Just the two of us now mum has left, I was up first and walked to the rail station to pick up a de-caf fluffy coffee for Toby (Toby’s top up). We then had an enforced rest while we waited for 9am and the lock keeper to start at Osney Lock. A knock on the window, and my boss Donald appeared which was lovely, sadly Donald had to go to work, so it was a short visit.
Osney Lock was self service, so we needn’t have waited. The locks are easy to work, I still get in a faff when a lock keeper is on duty, as the front cratch blocks access to the bow rope. The best solution I’ve found is using the pole with the hook.
We soon got used to the wide open waters, and very few boats on the water. The cruisers (plastic boats, gin palaces, yoghurt pots) move nicely out of the way.
A number of the moorings in the Pearsons book don’t exist so we had to go off piste. We found a bank, and Toby manged to get up and off the boat with the rope. We used the secateurs to cut away any branches that may have scratched the paintwork, and used the super long mooring pins.
An early finish at about 3.30, so we enjoyed sitting in the front cratch watching the world go by. Toby gave me my bone juice injection (my top up), and we still have dinner to enjoy and the evening views.
Today we made it onto the Thames – instead of joining from the end of the Oxford canal, this time we took the turn down Duke’s cut.
The turn off is a little overgrown and an uninspiring start, and some rather derelict looking boats moored up (or not, in the case of one we found adrift!)
but it soon opens out into some lovely river scenery with meadows full of buttercups alongside.
We were happily suprised to find a lock keeper at King’s lock, having thought it wasn’t manned, and for the bargain price of some of Rosemary’s superb chocolate cake, she did all the hard work for us. She also sorted out our EA Thames seve day licence (though that cost us a bit more than just cake!) and then we were ready to go.
The next lock at Godstow was unmanned (one lock keeper manges both, so one or other will always be unmanned), so we had to go self-service. ‘Lancer’ had follows us from King’s lock so we went through together, and had great fun working out what buttons to press, and in what order.
After a lovely journey down through port meadow, under Osney bridge and the Botley road that we so often pass over in the car, we moored up for some dinner, and Barry joined us before taking Rosemary home.
It will feel strange tommorrow just being the two of us once more.
Today we had a good opportunity to train up our new helmswoman Rosemary. The forecast was for some rain later, so she came prepared and wrapped up warm
Luckily conditions started off warm and dry though, and after a few S-shaped courses down the canal Rosemay soon had it cracked and was helming unassisted – or at least until any boats came the other way!
We were entering familiar territory today as we head towards Oxford. We passed the now massive Cropredy marina where we’d once considered basing our boat, and then going through the centre of Banbury made us a bit of a mini tourist attraction for a few minutes, as Sarah and Rosemary stopped the foot-traffic to raise the lift bridge by the shopping centre. We then headed past Aynho and through Somerton deep lock – the deepest narrow lock on the system (along with Tardebigge)
The rain hit us hardest towards the end of the day, but Sarah was well prepared with her Dryz-a-bone jacket from Anne, and her bush-hat from Keith – looking like the consummate Aussie we reckon!
We finished up in Heyford, where we enjoyed a short walk up the hill to The Bell Inn for dinner, which Rosemary kindly treated us to. The pub may be familar to some of our readers from a previous trip doing the Thames ring!
In some respects, not the best start to the day with Toby having a migraine in the night. Mum and I cast off to blue skies and sunshine, before hitting (not literally!) the Napton Flight. Great progress and then a traffic jam ahead, with five boats queing due to a faulty paddle.
A bit of a siesta followed, as we reached the summit and three hours of lock free cruising. This allowed for a leisurely lunch and afternoon cake
More locks were soon upon us, with very heavy paddles. We decided to push on a bit further and moored up about 6.30 to a supper of chicken curry. We just managed to watch the GB team in the America’s cup heat, although they lost by some margin to New Zealand, so maybe we shouldn’t have bothered! After 17 locks, we’re all quite tired, but I think in a ‘ships routine’ now.
A prompt 8.30 start, much to Toby’s frustration as he wanted to ‘play’ with the GPS tracking data. We just cast off and the rain started, good old BBC weather was spot on.
We were Stowe Hill’s first customer of the day, filling up with fuel, a pump out and changing the gas bottle.
It wasn’t long before we saw the first runner in the Birmingham to London marathon race along the grand uniion canal, we cheered everyone on, and wished them good luck.
Mum was a great help at the locks, we were lucky to butty up with a boat called Dignity at the Bucky flight and Calamity Jane at the Braunston flight. We passed two boats going down Braunston locks who said there was a boat in the middle of the canal; I didn’t quite believe them, but you can see for yourself. We pulled it in and hit the pegs in again, I’m quite shocked by the number of boats who went past the boat and did nothing about it.
A wrong turn into Braunston marina, which we thought was the junction, a quick reverse and back on track. Lots of compliments on Oliver’s paint job, and so far, no obvious scratches.
An out in the sticks mooring and fed, showered and in my PJs by 7pm – can’t be bad for a Saturday night!