Scorching weekend in april
Friday 8th April
The weather forecast for the weekend almost seemed too good to be true, full sunshine, no wind and twenty degrees, perfect boating weather. Apart from having the boat out in the sunshine, we needed to test her out after servicing the engine the weekend before. We also had a new set of domestic batteries to install ready for the new cruising season.
We arrived at Braunston just after half past four in the afternoon and after moving off our berth and nearer to the car we loaded our belongings and swapped the batteries over. We were ready to set off by six o’clock and this we did, on to the Grand Union in the direction of Napton. The sun was still bright even though it was sinking an hour later when we stopped for the evening just before we reached bridge 103. We had eaten pizza along the way so there was nothing else to do except sit on the deck with a glass of wine until the sun finally said goodbye for the night and dropped below the horizon.
Saturday 9th April
We awoke to see that the sun was already up and very bright, opening the curtains we saw that once again there were no clouds in the sky. By ten o’clock we were ready to untie and drive off once again. It felt more like late May than early April as we made our way to Wigram’s turn. There were already quite a few boats moving and we paired up with one of them, Ol’ Bess, at Calcutt top lock. The two boats ahead of us were a hire boat and a private one, unsurprisingly, the private one had to call for diesel at the boatyard, leaving the inexperienced hire-boat crew to fend for themselves. The locks were busy but we descended without incident and waved goodbye to Ol’ Bess and her crew when they turned into the marina below the bottom lock. We carried on until we neared the top of Stockton locks and moored about a hundred yards away from the Boat Inn. We ate lunch outside before walking down to Long Itchington. We ventured no further than the Two Boats Inn where we stopped for a drink before returning to the boat via the Blue Lias and the Boat Inn. We soaked up the early spring sunshine for a second evening before retiring.
Sunday 10th April
We wanted to get up early and turn around at Kate Boats hire centre before the canal traffic got too busy so we were on the move for eight o’clock. It was another sunny day but there was enough of a chill in the air to remind us that it was still April and the good weather was unseasonal, not the norm. It took us an hour or so to reach Calcutt locks once again and then the fun began. The two boats ahead of us decided to sit in the bottom lock until the middle lock was ready for them. The boat that we were paired with was a hire boat and it was clear that they had no idea what they were doing. A child holding their centre rope stretched over our roof threatening to whip our chimney off, a female crew member who seemed to think that her role was to take photographs and leave the gatework to us. We used the same excuse that the boat on Saturday had used and let this hire boat go ahead without us. We then ascended the first of the remaining two locks with another private boat but had to finish the flight alone because they were going for diesel – or were they??? Perhaps they didn’t want to travel with us? Travelling through broad locks is a bit like life itself, you don’t always know who you’re paired up with until it’s too late. If you’re lucky and you get a good one, the whole experience seems effortless. Get a bad one and all you want to do is to find any excuse to escape!
We emerged from the junction at ten o’clock and turned back towards Braunston. The chilly air gradually gave way to the sort of conditions that we had experienced the day before and just after midday we chugged into the marina where we filled the tank with diesel and bought some gas for cooking. The mechanical and electrical trials had been successful and we were now fully prepared for our Easter holiday in eleven days time. It seemed a shame to go home so we decided to stay another night on board and then drive back to Hinckley in the morning.