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Last of the broad locks

Rain continued throughout yesterday evening so we didn’t venture out and assumed that Mikron’s performance would have been cancelled.

The early morning sunshine encouraged us to get up and get going, tackling the final thirteen broad locks of our trip. Like the day before, we were unaccompanied for the first couple of locks. While in the third lock, we saw a lady with a windlass and two dogs. When I asked if she was coming up the flight, she said that she was but that they had paired with another boat. By the time we reached the next, she ran up and told us that a third boat had arrived so if we would wait, she and her husband would join us and leave the other two as a pair. We agreed but this turned out to be a mistake on our part. Their method of working was to use one gate only with the first boat into the lock then shuffling over behind the closed gate. In my mind, this doesn’t save any time or effort at all but nevertheless Sue drove into the next lock and started the manoeuvre. It takes a bit of doing in the limited space with Caxton being sixty eight feet long but the impatient steerer of the other boat thought that he could still get into the gap. As a result we gained some of his blacking at the expense of some of our paint from the counter of Caxton. He apologised but the damage was done. At the next lock, his wife who had gone ahead, opened both gates. Sue drove in first and I closed the gate behind her but the fool on the other boat then managed to hit the other (open) gate; thankfully no impact on Caxton this time. Under other circumstances I would have pulled over and let them rush haphazardly through the remaining locks. However the pounds are short here and with boats coming down as well as coming up behind us, this wasn’t a realistic option. Sue and I swapped places for the remaining locks and at the top we let the other boat get on its way while we closed the gates behind us.

As we approached the bridge by The Boat Inn just a few minutes later, a Rose narrowboat pulled away from the bank. In his desparation to get out in front of us, the steerer had forgotten to fit his tiller so there was a mad scramble as the crew struggled to the boat under control before they reached the bridge. A few minutes later we saw and heard the tell-tale signs of a steam engined boat up ahead. The smoke and steam had engulfed the boat that we had shared the locks with but we knew that it was in that cloud somewhere – not that we laughed of course! A mile or so later, we saw that our lock buddies had pulled over and as we passed them, they told me that the smoke had filled their cabin so they were waiting for ten minutes to let the steamer get through the Calcutt locks. The Rose narrowboat which had been so keen to get underway just twenty minutes earlier pulled over and moored up just a few minutes later even though the steamboat was by now, nowhere in sight. It was just exiting the bottom lock as we arrived but wasn’t throwing out much smoke that we could see. With boats coming down, it didn’t take long to get up through the short flight. 

We turned left at Wigram’s turn and became part of a convoy heading towards Braunston at the same time as an equally long convoy of boats headed in the opposite direction. At Braunston turn, we went left while most others turned right and once we had passed the usual long line of boats on the visitor moorings, we found a peaceful place to tie up for the day between Braunston and Willoughby.

We settled in the cratch for the afternoon, relaxing in the sunshine and watching the steady stream of boats go by. We now need to plan the final part of the trip and avoid the wet weekend weather that has been forecast.