Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Mapledurham to Windsor

Mapledurham to Windsor
3rd August 2010

31 miles - 12 locks - 11 hours

A mammoth day today, going hell for leather to try and get on schedule again and so meet friends in London. Its not a record distance - that is held by the Tidal Trent, but 31 miles is far enough.

Canoeists at Mappledurham and the Dongle queen

We ended up last night about two hours behind the plan, having slipped from a steady 1.5 hours ahead. I know you shouldn't keep tight timetables on the water but for a trip of this type with so many connections and links, timekeeping is essential. In the end we stopped just above Bovney lock, exactly where Nick (Canalplan) told us to.

Bisham Church

Reading Offices

Swan at Reading

After Mapledurham we passed Reading, sight of the famous festival and scene of much action. There were tractors everywhere with contractors erecting miles of perimeter fencing. In the distance the  stage was being put up, a huge partial sphere looking like an overgrown pram hood. Reading also means Tescos, so we moored up and I chanced upon nb James Arthur, a much travelled narrowboat from the nearby Wolverhampton Cruising Club. We bumped into her at the far end of our trip to Stratford last year.


Henley Waterfront

Temple Island Henley

The quality of riverside housing goes from strength to strength, with each successive mansion seeking to outdo the one before. Lord knows how many millions of  pounds of real estate we have passed, so much you get blase about it and casually ignore the humble £1m abodes that would have you salivating at home. We got the impression that the recession does not really touch the inhabitants of the Thames Valley.


We also passed Hallsmeade Ait, scene of Jeff's attempt at running away six years ago. He didn't realise we were in an island and after 30 mins of battling with the undergrowth a scratched and grubby boy found himself back where he started! Shiplake Lock offered pumpout facilities. For £8.00 you get as about 5 minutes of pump and flush, an opportunity to get the tank really clean. How come the BW sites are not as clear, cheap or reliable?

Shiplake Lock

Shiplake Lock is also home to that terribly English scene of a fixed camp. Families were enjoying the river and the sun, cooking in their own shed which is attached to a lined sleeping tent complete with proper beds and chairs. Camping in real style. The lock is great too - a riot of colour topped off with a boat hull filled with flowers and sweet peas growing over netting to make a sail.

Flowers at Shiplake

This is also the area for gin palaces, those huge white multi story plastic boats which parade up and down the river. They are a far cry to the bump and bang brigade of the canals. Not a scratch is allowed to linger and we are certainly looked down on as a vastly inferior species, barely worth talking to.

Marlow is another gem, but home to suicidal scullers. One pair made a sharp turn across our bows without looking and were not cut in half only due to my quick reactions of getting the boat in reverse. Somehow I was left with the distinct impression that it was my fault! The splendid Thames towns continued - Bourne End, Cookham and Maidenhead, jewels joined by silvery thread.

When we finally stopped I was doing my checks of the engine and spied a washer in the bilge, I think it had been there a few days. I hauled it out only to find a nut attached to a fractured stud beneath the gearbox. A stray washer yes, nut studs are another matter altogether.

I can't fix it!!!!!!

A quick inspection revealed a nut missing from the shock absorbing bit of the transmission, which joins the gearbox to the propshaft. Oh dear, that looks serious. Time to call in RCR. Having looked closely at the fracture it appears black and dull - therefore not fresh. Only the tiniest bit of thread is bright so it has probably been hanging in there doing nothing for years, but with the tideway approaching I would value a professional opinion.

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