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Sunny trip to Napton

Back in the days when we kept Phoenix III at Hinckley, we very often laughed at the queuing traffic on the A5 as we passed underneath the Lime Kiln bridge. As we enjoyed an unhurried start to our weekend, we would raise a glass to those poor unfortunates crawling along, maybe going home, maybe driving a delivery truck but in any case they were stuck in their world, the world that we had just escaped from. Nowadays we keep our boat at Braunston which means that we have to endure that traffic with the rest of them before we can begin our weekend escapes. This friday was a little worse than most, the M1 being closed near Northampton and the M6 suffering heavy congestion, both conditions forcing traffic on to the trusty old A5.

We arrived at Braunston just before four and prepared for our short voyage which we started around half an hour later. We left the marina on what was a beautiful summer’s day, something that we seem to have suffered a shortage of this year. With no particular destination in mind, we pulled up just over an hour later and moored somewhere after bridge 102, close to Flecknoe on the Grand Union (Oxford section). We had a beautiful spot and with the weather being as lovely as it was, we ate our evening meal out on the back deck where we remained until the sun eventually went out of view and the air started to cool.

Bright sunshine and blue skies greeted us on Saturday morning, the problem was that it was only half past five! We had a cup of tea as usual but the coffee that followed was taken on the deck where we could take advantage of the early morning rays and it was still only seven o’clock. After coffee I started to wash and polish the boat, a task that has so far proved impossible to carry out this year with the weather being as poor as it has been. Three hours later and the roof had been washed and dried with the side nearest the bank receiving the same treatment plus a coating of carnuba wax. Part way through we had breakfast, another al fresco affair involving happy eggs, Mr Trotter’s bacon and Georgie Stiff’s bangers. Improbable names for meat suppliers but genuine nonetheless. Around noon we untied and headed for Napton, a pleasant enough trip except for our encounter after passing under bridge 108, the A425. The idiot driving his boat in the opposite direction took the corner so wide that he forced us into the bank and then just for good measure, crashed into us as the sterns passed. Undamaged but temporarily annoyed, we continued on past Wigram’s turn, leaving the Grand Union behind as it headed towards Birmingham and we went towards Oxford. We eventually reached the last winding hole before the locks at Napton, some two hours after we had untied. Turning around started easily enough, as these things often do and then became progressively more difficult as the wind mysteriously whipped up from nowhere. With a bit more mechanical effort than had first been anticipated, we completed our manoeuvre and then moored a short distance away. We later took a stroll around to the Folly Inn where we enjoyed a couple of drinks in the afternoon sunshine before returning to the boat where we sat on the towpath, just relaxing.

Sunday dawned beautiful and bright again so we repeated our Saturday morning with tea in bed and coffee outside, after which the rest of the boat, now turned around of course, got washed and polished. We had just finished our breakfast when we had a shower of rain but it soon passed over and the boat cleaning could be finished off. Another trip to the bottom lock on the pretext of emtpying the bin took us passed the Folly Inn again and it seemed rude to pass by without buying anything. The sky started to darken and in the distance we could see rain falling so we supped up and made a quick return to our mooring, the first drops started to fall as we were unlocking the doors, we had made it back just in time. So that was it, we decided to delay our return to Braunston until the rain passed over. The drizzle continued until about two o’clock when it seemed to ease a little so we untied and started the return journey. Within ten minutes the rain stopped completely and we enjoyed brilliant sunshine again for the rest of the afternoon. We kept a look out for nb Havoc II, hoping that we would be back at the marina before them, making our final move on to the pontoon an easy one. We didn’t see them until we entered the marina and there they were, sitting tied up in their usual spot. Well it was difficult with the wind blowing at right angles to the pontoon but we made it without too much trouble although the crew of Havoc II expressed their disappointment that we hadn’t provided them with the expected entertainment.