A weekend trundle on the Grand Union, May 2000
Crew: Chris & Terry Rigden
Friday 12th May
After turning and filling the water tank at Gayton junction, we headed South towards Stoke Bruerne (in the rain) at about 7 pm. We entered Blissworth tunnel with some trepidation as this was by far the longest tunnel we have navigated. We couldn't see any light from the other end.
A light that appeared about 15 minutes later turned out to be an oncoming boat, not the end of the tunnel. The other guy was stationary at the end of the concrete section and seemed less than happy to see us. We seemed to reach the gloomy southern portal all of a sudden and we started to look for somewhere to moor at Stoke Bruerne.
On emerging we found we had lost a side fender, lesson learnt - pull 'em up when underway.
Saturday 13th May
Took a look round the Stoke Bruerne while waiting for the museum to open, and after doing the museum we headed south. This was our first broad lock but as there was no traffic and it was set for us we proceeded on our own. This is where we would have appreciated a centre rope, but careful opening of the paddles plus looping the bow rope over the bollard kept thing under control. We did most of the flight on our own except for the last lock where a guy reversed his boat in to join us.
After that we had an easy meander in the sunshine down to Wolverton, and had a meal at the Galleon. Some idiot at an adjacent table got literally paralytic drunk and spent a good 1/4 hr or so on the floor before getting up and insisting on riding off on his bike. Nb "Londonweed" turned up looking for a mooring so we invited them to breast up. After dinner we decided to turn there, so I had to reverse out to do the turn. I ended up just a few feet from a fisherman but he was most understanding.
We then motored back to the moorings just below the lock at Cosgrove. The Dutch barge "Frederik de Tonge" was moored opposite complete with its mast raised - an unusual sight. At about 9 p.m. the trip boat Linda went hammering past with music blaring out. It returned somewhat later - quieter, but no slower.
Sunday 14th May
The morning dawned bright and sunny again, promising a lovely day's cruising. On our return trip we teamed up with Derek and Gail (a delightful couple) on "Completely Foxed", who are spending the summer cruising the system. Do look out for them, they are excellent company.
After being thanked by an angler for passing with consideration I promptly ran aground, and in reversing off I ended up right in front of him and had to give it some stick to pull the front off. My good intentions all came to nought, but he was very understanding about it.
We were surprised at just how crowded Stoke Bruerne was - as the locks filled one rose through a forest of legs, quite a contrast to the day before. I was tempted to pass my hat round for contributions. I can see why they want to put in a foot bridge. Absolutely no chance of a mooring so Chris fetched icecreams as the last lock filled, and we trundled on.
Re-entering Blissworth tunnel from the bright sunshine was a shock - I couldn't see a thing and I thought the headlight had blown. Photochromatic glasses can be a mixed blessing. Next time I'm going to stop a few yards in to get my night vision before proceeding. This time there was no oncoming traffic and we went through without incident. All too soon we were back at Gayton and it was time to pack up and head home.
Canal boats are time machines. We felt as relaxed and refreshed as after a week's holiday, all in just 48 hrs.