The Long Journey Home – Part 1
Thursday 31 May 2018
Baptism of Fire
It was always going to be a trek, so in The long journey home – Part 1 we set off. We left Whilton Marina at 12:40 with two members of the Whilton Marina sales team on board to help us manoeuvre backwards off the pontoon and turn in the marina, to exit under the marina bridge onto the Grand Union Canal. We chickened out on attempting this ourselves in honour of the other resident’s boats – we wanted to leave them intact.
We turned left under the marina bridge (well, the Whilton Marina sales team member did) straight up to Lock 13 of the Buckby Lock Flight (Whilton Lock). A mere 100 yards. I jumped off with one of the team to watch how the locks were operated (mu was already there), whilst the other member brought Mirrless into the lock.
“So, how do you operate a lock then? You don’t open the gate paddles first, do you?”.
“I don’t know. I haven’t actually operated a lock before”.
The boat was in the lock with another narrowboat (this conserves water in a double width lock). Their hand was doing all the work.
“We need the Windlass” (thats the lock handle you use to open the lock – no Windlass, no lock access).
“It’s on the boat!” Which was now sitting at the bottom of a deep lock, waiting to be filled.
Too Many Cooks
By now, we had now been joined by another Whilton Marina sales team member; Adrian so, the sight of 5 people on a boat, stood around while one person operated the lock must have looked bad. It was all taken in good jest once the lock buddy understood we were novices, we were being shown how to helm the boat, this was our maiden voyage, and we were 2 minutes in and out first lock, ever!
Once through, the Whilton Marina sales team left but not before taking a photo of us, off on our journey.
At this point, I had got back on the boat and was actually driving the boat. This was good as this would be my role for the foreseeable future. Mu seemed to have got the hang of the locks straight off. If only the same applied to my helming the craft…
We went up 6 locks with the couple in the other narrowboat and both learned a lot in a short time. This is where they left us and mu operated the 7th lock on her own. We carried on, past Norton Junction and on to the Braunston Tunnel.
The Bowels of the Canal
Pulling into the side (meaning the bushes and shallows) to prepare for the tunnel of doom (sorry Ben), another boat drove straight past and in. I was being overly cautious in case a boat was already coming through. It turns out that this pinhole of a tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass. The tunnel was wide enough for two narrowboats to pass? I turned on the headlight (it literally is a car headlight) and followed the boat that had slipped in.
Into the dark, dripping bowels of the canal system. It was a long bowel section. Neither was it straight. It looked like it had been resected several times (from the little you could see of it in the dark). It must have been at least 45 minutes to travel through the 2042 yard long tunnel and it wasn’t without incident. The dark, the dripping water, the cool aspect were fine, it was the clanging off the brickwork sides and bouncing off a boat half way through that came at speed.
“It’s OK, it’s a contact sport”
Eventually the green light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t hallucination, it was actually the way out. Made it!
Out, in the glorious sunshine we pushed on a little further to moor up, just outside the tunnel, at Top Lock No. 6. for a well-earned cup of tea.
Refreshed, we decided to push on further and pass through another 6 locks; the last four mu had to fill and operate alone so by the end, she and I were exhausted.
We moored up in Braunston, outside The Boathouse Marston’s pub, across the canal. We enjoyed well-earned pints, sitting outside looking across at Mirrless but then the rain started, so we decided to adjourn inside and listened to Northern Soul in an empty pub, with no-one but the cleaners.
The rain came to nothing but lightening and thunder behind the clouds carried on for a while, drifted into the far distance and then fizzled out. We put up the funnel on the chimney and covered it with a metal waste paper bin, making it look like a very strange wizard (we’d lost it’s natty little tin cap in one of several incidents with bushes.
The great thing was, the Wifi from The Boathouse extended across the canal to Mirrless 🙂
Thanks to all at Whilton Marina; Fred, Harvey, Adrian, John and Nigel to name a few, for their excellent support.
Thanks to The Rock of Gibraltar pub for the Wifi for the upload.
Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 1.