Monday, 7 January 2019

Puttenham (out of town at last)

May steering out of a lock

After a hectic three weeks away, we took it easy on Thursday and Friday, pottering around the boat and going for walks.  Buddy really enjoyed being back home as he could be off the lead again; he had to be on the lead all the time we were in Hartley Wintney as there were so many squirrels and deer in the woods.  On Thursday, Wendover Woods seemed to be a favourite of his as it was hilly meaning he could tear around, tiring himself out rushing up and down the slopes.  I also started studying for my Marine Radio Shortwave Certificate and got our tax returns out of the way. 

I nearly forgot, but Buddy had yet another rabies injection on Thursday and hopefully the follow up blood test (which can’t be done for 30 days) will prove he has enough antibodies this time around.  At least by the time we get the result we will know where we stand with respect to dogs travelling to and from mainland Europe after 29th March.

We met up with Liz and Colin a couple of times and were pleased that they were getting bookings for their trip boat even at this time of the year.  They moor it in the basin and take people up a couple of locks and then back again.

A happy family on the Little Trip boat in one of the locks
We had forgotten how quiet it is in the basin – the only rowdy night tends to be Saturday with weekend revellers making their way back from town to the Travelodge next to where we have been moored. In fact, it is so quiet that we have seen kingfishers and heron even though we are in the centre of town.

Heron perched on the white towpath railings opposite our mooring
There was a frost on Saturday morning, our first for over a month, but it meant it was sunny which was the first time we had seen the sun for nearly three weeks.  We spent most of Saturday at Karen’s mums in Wendover – again relaxing, but this time trying to do a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. One advantage of visiting Ann, other than being provided with a delicious roast lunch of course, is that we get to pick up all our mail.  She says that some days all the mail is for us, especially on the build up to Christmas when we were having items delivered. 

I had ordered some aluminium fender hooks from a fabricator in Northwich and these were in one of the packages that had been delivered.  We need these for when we are in France as the normal plastic hooks won’t do the job they are needed for over there.  Unlike in the UK, we will have to keep the boat in forward gear when ascending many of the locks which holds the boat against the lock wall.  Because of this we will have horizontal zigzag fenders at the rear to protect the boat from the lock wall.  The fenders will put a lot of strain on the fender hooks, hence the aluminium versions.

Our new fender hooks – also useful for our go-cart tyre fenders
Sunday dawned sunny for a while but unfortunately soon clouded over but it wasn’t as cold as had been forecast. 

Quiet moorings on Sunday morning – about to get even quieter when we left
We need to top up with diesel and coal as well as replace one of the gas cylinders so have arranged to meet Jules on her fuel boat up at Marsworth, on the Grand Union main line, when she comes through on Tuesday.  This means going seven miles back up the 16 locks on the Aylesbury arm.  We decided to do it in two trips so set off for Wilstone after breakfast.

Leaving the basin after it had clouded over on Sunday
During the morning, whilst I had been filling up with water, I had been chatting with a lovely Australian family who were touring Europe over their summer holidays.  They were staying in Aylesbury for a couple of nights with a family friend and were fascinated by the canal and the boats on it.  They had two young daughters who joined us for a trip up the first two locks – the older child also had a go at steering.  She was a natural; some people take a while to get to grips with the counter-intuitive method of turning the tiller the opposite way to the direction they want to turn.

May steering out of a lock
The Aussies left us at the edge of Aylesbury and we were soon out in the tranquillity of the countryside leaving all the dogwalkers and other towpath users behind.

Doing what we love – cruising on a winter’s day (although it wasn’t really wintry)
The sixteen bridges on the Aylesbury arm are very narrow and just wide enough for the boat.  With the shallowness of the water it can sometimes be difficult negotiating the bridge holes as it’s easy to be knocked off course where silt has built up.  We were fortunate and completed our journey without any mishaps.

Emerging from one of the narrow bridge holes
On our way down, a month or so ago, we had encountered several low pounds and made really slow progress, but we met no such problems this time.  We moored up after 4 ½ miles, a couple of locks above Jem Bates's wooden boatyard at Puttenham, having ascended seven of the sixteen locks.

Our mooring for Sunday night
I got on with some DIY jobs during the rest of the afternoon.  For once I seem to have completed some jobs without the need to do them a second time.  Karen did point out that there had been a lot of swearing along the way, and that was just getting my tools out of the man cupboard.  She also pointed out that it sometimes takes a day or two before we realise a job needs doing again. 

We will move on again on Monday, so we can be up at Marsworth ready for when Jules comes through on Tuesday.  Our current plans are to stay around Marsworth for a while and then head up the Marsworth flight and go down the Wendover arm for a week or so.  After that we will only have about eight weeks or so before we head off for Gayton (near Northampton) to be craned out for our journey to France.  We have nothing planned for those eight weeks other than going on some good walks, visiting Bletchley Park and not cruising too much.

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