THUSDAY 6TH TO SUNDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER 2012
The River Nene does not make a very impressive passage through Northampton; surrounding the Town Lock are offices and by the old town bridge there are converted warehouses. We did moor, just before the bridge for the convenient Morrison’s supermarket and shortly afterwards arrived at the rather scruffy entrance to the Northampton Arm.
We had been warned that the going was very slow for the first couple of miles and indeed it was. The first five locks are initially well spaced but the canal is very narrow and weedy and the slow going was made even more so as I had to continually apply full reverse to blow the weed of the prop. Immediately before one lock contractors had fenced off the towpath, making it very difficult to access the lock, apparently this was to enable towpath repairs to be carried out, but it seemed a little premature as the canal was to be closed to navigation for three weeks from Monday. Hey ho, too early to expect the new CR&T to have got its house in order yet, but at the next lock, chaps in their new CR&T sweatshirts happily helped us through.
The M1 tunnel heralds the proper start of the Northampton flight. By now we had got into a good routine, with Jacquie doing all the work, as I was still hopping about, with my dodgy knee. I let the boat push the upper gate open whilst I closed the paddle, then I hopped across the stern as SKYY excited the lock and tied up just beyond to close the gate, pushing with just one leg, I then lowered the other paddle and with a little tug on the stern rope I hopped back on board and proceeded to the next lock.
Several wooden lift bridges adorned the way and the good weather made it an enjoyable journey, although Jacquie was truly exhausted by the time we reached Gayton Junction. We stopped to use facilities at the junction and only travelled a mile or so up The Grand Union before stopping for the day.
The weather was delightful so we decided to stay where we were on Friday and relax before tackling the Buckby flight of 7 locks the next day. It was lunch time on Saturday when the locks came into sight, so we stopped for a bite and then paired up with another experienced crew to avoid having to lock through with one of the several hire boats that were happily banging into one another. I had promised Jacquie a well earned drink and dinner at Norton Junction’s New Inn, but when we eventually arrived at the top lock, disaster, the pub was closed and although Jacquie was able to rustle up an evening meal there was no wine on board.
Before we left our mooring at Norton Junction on Sunday morning I thoroughly rubbed down the scars on the starboard gunnel and did my best to avoid any more scars as we traversed Braunston Tunnel, however a small boat coming the other way seemed to think the best thing to do when confronted with an oncoming boat, was to stop, resulting in the boat ending up diagonally across the tunnel. He complained that he was dazzled by my headlight, but if he had kept both ends of his boat on his side of the tunnel my light wouldn’t have been in his eyes.
We paused halfway down the six Braunston Locks to buy a bottle of wine for Jacquie from the Admiral Nelson and again at Wharf House Chandlery for some red oxide and blacking for me. Just before we got to Wigrams we stopped to allow me to red oxide the bare metal of the newly sanded gunnel and for the first and possible the last time I entered the marina without touching the sides, got it right at last.
Well that’s it, the adventure is over; yellow marker was applied to the canal map, leaving only a very small proportion of the system which we haven’t explored.
The following week was spent catching up with check up’s at the doctors and dentist and I made the most of the glorious weather to re-black SKYY down to the waterline and sand the port gunnel and repaint both side, ready to have Skyy looking her best for when ABNB come to take photos. The good news is that the doctor thought that I hadn’t done any serious damage to my knee and thankfully it is gradually getting better.
I will occasionally blog just to keep folk up to date with our plans to move back on land, in the meantime a big thank you for all those who took the time to follow and comment on our super five year adventure aboard SKYY.