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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Sun Dance day 2 and surely it wasn't operator error.

Never in all the years of boating have I stayed bed whilst Ian got us underway. He was awake very early and wanted to get at least an hour of boating in before the rain set in. So there was I, loving the fact that I was all cosy and warm tucked up under the covers, when I started to feel a tad guilty. Then a shout 'Aubreys lift bridge is coming up'. Well you've  never seen me move so fast, didn't know I had it in me, and just about got clothes, waterproofs and shoes on. No sooner on the deck when Ian handed me the tiller and jumped off the boat.

Aubreys lift bridge (Thrupp) in the distance.

 There is something to be said for having a little boat as the sharp left turn after the lift bridge was negotiated with ease and Sun Dance settled nicely on the service point. Time now was 8am and almost to the minute the rain started. Great, thought I, time to stop and sit it out. Wasn't  to be though as Ian wanted to push on to get past the two river sections, "just on case the red boards came on". So after watering I grabbed the brolly and we set off for Shipton Weir lock and the River Cherwell.

Second lift bridge of the day. Another 5 to do.

Shipton Weir lock

Unusual shape for a double or even triple width lock.

Ian need'nt have worried because the gauge showed the levels to be in the green......only just mind you......but green nonetheless.

The rain eased and stopped, thank goodness, although only for about an hour. We encountered a hazard during the dry spell. An older sapling had been uprooted, probably because of yesterdays wind and was lying in our path. A gentle nudge showed it could be moved and was easily pushed out of the way.

Came across a row of men standing to attention in a field. Some had dogs, but all with guns ready for any poor unsuspecting Pheasant to be flushed out. I was much relieved to see one fly almost at our feet and manage to get away but most were unlucky. 

At Allens lock something went wrong with the steerage. I had been hovering in the middle waiting for Ian to empty the lock and the flow of water took the bow across. I tried to rectify it by going into reverse and then forward but all it did was take the stern into the offside vegetation. I tried forward again, nothing happened. Tried reverse and still nothing happened. By now I was well into the bushes with not a hope of doing anything about it. In the end Ian came to my rescue by grabbibg the bow rope and pulling the front round. Don't know what the problem had been and sods law said that as soon as Ian tried everything worked fine. Was it operator error??? No of course not....well not one I'm going to admit to anyway.

Don't think I'm supposed to be at that angle!!!

Ian pulling the bow round.

Another fishing match to creep past. Everyone had a cheery greeting and every one hooked a fish as we came up to them. Just goes to show that boats can be the anglers friend instead of their enemy!

 We have been extremely lucky that all the locks have been with us bar Allens lock. Even Somerton Deep had a boat descending, one of the only two on the move seen all day. I did have a bit of an issue with the chap as he came out of Somerton lock. Holding center rope waiting for him to exit, he came out of the lock rather rapidly causing Sun Dance to head off backwards at an alarming rate. I was hanging on for dear life and being pulled backwards as well. Only when he had passed and was well away did I manage to bring Sun Dance back under control. Then when I finally did get into the lock, Ian pipes up 'Took your time didn't you'!

At last the final River Cherwell bit to do. Just Aynho Weir lock and Neil Bridge lock to negotiate. River still on green so no problem getting through that section. The rain had started again and we were very relieved to call it a day. Going through Haddons lift bridge we found a nice piled edge with ropes tied. No need to bang in the pins just grab the ropes and tie to them. Lovely to get wet stuff off and a warm coffee inside us. I have telly so I can watch Strictly and the internet is pretty good too. Will it be another early start tomorrow??? Who knows but I do rather fancy staying in bed again while Ian gets us going. This may just become a habit if Ian will let me.

Diamond lock on the River Cherwell

16.5 miles, 10 locks, 5 lift bridges, 7.5 hours

And on route seen in the wet but not photographed....5 Kingfishers, two Jays and a Green Woodpecker.

But I did get the sixth Kingfisher when looking out of the front doors.


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