The work on the boat is finally done and we’re back out wombling free on the waterways. The past week has been mercifully uneventful.
When the boat was given a clean bill of health, we needed to vacate our mooring. The timing wasn’t great, as a gale force wind had picked up during the night. Having been scuppered by a more feeble wind on the last journey we did, we were both a bit apprehensive about getting around the tight bend and under the bridge to head towards the Oxford Canal.
Laura managed to feign being cheerful as we set off.
We did what the RYA manual calls the ‘crab’ (steering along almost sideways to keep the stern away from the silt) for about a mile. Then a big gust of wind pushed us into a shallow bank and we were grounded. Neither of us was hench enough to push the boat free against the wind, and it was an OK spot, so we thought ‘sod it’ and moored for the night.
The expanse between the stuck boat and the towpath made it fun long-jumping to get on and off. We’ve added a scaffold plank to our shopping list.
The next day, the wind had dropped and when we untied our ropes a passing boat dragged us back to the deeper water. We only had to move a short distance as we were going to moor alongside a friend to have a lesson in servicing the engine. I did the mucky work, while Laura diligently took notes from a clean and safe distance.
We then spent a very pleasant afternoon enjoying drinks in the sun with our new friends, surrounded by dogs and chickens. We left with a happy, clean engine, 7 litres of filthy oil, lots of new knowledge, a large bag of rhubarb, and 15 fresh eggs.
The next part of the journey was beautiful, with lots of rolling countryside and sunshine. We found a lovely mooring spot and took a few days to enjoy the amazing weather and cook things with eggs in them.
With the lull in disasters, we also got on with some jobs. I did some basic carpentry so we can now more easily water the batteries (yes we had no idea they needed watering either).
Laura caught up on paperwork, in what is now her al fresco office.
And gave the barge pole (Brenda) some TLC. She needed sanding and oiling to protect her from the weather and make it less likely she’ll splinter and spear one of us.
Poppy did her usual job of looking broken / dead in the sun.
After a couple of days, we decided to move. Laura was having to park the car on a farm track in the back of beyond, and on account of the off-roading, we were losing more bits off it each day. The bumper is now barely hanging on. (Note to self: Add gaffa tape to the shopping list).
We headed towards Napton, along a very curly stretch of the canal. Laura looked like she was having fun with the tight turns, leaning out sideways to push the tiller into full steer. I was on the bow, so couldn’t hear her much, but I think she was probably also singing to herself. She seems to be getting the hang of the driving.
We moored just before Napton, as our trusty guidebook said there was a marina with water points, a laundry and elsan disposal. It turned out that the marina was a private place, full of shiny hire boats, that didn’t let us riff raff use their facilities. This was disappointing, as the new toilet chemicals we bought have made our loo smell of garlic. And poop. Combined. Currently, neither of us ever wants to eat garlic again.
After doing her laundry donkey bit, Laura managed to evoke enough pity in the marina staff that they allowed her to use their washing machine. The best part is, it only cost £1. She was very proud of this result.
On the downside, we had to put the garlic poop stink in the car to take it to a more inclusive elsan point. It was a very long 5 miles.
The weather has made the last few days feel like a holiday. Although we’re realising that having a black, steel home is not perfect on hot days. We did open up the side hatches though and pretend we were ice cream sellers for a while. If only a massive freezer were a practical thing to run on a boat.
Yesterday, we did a little bit of touristing. We drove up to Leamington Spa, figuring that with ‘Spa’ in the name it might be a nice place for a wander. And it was basically like a Midlands Brighton, but with canal instead of sea.
I’m happy to say that the only repairs needed this entire week have been down to some beefy thorns on the towpath. Two punctured bike tyres and one punctured Laura foot. All of which were cheap and easy to fix!
We’ll leave you with the most important news. Yesterday we had our first duckling sighting of the year.