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Across the lonely summit

Our night at Fenny Compton had been a peaceful one and we awoke refreshed and ready to face another day. It was warm even at seven o’clock so we hoped that we might be enjoying some summery weather. We weren’t disappointed either, when we untied at eight the high hazy cloud was only just obscuring the sun as we picked our way slowly passed the long line of moored boats that are a feature of this area. We then started our long and lonely journey across the summit, the convoluted route totally disorientating us along the way. We didn’t see anything on the move for over an hour and after passing speeding Ashby boat, we caught up with a Rose narrowboat following a Viking afloat boat. The entertainment began at a bridge, where else? The Viking passed through and panicked when he met an oncoming privateer and grounded himself at the same time burying himself in the reeds and bushes on the offside. After allowing the private boat to pass under the bridge, the Rose narrowboat shot through, passing Viking just as he had almost righted himself. The Viking ended up back in the reeds again as a result! By this time we had stopped well behind to give them all time to sort themselves out and of course to get a good view of the action.

We now resigned ourselves for a journey on tickover behind the two holiday boats and then we would have the pleasure of following them down through the locks that lay ahead between Marston Doles and Napton. There were no more incidents on our slow chug to Marston Doles but we were delighted when both boats pulled in to take on water, propelling us to the front of the queue. With boats coming up the flight, the first two locks were easy but then we found ourselves following nb Wey with nothing coming up to aid the progress. Part way down we saw that ‘Wey’ were sitting in the lock ahead looking over the fields, it turned out that they we were watching a calf being born in the field. By the time we had moved down, the calf’s mother was licking and prodding her new offspring into life, everything seemed to be going alright as we passed on our way. We were being followed by nb African Queen, crewed by a couple who had recently sold their business and moved on to their boat, now embarking on a new way of life. With three of us following each other, we all helped with each others paddles and gates which seemed to pass the time if nothing else. Three locks to go saw a boat coming up which then opened up a gap between us and ‘Wey’ and with volunteer lockies manning the last two locks, our passage to the bottom was speeded up. We found a mooring around the corner so we tied up and went to the Folly Inn. The weather was still glorious so we treated ourselves to lunch in the garden.

On returning to Phoenix III we were in two minds as to what to do, stay put for the day or carry on in the sunshine? In the end we decided on the latter course of action and we cruised back to Braunston. All too soon we found ourselves back behind our Viking friend who was weaving his way along on tickover. We thought that we had seen the last of him when he weaved his way around a widebeam which happened to be winding at Wolfhampcote at the time. After allowing the widebeam to complete its manoeuvre, we passed by and then saw travelling in the opposite direction nb Aileen Rose, the boat that we had shared locks with between Warwick and Stockton a few weeks ago. Cheery waves and shouted hellos were exchanged as we passed each other. Then we caught up with our old friend the Viking afloat boat in the final straight before Braunston turn where the crew had decided to pull up, walk to the junction and ‘suss things out’ as they said when we eventually passed them by. It’s bad enough pulling up there at the best of times with boats travelling from three directions but with a CaRT barge tied up almost opposite, the obstruction was complete.

Once around the turn we made the familiar trip back to the marina, our progress only impeded by a boat trying to turn in the marina entrance rather than in the winding hole directly opposite, never mind, it’s all good fun when the sun is shining!

Once we were back on our pontoon we took advantage of the good weather and washed as much of the boat as we could before nipping up to the village shop and then settling down for the evening. We would spend our last night on Phoenix III in the marina before heading off home in the morning. This would give us a week before returning for the Braunston Historic boat rally.