A week of adventures as always, travelling from near Market Harborough, down the Watford staircase locks, onto the Grand Union Main Line canal to Braunston, before heading south on the windy Oxford canal, to end up in Banbury. Mandy accidentally threw a windlass in the canal, and I retrieved it by magnet fishing. I leaned over too far and nearly fell into a lock, just saving myself by jumping down onto the boat. Most of the week has been warm sunshine but we are now back to icy cold, especially first thing each morning. I think the scariest bit this week has been the long Braunston tunnel, 2000m of dark wet claustrophobia.
Believe it or not from the photo, this tunnel is just wide enough for two narrowboats, and we met five of them coming the other way. The noises as we bumped and scraped past each other, echoed in the gloom and added to the atmosphere. Doing a long tunnel is a bit like watching a horror film. You do your best to enjoy it at the time, but the relief when it finishes is wonderful!
We are having a few days moored up in Banbury. A chance to fill up the shopping, do the laundry and rest. I also popped into London on the train for dinner with some workmates from my last job. I have not seen them in person since 2019 (pre pandemic) and it was really good to catch up. I was a little concerned that I would have nothing to say, being so far away from work gossip these days, but it was not a problem, and over a lot of wine and steaks, we solved most of the world’s problems.
Next week, we are travelling further south, past Oxford and onwards.
I’d love to hear, do you do anything that scares you?
There is a saying that BOAT stands for Bung On Another Thousand, and it has felt a little like that this week. After the problems I mentioned last blog, after an overnight power failure, we got things working, and set off for our first trip of the year, to the little town of Market Harborough. It was lovely sunny weather and all was good with the world – until at 1am the power failed again. We brought the narrowboat back to our boat yard/marina but all the engineer could find was that the leisure batteries were a little old and weak. So we have replaced all four of them and now have a set that should charge to 480 amp hours, and last 4-5 years. After the previous expense over the winter upgrading and servicing across the boat, we are hoping that we now are ready for the summer and all will be well for the next six months. Some chance!
But despite the inevitability of more things going wrong, we are feeling pretty chilled because we have now set off properly on our 2022 adventure. Yesterday we left the base and steered up Foxton locks, a beautiful staircase of five locks, the steepest set in the UK, bringing the canal 23m up to the highest point on the Leicester arm of the Grand Union canal. We will have a few days at this summit level before dropping down another lock staircase and heading through the dark, wet Braunston tunnel in the direction of Oxford.
It should be early enough in the season that there will not be too many boats on the cut (narrowboater jargon for the canal). I just hope the weather stays as sunny as it has been this week. The days have been lovely, the nights very cold, but we have good heating when we are awake, and a cozy duvet when we are asleep.
So yes, more will go wrong, but we will also have the best of times. I am looking forward to sharing with you each week.
I have been told that I will not truly understand retirement till I have been retired for over a year. Until then it feels too much like just a very long holiday. That may be true, but boy am I enjoying this very long holiday. We are now nearly a month into our summer narrowboat trip, and while every day something goes wrong, also every day we get to enjoy the wonderful countryside and slow pace of canal life.
This week we have had the excitement of Bingley five rise, the biggest staircase of locks in the world. We have found ourselves stuck in one of the widest locks in the world at Castleford (we called an engineer). We have spent Saturday night with our eldest son on the boat right in the centre of Leeds. I have wandered the streets of Saltaire and Shipley looking for a barber. We had a wonderful evening in a brew pub with two of our friends we have not seen for six years. And every afternoon we have sweltered in the heat. Even though we have insulation, a narrowboat is basically a steel can, and gets so very hot in the sunshine.
I think my favourite day of all this week was moored up in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the Aire valley, and just chilling, reading a book, watching a film, painting my poles.
It may feel like a long holiday rather than “proper” retirement, but it is so much more relaxing than any holiday I have had before. I love it.