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Blue Lias

The Road to Hell

Is paved with good intentions, or so they say.
Our intention this weekend had been to stay in the marina so that we could wash and polish Caxton. We changed our minds and decided to go out and take advantage of the warm, sunny weather. We arrived at Braunston just after four o’clock and emerged on to the cut less than an hour later.
The weather was absolutely glorious and perfect for boating. The Boathouse looked busy as we passed by but once again the pub moorings were completely empty, very strange. As we turned left at the junction, a Napton boat was just passing under the other bridge, heading north on the Oxford – or so we thought. The boat went straight across so that the bow rested on the opposite bank where a crew member jumped off and started wrestling with the bow line. Perhaps they had intended turning towards the locks and taken the junction like a road junction? We’ll never know because neither they nor the boat that had been travelling towards the turn from the north appeared under the arches of the cast iron bridges by the time they were out of view to us.
We plodded on until we reached the spot where we had moored the previous Saturday. We soon located the rings and secured Caxton’s mooring lines to them. We ate dinner in the cratch and enjoyed the evening sun until it disappeared and the air became chilly.
Saturday, the longest day of the year dawned and as the sun rose, the boat started to warm up so we got up and dressed and then prepared for our departure. In contrast to the stillness of Friday, a welcome breeze accompanied us as we journeyed towards Wigrams turn. Sue made me a nice bit of bacon and egg and then took over the steering while I sat down to eat, a good Captain knows how to get the best out of her crew!
The top lock at Calcutt was full and as we descended, two boats left the middle lock heading up so we made easy passage. The same thing happened for us in the middle lock, one of the boats ascending was a Willow Wren training boat but we didn’t get a chance to witness any instruction. We had to close the bottom gate of the third lock as there was nothing approaching it but we had been lucky and despite having no other boat to partner us through the locks, we had passed through very quickly.
Once we were clear of the last lock, Sue took the opportunity to stretch her legs with a walk to the next bridge where I picked her up again. We motored on until we reached the recently renovated Nelson’s wharf and the home of Willow Wren Training. We made use of the wharf, winding Caxton and then reversing to the nearest available mooring spot with an unobstructed view of the canal. We sat in the cratch, partially shaded from the strong sun, listening to music and just basically lazing the afternoon away. At six o’clock with the fierce heat of the sun having subsided, we wandered down to the Blue Lias and had dinner in the beer garden there. On returning to Caxton, I crashed out on the settee and that was it for me for the night. I did wake a couple of hours later and drag myself into bed!
After a good thirteen hours asleep, I awoke refreshed. As Sue said, I must have needed the sleep. We got up, got showered and got dressed before having a cooked breakfast on the front deck in the mid morning sunshine.
Shortly after eleven we decided that we should probably make a start on the four hour trip back to Braunston so we untied and set off. These are the sort of days that we all imagine when we think of boating, blue skies and gentle breezes. It took us about an hour to reach Calcutt and we shared the first two locks with a couple who moor in the marina there, they were going for diesel so we let them leave the middle lock first and waited while they manouevered into position. We swapped over with a pair of boats leaving the top lock and because there was a day hire boat waiting to come in, our ascent of the three locks had been as quick and easy as our descent had been the day before. A small Sea Otter boat arrived, decided that they didn’t fancy bouncing around in the lock with the similarly sized day boat and so turned around. We had a bit of lighthearted banter with them about chickening out and creating a “plan B” and we all had a good laugh. They followed us for a short while and then turned again back towards the lock, presumably to try again with a different boat to partner them.
We soon reached the junction and held back as an American crewed Viking boat took a very wide sweep. As they passed, the steerer commented on how tough the turn was until Sue pointed out that the Kate boat following them had executed the turn much tighter.
We turned left at Wigrams and started on the very familiar route back to the marina. Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of boats on the move and we eventually found ourselves in the middle of a convoy which broke up when we reached Braunston turn. We reached our berth in the marina just after three o’clock, driving in rather than reversing so that when we return on Wednesday we can wash and polish the port side of Caxton. It will then simply be a matter of turning the boat around so that we can clean the other side and have Caxton in the perfect position to view the Historic boat parade at the weekend.