Sunday, 19 June 2011

Grand Union. Stoke Bruerne to Shuckborough

It was a bit of a shock to see that the last post was nearly three weeks ago. Humble apologies, must try harder. We haven’t been complacent though; in that time we’ve taken Legend through the middle of two of the biggest canal touristy areas there are – Stoke Bruerne and Braunston – and through two BIG tunnels – Blisworth and Braunston, and we’re now moored just before Napton Junction where the South Oxford Canal leaves the GU.
We’ll be turning left down there soon and heading for Fenny Compton for Kim’s hen party next weekend. Ken the Kontiki passed his MOT and is now on Ebay. It’s a bit sad ‘cos we loved that van and we had a ball going round Europe in him; now it looks like we’re going to have to virtually give him away before he becomes a financial burden. We’ve also made new friends, new furniture and had visitors.

The tunnels were an amazing experience.
We’ve been through tunnels before; Chirk on the Llangollen in a hire boat, and Harecastle on the T&M as passengers on the coal boat Alton. Both of those are one way and not much wider than the boat. These two are wide, long (really long), have two-way traffic, and we met about five other boats in each one.
Blisworth is the longest at 1 ¼ miles; it’s dead straight and has four air shafts which pour ground water onto unsuspecting boater’s heads. Fortunately we’d been warned and had our hoods up. Braunston is shorter, but has a horrible kink in the middle where the 19thC. engineers didn’t quite get their calculations right. Should’ve put laser tracking on the wheelbarrow.

It felt fantastic to be actually taking our own boat through all these places that we’ve visited over the years; going through locks that we’ve helped open, under bridges that we’ve watched from, and past pubs that we’ve sat outside, saying “One day, that’ll be us.” Well, here we are and we love it!
It still surprises us how quickly it’s all happened, and, more so, how easy it’s been. We half expect someone to come along at any moment, point out the crucial clause in the small print, and confiscate our home. Mind you, it’s the easy part of the year to be boating. We really shouldn’t be making judgements until we’ve done a winter aboard.

Wiltz, Annie, John, Kim and Luke came to visit while we were in Braunston. The girls sat in the saloon and discussed curtains while the boys all squeezed into the engine ‘ole, shouting over an air cooled Lister. And they brought cake - what’s not to like? Wiltz had also brought a Land Rover tilt cover - really heavy canvas that we're going to make an authentic engine cooling duct from. Aren't mates great?

We were really lucky with our mooring spot there; there are only two places between the water point and the long term permit holders and while we were filling our tank one of them became free. Bingo!
Freaky coincidence time. 1. The other mooring was taken by John & Jaq, a couple we met coming down Three Locks. They bought a new engine at Crick and are hanging about near Braunston boat yard for the next couple of weeks till they get it fitted.
Freaky coincidence 2. While Dave was putting the new chimney on, Chris & Tracy, a couple who we’ve known for years from the 2CV club and who also live on a boat, just happened to walk past; another excuse to get the biscuits out. They used to have a permanent mooring at Trinity Marina but they’ve recently moved to Rugby and were out boating for a couple of weeks and just happened to be at Braunston.
Freaky coincidence 3. Moored just along from us was a boat called Arcdia. John and Jaq know the owner and told us all about him. Before he retired he was a coal merchant and he built the boat himself in a shed in his yard. He was from Lincolnshire – did we perhaps know him? As he’d lived less than two miles from our old house, not only did we know him, we’d bought coal from him and watched the boat progress over the three years or so that it was there. And he know the people we bought our house from. It’s a tiny world on the cut.

We moved from Braunston to Shuckborough on Monday, on Tuesday John & Jaq came and joined us and we’ve had a very enjoyable week in their company. If anyone wants a flat-pack Aga for spares or repair they've just ripped one out of their galley.

There have more been improvements aboard; we’ve now got a set of book shelves in the bedroom
and a lovely shelf for mugs in the kitchen with a light under it. Our roof looks resplendent with a brand new chimney and a boat hook, as well as all the flowers and herbs.
Before
After
We’ve taken the tiles off the wooden boxes and sanded the lids back to bare wood. We’ll probably do some stain stencilling on them before the varnish. Dave’s next two projects are a little unit in the saloon for oversize books, and bolting some brass fairleads to the roof edge where the centre rope chafes it. Because taking the roof lining out would be a major upheaval, we’re going to thread the holes. That means getting a three stage M6 tap set, which is an on-line job and will have to wait until we go to Chesterfield this weekend, as will publishing this post. We’ve got a new Vodafone dongle, but haven’t managed to get a signal since we plugged it in. Apparently this area is notoriously rubbish so we’ll wait till we’ve moved before we take it back and complain.

We’re spending the weekend at Anne’s with Chloe and Frankie. All the girlies are going to look at wedding dresses for Frankie on Saturday, she’s got her shoes already and wants to get ideas for her dress. She’s going to take Ann-Marie’s wedding dress and turn it into something of her own design – how fab is that? It’s also Father’s Day, so Dave’s been promised breakfast in bed, courtesy of our daughters. That, of course, is provided he’ll stay there long enough to eat it.