Meandering on the North Oxford, Coventry & Ashby canals, Sept 99
Crew: Chris & Terry Rigden
Saturday 25th Sept
We picked up "Hartsfield" in the pouring rain from Clifton Cruisers Rugby on Saturday lunchtime. We chose it because it has easy chairs in the saloon and was only two years old.
We have been considering the possibility of a share boat, and used this trip to find out whether we would still enjoy boating in inclement weather and without a crew. We also wanted to have a first hand look at some share and hire boats.
We certainly got the inclement weather, and I soon understood why many people prefer a semi trad stern, it's awfully exposed on the back of a cruiser. But once I put on my tyvek (ex clean room) suit, put up the big brolly and donned my wide brimmed rain hat. I stayed dry even if I looked a bit odd.
As there was just the 2 of us and the weather was iffy, we headed north to the lock free bit. What with dodging showers etc, we only got as far as Stretton Stop the first day. That was OK, as it gave us a chance to look round Rose Boats the following morning, but the boats that most interested us were out.
That night we discovered that the bed was right up under the gunwale, which lost a good 4" off an already narrow space, and neither of us slept well. We also discovered that the loo seat was very high so one's feet dangled when 'enthroned'.
I think this was the low point, not only did it persist down with rain, but the cut was infested with fishermen (why do they insist on fishing on the opposite bank to where they sit?) right the way through Nuneaton (not the nicest town I've passed through).
Immediately past the fishermen, I was berated by some old git on a Tupperware boat for not slowing down past his mooring. My explanation that I was already on tickover was not accepted and he offered to "adjust" my engine for me - which I declined. I think he assumed I was going too fast as he didn't hear the revs drop as we approached, as we were already on tickover.
Then my camera packed up, so no photos this time.
We moored at the Anchor and met some very nice folks from the share boat Valiant who invited us to take a look round. A VERY nice boat, in immaculate condition at 2 years old, though possibly a bit fussy for our taste. But it certainly upped the temptation to go for a share.
We turned at the Atherstone locks, having decided that locking in the rain wasn't a good sport for 2. So back through Nuneaton, this time without anglers. We stopped at Valley Boats, but all their boats were out (even in late September - a good sign). We returned after dropping the boat off and were most impressed, and would have booked the next years cruise then and there had the boat not been fully booked for the weeks we wanted.
Then up the Ashby - what a contrast to the urban jungle on the Coventry canal. We stopped at Limekilns and met a charming couple on Nb "Nifty Fifty" from South Africa, who cruise here for six months each year,.
We proceeded up the Ashby to Market Bosworth, where we turned, taking in Ashby Boats on the way. They, too, had all their boats out. Chris took the helm on various occasions, finding the 40' length easy to manage and visibility no problem.
Met a couple of Americans who had spent a month cruising on Ashby's "Shakerstone". They invited us for a look round - nice boat, nice people. Chris was starting to feel the social isolation a bit, and the chat cheered her up.
Spent the night at Dadlington and enjoyed a good curry at the "Dog and Hedgehog". The nice thing about this establishment (apart from the good food) is that the dining room is non-smoking.
Probably the driest day of the week. After cruising uneventfully for most of the morning we met the first boat just as we went into a bridge hole on a bend. Just at the critical moment, we picked up a fertiliser bag in the prop, leaving us halfway through the bridge with no propulsion. It didn't take long to clear after poling to the side.
A short while later, whilst approaching another bridge, I spotted a large raft of floating debris right across our path. I knocked the engine out of gear while we went over it. Just then "Blue Heron" appeared through the bridge, so I got back into gear to regain control but I didn't have sufficient rudder authority to stop our bow swinging as she passed and clipping their stern (I have sent my apologies to Jan & Stan). Tony (who was driving at the time) was very gracious about it.
When we got to the junction, the boat in front stopped to tow "Water Knight", which had lost its clutch and had apparently been stranded for 3 days. However this made turning out of the junction a little tight - I reckon I had less than 4 feet to spare, but I got it round without contact. They came past us while we moored up to sit out a vicious rain squall, and the we caught them up, just as they ran aground and ended up across the cut. The blustery wind must have made life difficult. Once they were underway again, we stayed well behind till we all got to Hawksbury, where we stopped to chat and take on water before continuing on our way.
Back down the Oxford heading for Braunston. No problems at the Hillmorton locks, it just takes a little longer with just two. Nice shop at the locks, bought a 4mm scale model kit of a narrow boat. I think I'll do it as the boat I would like to own one day.
Arrived Braunston, was invited to take a trip on the share boat 'Alibi' - very, VERY nice indeed - so quiet. Temptation now reaching danger level.
We headed back to Rugby early as weather was deteriorating fast. Moored just North of Hillmorton locks and hoped the lines would hold in the gale (they did). Then it was just a short while cruising in the morning to return to Clifton.
What did we learn ?