creating an interesting navigation hazard and spent a very pleasant hour enjoying a "gin o clock" moment, catching up on the gossip before taking our leave and setting off into the sunset.
The seven miles to Hillmorton dragged by interminably. Literally hundreds of boats were moored up on this remote stretch, slowing progress to a crawl. Of course, we found ourselves behind a rookie Black Prince boat who persisted in cutting corners with predictable groundings. Fortunately for us, they performed this manouver one time too ofter when we were close behind and then we were past - destination Rugby.
I have never seen Hillmorton looking better. The sun was setting beneath a hot and hazy horizon and we found every lock set for us and every top gate open. The sun offered a fine spectacle, with its last orange rays reflecting back up off the water and lighting each chamber with a fiery hue.
Working down Hillmorton Locks
We did indeed make it to Tesco, at nine pm with the shadows rapidly turning to black rendering the Pearson unreadable, which is my rule of thumb for too dark to travel. One very long day but we are on target ready to greet more guests who will accompany us on tomorrows travels to Polesworth.