Hawkesbury Junction - Bridge 80, just North of Braunston
20 miles, 4 locks North Oxford Canal
The first challenge of the morning was to negotiate Hawkesbury Junction. This is a difficult turn for some boats because is is two 90 degree angles one after the other such that the boat travels three sides of a square, ending up facing the opposite direction. For the Duck, however, with its ability to turn on a pin, it was a doddle. James took the boat in a U-turn, landing just by the stop lock onto the Oxford.
Just beyond the junction, we went past a boat with a man and a big Alsatian sitting in the bow. As we passed, he called out that the dog was the 'other Lyra' from the blog Lyra's Adventures, but that it was probably best that the two didn't meet!
It rained on and off, so we took turns at the tiller again. However, it had cleared up by the time we arrived in Rugby. On the way in we passed through a short tunnel which was spectacularly lit:
We stopped on the visitor moorings, and I headed to the big Tesco just by the canal for supplies of things that can't be bought in village shops, like value loo roll and Ecover washing up liquid! As we left Rugby, we passed nb Piston Broke, and gave them a wave.
Next stop was Hillmorton Locks. These are double locks so we anticipated a quick ascent. How wrong could we be? The middle pair had been reduced to just one lock, so that there was a huge bottleneck of boats. We were no.7 in the queue when we arrived! So we were in for a wait. And it was raining again. After a while, we thought that one of us should go and help, or at least look to see what was going on, even if there were already loads of helpers there. So, when I turned the corner to get to lock I was surprised to see a couple locking through by themselves, even with seven other boats waiting. So I gave them a hand. There were some boats coming down the locks but far more going up, so my help was much needed. Most of six boats in from of us were in fact hireboaters, and for many this was their first experience of locks. So I spent the next half hour or so helping boats come and go, and explaining the principle of locks to many of their crew. It was actually quite good fun, and they were appreciative. One lady even asked if I was lock keeper!
By the time our turn came around, there was no-one to help us, but we have a very efficient system for going up narrow locks between the two of us that involves leaving the boat in gear, with tiller strings holding it straight, and letting the boat drive itself in and out of the lock. This frees both of us up to work the paddlegear and open and close gates.
We carried on chugging towards Braunston, stopping just before dinner was ready. We'll reach Braunston, to go to the chandlery and the butcher's, in the morning.
6 hours ago