Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 - A Very Good Boating Year

(Boats Chalice & Sickle - posted by Alan)

David & Charlie survey the Thames as we turn at Lechlade
So 2011 has drawn to a close, and we are pleased to report a very much fuller boating year than 2010, which was dogged by me breaking my pelvis early in the year, the urgent need to repaint Chalice in the Summer holiday, and my Mum falling ill, and passing away just after Christmas.


"Sickle" at Hawkesbury, soon after purchase.
Not that 2011 has not also had its issues.  I knew he would be having cataract surgery early in the year, and have since  suffered visual disturbances in both eyes, (apparently unrelated).  Plus the aftermath of that smashed hip means I still don't leap from boat to bank as reliably as I might like.  But these are small annoyances rather than show-stoppers, and in a year where my closest friend died suddenly of a heart attack, I am supremely grateful to have the health and the time to (very) regularly be out boating.

This was the year in which "Sickle" joined "Chalice", and our boating time started to be divided between the two.

"Chalice" makes its first visit to The Bratch

The 2011 stats are as follows.....

Days boated: 87
Miles covered: 1198
Locks worked: 917

Biggest surprise of 2011 - "Chalice" makes it through Froghall!
Waterways visited:

Birmingham & Fazeley
Droitwich Barge
Droitwich Junction
Grand Union Birmingham Line
Grand Union South
Northern Oxford
River Severn
River Thames : Upper
River Thames : Lower
River Thames: Tidal
Shropshire Union : Main Line
Shropshire Union : Middlewich Branch
Southern Oxford
Staffs & Worcs
Trent & Mersey : Main line
Trent & Mersey : Caldon Branch
Trent & Mersey : Leek Branch
Worcester & Birmingham

"Sickle" at Braunston Historic Boat event
Boating events with Sickle

Stoke Bruerne Gala
Braunston Historic Boats
Linslade / Leighton Buzzard Festival
Stoke Bruerne Village at War

We have also had several opportunities to meet up with our many boating friends, the last as recently as a very large gathering in Loughborough, just before the New Year.


Little could I have realised that within a couple of months of writing this synopsis of 2011 we would be without Charlie, ("the best dog in the world"), and constantly part of our boating life since he joined us from the rescue centre less than 2 years previously.

Of course we are sad now to look back at the pictures in which he features so much, but far from wanting to erase his memory, we never want to forget the very happy, (but far too short), time he was part of the family.  Yes, there is still a tear welling in my eye as I type this, but for a while he gave us so much, and we all absolutely adored him.  A very sad loss!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

What do I expect from the Canal & River Trust council members?

(posted by Cath)
Not surprisingly we've been discussing what the 'boater on the canal' needs  from the 'boater representatives' on the Canal and River Trust Council.  This is my take on it, Sarah (Chertsey) has her own points.
  • Understand that the role is to represent the needs of boaters first and foremost
  • Be available to the boaters that he/she represents
  • Be able to appreciate and understand the different needs of the people that he/she represents
  • Be able and willing to broker a solution to difficult problems
  • Be clear headed and able to see the long term implications of policies
  • Not be afraid to disagree if it is clear that a policy is unwise, or not adequately thought through
  • Be able to fairly weigh the disparate needs of the people that he/she represents, and give appropriate weight to those needs
  • Be able to bring considerable boating experience to the table
  • Have an appreciation of the history and heritage of the canal and a wish to preserve it in an appropriate manner
  • The representative cannot be a member of all boating groups, that is impossible, but the representative must be able to appreciate their needs and represent them fairly
This is what I want to see in the 'boater representatives'.  The representatives may also be walkers, cyclists, anglers, or whatever, but their prime role is to represent the boaters.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Alan Is Standing For A "Boater" place on the Canal and River Trust Council

Most British waterways boat licence holders will by now have received a letter entitled "Would you like to get involved with the Canal & River Trust".  It is calling for candidates to stand for election, (in what will be just 7 elected positions out of a total of 35 positions in total), on the Council for the new Canal & River Trust.  (I still want to abbreviate it CART, but CRT seems to be winning the day).  Of those just 4 positions are for private boat owners, and I suspect many boating organisations and clubs will be trying hard to promote their preferred candidates for these roles - why wouldn't they ?!?.

But each boat owner with a BW licence will get the chance to cast a vote in an election where they may be able to ensure that people with a real commitment to boating generally get elected, rather than those with perhaps a much more  specific agenda.

I have been persuaded by quite a number of people to put myself up as a candidate, and as I feel I'm ready for a new challenge, am very happy to do so.

You are allowed by the process to make an "Election Statement" that will be very strictly enforced as limited to 150 words only.  I can understand the logic for this, but it is a considerable challenge in only a few sentences to try and state your reasons for wanting to take on the role, and the experience and qualities that might make a complete stranger wish to vote for you above other comers.

Anyway, I'm standing, and here are my 150 words.

Just four elected council positions must represent the disparate needs of all boaters.  I am independent, love boats and boating, and am already well networked with many boaters countrywide.  My first boats were forty years ago, and I now boat at every opportunity, covering large distances and regularly attend boating events. 
Although deeply protective of the history and heritage of the waterways, I am fully realistic that people own boats for many reasons, often with very different ideas of what is important.  Categorising boaters into particular groupings is unhelpful and divisive, and I would aim to fairly represent everybody whatever their reasons for boat ownership.
In my role within a large multinational I was particularly recognised as someone able to broker the best solutions to complex problems that had eluded others.   Early retirement allows me to commit the necessary time, and to be easily contacted by those I represent.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A Perfect Weekend - Is It REALLY November ?

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Fenny Stratford's shallow lock.
Circumstances had prevented us doing very much boating over the half-term week, so Cath and I were inevitably looking for an excuse for a short trip by now.

Sickle had not been visited for a week or two, and as it has rained a fair bit, we knew we ought to go and pump the water out, but we decided we would make a weekend trip of it, and spend last night on the boat.

Fuel boat "Ascot" servicing a customer.
Some heavy afternoon rain was forecast for yesterday, (Saturday), but as is often the case, the forecast wasn't even close.

We had cracking weather yesterday, and even better today.  We lit the range yesterday, as we thought it would get colder in the evening, and it's the easiest way to have an available kettle for hot drinks, but by the evening realised it was simply going to be too hot overnight in the cabin if we didn't shut it down to go right out.

Unusually deserted Leighton - Apart from that shadow!
Virtually nobody else was moving, so we very nearly had the canal to ourselves both days.  Highly unusual, (in fact I'd say almost unheard of), was the total absence of any other boat on the main Leighton Buzzard moorings.  This proved quite useful, as whilst Chalice isn't usually troubled by the shopping trolleys, (generally floating over them), it can be quite hard to get Sickle to the bank.  With that much space, when we were clearly trying to haul Sickle over trolleys, we just moved up a bit until we weren't.

Virtually the whole hire fleet, we think - 34 of them!
We had an excellent meal at "Ask" in Leighton Buzzard.  I don't think all restaurants in this chain are equal, as we have been unimpressed elsewhere, but I can certainly say we have had three top rate ones on a row in Leighton.

Setting off back down Stoke Hammond Three Locks
We made a very relaxed start back to the moorings today, even managing to put a reasonable shine on the brass before we set off.  The weather was brilliant and the autumn scenery quite stunning.  Even the large numbers of fishermen seemed generally cheerful today.

"Three Locks" on a near perfect day.
The more I think about it, it really, really is a struggle to believe we were well into November.

To Leighton Buzzard and Back
Miles: 16.8, Locks: 12

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Stoke Bruerne "Village at War" October 1st and 2nd.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Passing the fuel boat "Ascot"
Our first "event" with Sickle had been the Stoke Bruerne Canal gala back in June.  We had thoroughly enjoyed this, despite rain having largely taken away the Sunday of the weekend.  We were aware of the "Village at War" event at the start of October, but initially had no hope of attending, as it falls during Cath's term time.

And a steam launch that threatened to overtake me at times!
However Sickle being at Fenny Stratford placed us in the situation that she was less than a day's travel from Stoke Bruerne, and, apart from the flight of locks at Stoke itself, most of the route was lock-less miles, with just a single lock at Cosgrove to negotiate.  It thus became apparent that I could probably single-hand Sickle most of the way, and that Cath could come up after work on the Friday, and work me up the locks.

Dappled in sunshine at Cosgrove lock
This is the first time I have really single-handed either boat over any distance, and, still suffering after my fractured pelvis, I lack agility to keep leaping on and off the boats.  As we have had one or two "happenings" with Sickle I was a little nervous, but decided I felt brave enough to try.

Horse drawn ice boat Laplander - now steam powered
I got to Fenny by a combination of bike and train, but was not really ready to set off much before 11:00.  On a good day, I really start to feel more comfortable with keeping Sickle "in channel" in the deepest water, and I generally made good progress.  However obstructions in some of the bridge holes caused me some problems, and I was keeling over on stuff on the bottom far more than when we came South some months back through the same bridges.  In one case I was deflected enough that the stove chimney got a bit grazed on the arch of the bridge.  Not too serious, but I'd have preferred it not to happen!

Miss Lola Lamour
Perhaps I was getting a bit to confident, because as I entered Cosgrove lock the engine stalled on me!  Fortunately I was at no great speed, and no harm was done.  The rest of the passage up to the Stoke locks passed uneventfully, but after that distance on the tiller with no breaks, I was more than a bit tired.  The crews of several boats I had passed had said things like "I hope you are not heading to Stoke Bruerne! - It is already totally double moored throughout, and there is nowhere to stop!" - all slightly worrying!

Where much of the money went!
Cath arrived with all the things I had been unable to bring to the boat, because I had not used a car - well nearly everything, having forgotten the loaf of bread I had asked David to make for her to bring along!  We set off up the locks, again passing people telling us we had no hope of mooring in Stoke.

Typical of the quality of the exhibits.
In fact the "long pound" two locks down from the top was fully moored out, so options of stopping short were gone.  We pressed on in failing light, and I held one lock below the top whilst Cath biked up to see if we could slot in anywhere.  Good news - just one slot, and it was hopefully 40 foot, (just!).  We carried on up the final lock in really very dark conditions.  The boat fitted the space with maybe 6" to spare -a real result!

Land Girls - hard at work.
Its hard to describe the weekend in words, but harder still in pictures, as we somehow got into the swing of it enough to take very few usable photos.  People always want to know about Sickle, and the fact it was a boat converted to an ice-breaker as part of the war effort generated a lot of interest at a war themed event.

Sickle well guarded on a trip down the locks.
What else did we do.  Well we ate, (and drank), out a great deal, as we had not really brought food with us, and Stoke has no shops, but an excellent pub, and even an excellent "Indian".  We spent far too much money, ranging from (real) 1940s clothes and shoes for Cath to German paratropper boots, (yes, honestly!), for me, after my "sensible shoes" disintegrated on our first jaunt around the site in Sickle.  Also acquired was a rather nice old brass water pump - I've no idea what it may get used for, but it was just too nice a thing not to make an offer on.  Despite getting a top up of cash in the pub, Cath was finally reduced to borrowing money from a work colleague to buy her final old clothes - a rather nice Astrakan coat.

I learnt to drive buses on one not much newer than this!
The weather remained superb throughout - spectacularly good for October, and a contrast to the very wet gala earlier in the year. This is great, as there had apparently been dangers of no further events if this one wasn't well attended. We met friends from the canal world, as well as giving a ride to the family that Cath knows through work.

Near perfect day for the return trip.
We spent far too long just chilling out on Sunday before starting off back South down the locks, and were running out of light before arriving at the bottom and finding all mooring places taken.  Too dark to press on, we left the boat on a less that ideal spot, and vowed to tell BW why we had been forced to do so - I would need to come back very soon now to move her South again.

Approaching Cosgrove on the return.
In fact after just a day to recover on Monday, I set off back to Stoke to make the return trip.  This was fairly uneventful, other than briefly getting thoroughly stuck on a mud bank at Wolverton,  To be fair, I should have known better, having got myself into a bit of canal where I hoped it would be deep enough, but very clearly wasn't.  It's probably the first time in our ownership that Sickle has not fairly quickly slid back off somewhere where she doesn't have enough water to float.  Fortunately I extricated myself, but not without a bit of black smoke out the "tall pipe".

Sickle is a real ice breaker - this boat is an unconvincing imposter.
The rest of the journey back to Fenny was uneventful.  Cath had been on a course, and arrived fed up, because it had been one of the poorest she had ever attended.  Of course we then had to drive to Stoke to collect the second car, so were not back until quite late, and by then were both fairly exhausted.

A cracking weekend, and definitely one for next years diary, if they run one.

Fenny Stratford to Stoke Bruerne and Return
(with some short trips at Stoke)
Miles: 38.0, Locks: 24

Sunday, 18 September 2011

North to Fenny

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

After a couple of months at Cow Roast, (thanks to Mike for a loaned mooring, for much of that time!), it was time to shift Sickle further North.

The plan was to drive to Cow Roast, but to take bikes, so we could go back there afterwards, and collect a car.

The move we wanted to do was more than a day, without going mad, but looked easily done in well under two.  Leighton Buzzard was an obvious overnight stopping point, to allow us a choice of places to go and eat, so we didn't need to worry about cooking.  The weather forecast didn't look too bad for the Saturday - just maybe a bit of light shower.

I rather enjoyed Tring summit, feeling I am starting to get more of an idea where the best channel is, and choosing engine speeds that mean we make good progress, but don't wrestle needlessly with the boat.

Approaching the middle lock at themain Marsworth flight.
We nearly always enjoy going down the Marsworth flight, and doing it on a sunny Saturday with an interesting boat, you get a lot of attention.  Normally it is when you are distracted by someone admiring your boat that you then do something not very clever in front of a large audience!  Today we managed to avoid that, I think, but with all the locks against us, Cath was buzzing backwards and forwards on the bike, and I think we learnt a bit about how to get along faster, as I was trying to climb on and off to do lock work too, but actually probably doing not a lot that speeded us up - sometimes its probably better to stay at the controls more, and leave it to her.

The sunshine gives no hint of weather to come.
By the bottom of the flight we had caught another boat which waited for us, and we then shared several locks with them.  It was a very new and expensive looking narrow boat, but was wheel steered from a seated position.  The couple in charge were very friendly, but the man explained to Cath that they were now taking the boat to brokers to sell it - it never ceases to amaze me how much people spend for a life on the water, only to offload the boat before not very long at all.  Although they had boated a fair bit, the lady really hadn't got to grips with the wheel steering, and her husband was obviously very frustrated as she relied heavily on a bow-thruster for just about every move.  This made my life a bit tricky, as I was asked if I  "shadow" her into locks to help guide her in, but she had a habit of heavy use of bow-thruster at critical moments that sent me off course, and into the walls of the lock approaches!

However our partnership was quickly ended by a "systems failure" on Sickle.  The "speed wheel", (basically a brass wheel, which is the engine speed control), had become stiffer and stiffer, and I was having trouble winding it away from "minimum".  Suddenly I was holding most of it loose in my hand, leaving a stump that I couldn't turn at all!

The brazing between the two brass parts had failed, and at first I had little hope of effecting a fix.  But when I realised we had an electric drill on board, I tried to drill through the two parts and bolt them together, (not elegant, but needs must!). It took several hours to solve, as the battery powered drill went flat, and the only available drill bits quickly blunted or broke.  A second stroke of luck was a small and never used inverter on board, which allowed me to produce enough 240 volts from the boats 12 volt battery to recharge the drill just enough to complete the bodged repair.

The threatening clouds start to hang low.
We were now very much behind schedule, and hope of reaching Leighton buzzard before dark has now all but gone.  Then "the weather" started!  First dark clouds started to obliterate most of the daylight.  These hung onimously very low over nearby hills, and lightning could be seen in the distance.  Then came the rain, though never quite as much as initially looked inevitable.  When lightning overhead produced an almost immediate crash of thunder I decided the time had come to at least fold up the umbrella!

By now we had been watching a rainbow at least 15 minutes.
Then on the long pound from Slapton Lock to Grove Church Lock, we were treated to probably the best double rainbow both of us agreed we had ever seen.  I so wish we could have photographed it properly, but only a small part filled the cameras widest angle of vision, the camera was getting soaked, and then the battery started to die!  The pictures fail to capture its magnificence, so you will just have to trust us!

At Grove in failing light.
By Grove Lock, (the last one before Leighton), it really was getting quite dark, although again my photographic "prowess" has managed to produce a picture that implies it was still quite light!

I decided not to put on the tunnel light, and to try and let my eyes adjust to the failing light, but long before arriving at the town centre moorings, had to call Cath out on to the front deck to help me spot what was what.  I do like boating after dark sometimes, but after a longer and more tiring day than planned, by the time we moored up I was bushed.

We went to the same restaurant as we had done when we visited the Linslade Canal Festival, and once again enjoyed an excellent meal.

We decided not to hurry off the next day, but instead to wait and get a few things at the canalside Supermarket.  With only a further 5 locks up to our destination, Sunday was an easier day than Saturday had been.

Destination Fenny Stratford.
Or so it should have been!  We miscalculated planning our setting off for Bletchley station by bike, resulting in a bit of a rush to catch the train to Tring, which are fairly infrequent on a Sunday.  I thought we had fully made it, as we settled on the train.  Only then did I realise we must have left the single key for the car we were returning to on Sickle!  David was not too impressed to receive a call to turn out on his bike to Cow roast with a spare key, but duly did so, and we finally arrived home after a weekend of enjoyable boating, but where we could have done without one or two of the things that happened!

Cow Roast to Fenny Stratford
Miles: 20.3, Locks:24

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Putting Some Charge In Sickle's Battery, (lame excuse to go boating!).

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

Approaching Dudswell bottom lock.

While we have been off boating with Chalice, Sickle has remained tied up for over a month.  It has rained a fair bit, and when it does her hold starts to fill up.  An electric pump will get it out again, but this runs off her battery, also needed to start the engine.

And entering Dudswell bottom lock

So what better excuse, when you have just returned from a long trip in one boat to go boating in the other one - Sickle's batteries needed charging, (honestly!).

And descending Dudswell bottom lock.

Cath was returning to work after the weekend, but we reckoned we could take Sickle in to Berkhamsted on late Saturday afternoon, then bring her back on Sunday morning.  In the meantime we had arranged a drink and a meal with some friends.  As Sickle was pointed  North, I took her up to the former buffer depot at New Ground, and turned her to point South.  I used to do this regularly with a boat I owned at Cow Roast in the 1970s.  What a difference 40 years has brought - back then you could just motor down there, turn, and be back soon after.  Now almost entirely the whole length is lined with moored boats, mostly local live-abaoards, but some from further afield, and many are very poorly tied up on slack lines.  Sickle doesn't "crawl" easily, due to a big engine and large "blades", and very irritatingly has to be regularly taken out of gear in order not to draw the more poorly tied up boats around as she passes.  That short trip is now not a lot of fun, to be honest!

Approaching "Bushes" lock in Northchurch.

Saturday late afternoon and early evening brought us pleasant but cool conditions, and it was good to be using Sickle again, although she handles so differently from Chalice that the first mile or two is still a bit of a shock!  I was genuinely surprised on bits of the trip to Berkhamsted just how far from the bank I could be, even on the towpath side, and still end up aground.  If the person who motored past me just above Gas Two is reading this, and wonders why my boat got dragged into the path of his whilst I waited patiently (static) on the mud for him I'd be happy to explain, but you could have chosen a better path and speed, sir!

Returning through "Gas Two" on Sunday before the rain set in.

Our friends has walked out some of the way from Berkhamsted, and met us for the final few locks.  Berkhamsted has now become such a popular "temporary" mooring for so many boaters, (some boats to my knowledge having remained on "visitor" moorings there for over a year!), that finding a spot for even a 40 foot boat that late in the day was a bit of a challenge.  Fortunately there was just one space we could squeeze into without working on further than we wanted to, (just as well it wasn't Chalice we were on - it would not have fitted).

After a pleasant evening in the town, and a generally quiet night, we set off back on Sunday, quickly catching a boat that had gone ahead of us.

Sharing "Bushes" lock on the way back up.

The fact that some rain was forecast for around 10 o'clock came nowhere near the reality of what actually happened!  By 11 o'clock, it was absolutely lashing down, and Cath and I had travelled with well less than adequate clothing, both our coats failing the "waterproof" test after about five minutes, I'd say.  I can't actually recall getting as wet boating in a very long while, although there are no pictures, as I doubt the cameras would have survived the deluge.

We tied up a rather wet Sickle, and went home very cold.  I think a trip to do some drying off of things is now quite an urgent need!

Edited further to add:

It occurs to me also, that this is the first time Sickle has operated south of Tring summit in our ownership, placing her firmly on territory where I and my brothers know her firmly from as long ago as the early 1970s.  I never photographed her in Berkhamsted then, but my brother Mike did.  Some time we must try and do "then and now" photos, attempting to put Sickle as close as possible to locations we photographed her then.  Here she was tied up at the old gas works site, a firm favourite for tying up BW maintenance boats at the time.  I rather have a feeling that these days a lot of bushes might stop you tying Sickle against the bank, but I'm not sure without checking again....

Sickle in Berkhamsted, early 1970s [Photo: Mike Fincher]

Cow Roast to New Ground Buffer Depot to Berkhamsted to Cow Roast

Miles: 7.0, Locks: 14

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Back to Base - 415 miles and 385 locks in 25 days.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

There's not generally a lot to report when we get to this stage of any long outing.  We are firmly on home territory, and barring the completely unexpected, know it is just a case of completing those familiar last miles and last locks back to our home mooring.

Much improved situation at last night's leaky gates.

Last night the top gates at the Stoke Hammond Three had been closing so poorly that passage through the lock was very difficult, and much water was being lost from the "Jackdaw" pound above.  We hadn't got tools to try and clear any blockage behind the gates, but after we had got the last hire boats, and ourselves through it, had tried a bit of brute force to get the gates closing better.  It appears we had been quite successful, as this morning leakage was at more "normal" levels, (compare last night's picture with today's).

Alan eyes up a possible "support vessel" for Sickle at Grove lock.

I enjoyed a bowl of porridge on the ever-lovely Jackdaw pound.  I used to regularly traverse this pound nearly 40 years ago, when I assisted with the local hire fleet.  We caught another boat at Leighton lock, and worked through with them, but both they and we then pulled over for a supermarket stop.

After that we travelled alone. We met a steady flow of boats travelling in the other direction, but never again saw any sign of anybody travelling the same way as us.

This oddity is apparently rather more than 7 feet wide.

Despite the severe problems with water supplies this summer, most pounds were still in quite good health, if anything generally better than when we had passed the other way.  We did find the short pound between the Ivinghoe locks at least a foot short of water, but this probably has more to do with very leaky gates at the lower Ivinghoe lock, than with the drought conditions.

Grove Church, (or simply "Church")  lock.

Below Slapton lock.

All too quickly we were going through the final three Seabrooke locks, the Seabrooke swing bridge, and were back on our moorings.

A good colour match ?

Between the final locks at Seabrooke.

It has been our longest summer trip to date, both in time and in distance, and although we didn't go where we initially planned to, we have visited a variety of completely new places, including the Caldon and Leek branches of the Trent and Mersey, and the newly re-opened Droitwich Barge canal, and Droitwich Junction canals.  We would give a stong recommendation for all of these, although my "jewel in the crown" personally remains as the particularly delightful Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. We even managed 48 locks in one day, another personal best.  And we found time for two steam railways.

Until next year, then!

Stoke Hammond Three Locks to Cook's Wharf

Miles: 10.2, Locks: 10

Total Miles: 415.0, Total Locks: 385

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


(Boat Chalice - posted by Cath)

Classic Stoke Bruerne view

Some weeks back on the trip out I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder or neck, which I have largely managed to ignore. Alan has massaged it a bit, which has done a lot to keep it within tolerable levels, and I have taken painkillers when it got bad. The most important thing has been to keep active, as it isn't too bad during the day, but gets worse overnight while it is immobile.

I woke up this morning in real agony, barely able to get out of bed. It was the second really bad night in a row, where I had slept very little. I was so tired.

Alan walked Charlie, as although he has been trained to walk to heel, he can be very over enthusiastic, and any pulling on the lead would make the pain worse. After breakfast (and more painkillers) we set off, down the Stoke Bruerne flight, with me steering, and Alan working the locks. 

Earnest discussion about student motivation

Part of the way down we met up with a couple on another boat, the man told me that he teaches piano in independent schools, and we had a very interesting discussion about education today - it left me with some things to think about how I teach some aspects of our courses.

They suggested that we go on ahead after the flight, and we headed off until we got to the big supermarket at Wolverton. All this time the pain in my shoulder, neck and head didn't get any better.

I went shopping, Alan came to help me carry the bags back to the boat. He took one look at me and said, "you can't go on, should we stop?" We decided that I would take some more paracetamol, and go to bed, he would steer around lockless Milton Keynes.

Filling with water at Fenny

Despite the roar of the engine only a yard or so beyond my feet I slept quite well for some time. I woke, still in pain, but much refreshed, just in time to get some coffee made, and help to work through the next lock, Fenny Stratford. After that I took over steering through Stoke Hammond and to the bottom of Soulbury Three Locks.

Despite it being quite late in the day we were passed by a lot of Wyvern hire boats heading north from their base in Leighton Buzzard - surprising numbers for that late in the day.

At Three Locks

At Soulbury we found that there were no moorings left on the piling below the lock, and it was impossible to get Chalice into the muddy side anywhere else. There is more piling, but we had come past it some distance back, and nobody fancied reversing that far. So we opted to go up through the locks. Yet more Wyvern boats were coming down, and others were waiting at the top.

This is an empty lock - all paddles down

We became aware of large amounts of water pouring over some gates towards the top, Alan went up to investigate and found the worst leaking gates he had seen in a long time. They were not properly closed, and there seemed to be something stopping them closing against the cill. David went off to find a 'keb' (big rake with tines at an angle), and found a BW employee, who said he was off duty, and the 'keb' is not a 'keb', it's a 'drag'. Fair enough, I've always known it as a keb - we have one on Sickle, which was not a lot of use at that moment.

Leaky gates

So, without a keb/drag, and with a concerned German hirer looking on, they tried to clear the cill, by closing one gate on it's own, as fast as they could, then the other. They met together much better after that, so we didn't think that we'd wake up to find the pound we were mooring in drained in the morning.

We, and the young German couple, moored just above the lock. I began to cook dinner, David took Charlie off for a walk.


Alan and I had finished our food, and it was dark, we were starting to wonder quite where David and Charlie had got to. David's phone was off, so I set off in the direction they had gone, with a lantern, only to find David returning with pictures of the bats that he had been photographing.

Stoke Bruerne to Stoke Hammond Three Locks

Miles: 22.7, Locks: 12

Total Miles: 405.0, Total Locks: 375