It has been a while since I posted to this blog. That was expected because the boat was taken down to the painters to be spruced up. I left her at Bull’s Bridge with 30year’s worth of multiple coats, some professionally done, others not. I was really looking forward to getting her back all shiny in her new livery.
After a couple of weeks I was imagining all the sanding down and rust proofing. Soon the phone would ring and Steve would ask if I had decided on the final colour scheme. I couldn’t wait. And then it came, a voice mail from Steve. He’d started on her, he was really going to be able to make a huge improvement on her, he just had to scrape all the old paint off first, by hand, slowly. In fact he did had not really allowed enough time for so big a job. He would get it done, somehow, but it might be longer and yes, that as well!. So I proposed he put it off until he had a bigger slot in his diary and agreed to collect her and return in June. So, with no coach line on one side and big patches of red oxide where he had started work, she looks even more of a mess, just in time for the carnivals grrrr..
But it’s only a boat, so I went to get her, what a great day!
As the sun rose the early mist seemed to linger stubbornly in the hollows. For March it had been a reasonably war night so there wasn’t any frost about. I left the car at Rickmansworth guessing that I would get the boat no further that afternoon. There was very little traffic about that early on a Saturday as I biked down to Hayes. I stowed the bike on the boat and sorted out the essentials for the trip back towards Watford. They were:- ropes in the right place, pins, boat hook and pole ready just in case, and of course a cup of hot coffee to get me going. The mist was just burning off the canal as I headed westwards, the sun on my back, it was only quarter to eight.
That rather set the tone for the day. At Cowley lock , about ten thirty, I was getting peckish so ordered a bacon sandwich at the canal side café which was prepared whilst the lock. However no time to stop so ate it on the go and made another brew through the next lock.
There was remarkably few boats moving during the day, may be half a dozen, so I did not get chance to share the locks and I needed to empty most of the locks prior to entering so that rather slowed progress. My packed lunch was also eaten at the tiller and by mid-afternoon my supplies were running down. Hunting about I found a part box of bread sticks which went down OK with a cup of tea. They were rather tough, having been on board for quite a few months. Well, there was no sign of ergot or other mould, I didn’t fancy suffering from St Anthony’s fire, Gentle Breeze could become the next Mary Celeste!
Mid afternoon saw me passing through Ricky, where I was torn between getting the car or cracking on. Such a lovely sunny day, why stop now?
One reason would have been to avoid the most frustrating lock to single hand through. The tow path is on the left (going up). But between the left bank and the lock is the entrance to a spur in which a trip boat is moored. There is only one bollard between the spur and the lock so unless you want to risk it swinging about when the paddles are raised it would not be good to moor there. That leaves the right bank, where there are three bollards. Yes but…the canal side steps up to the lock side have been fenced off at the top so you can not step off and drift the boat in whilst holding the rope. To get up to the top to raise paddles and set the lock you have to negotiate a car valeting service. Yes, four cars were parked abreast of each other right next to the canal side with vacuum cleaners (with their cables) and buckets strewn about and between them. Come on what would possess anyone to totally obstruct the safe access to the lock, what are they thinking, are they thinking, is it just me? So to save the possibility of someone falling down the steps, that have been there for a couple of hundred years it is made more risky for those performing the actual task of moving the boat (for which the lock is there in the first place!).
Well I had a nice little chat to a couple of east Europeans who wondered why I was opening the lock gate that they had been sitting on when they could not see a boat coming. Having explained that, yes, it was that boat moored down there that was coming up and that yes I knew because no, I was not the lock keeper but the owner of the boat. Having explained that and persuaded them to move rather than fall in we went our separate ways.
Saw a mandarin duck, and a king fisher and a great crested grebe. They all played “wait almost as long as it takes him to get the camera, then skedaddle.”
The light was beginning to fade as I got to Iron Bridge lock (gongoozlers lock) at Cassiobury. Again it was full and by the time I had finished there must have been 30 onlookers. I was leaning on a beam to see if the water levels had equalled when a lady helped her 4 year old over the gates then came back for another one and her scooter. It even astonished a onlooker who remarked I’d be able to open it as soon as she was across, “or in the middle” I heard my self remark. Must have be getting tired.
Chris joined me for the last couple of locks as the light finally went, we moored up alongside the Grove hotel grounds at six fifteen, 17 locks in all. It was not quiet over for the day as I helped Chris paddle the two man kayak up the canal to stow her on top of GB. All in all a successful if not physically relaxing one. And the following day I intended to finish the trip back to Apsley marina.