We couldn’t spend the whole of the Easter school holidays on the boat as I had work commitments, so a 4 day trip to Crick was planned. A couple of weeks before we had de-winterised to boat and taken a little trip to Gayton Marina for a bottle of gas, so we knew all was well with the boat.
Good Friday 18th April. We had emptied the water tank and not had time to fill it right up, so what with adding water and stowing everything we made a late start, reaching Weedon around 5:30. Moored above the A45 bridge and had some supper at The Crossroads, then a fairly early night.
Easter Saturday 19th April. Underway about 9:30, we reach the bottom of the Buckby flight around 11 and travel up very efficiently in the company of two ladies who have a mooring at Gayton Junction. They remember us from the time we moored underneath the large road bridge there to paint the front and back of the boat. They meet a boat by the same builder coming down and discuss the fact that both their boats lean noticeably to the right! With a fair number of boats coming down it doesn’t matter too much the the boat in front doesn’t bother shutting gates behind it when there isn’t. I think words might have been exchanged if they had done it more than twice. The Buckby flight has had some maintenance work done over the winter, and the locks are noticeably easier to work. We make the the top in less than 1 3/4 hours and our companions head for a mooring and we turn North up the Leicester Branch. Deciding not to stop, we have lunch on the move, and reach the bottom of the Watford flight to find a queue, a wait of an hour, and an ideal time to have lunch! The Lock Keeper informs me that they are going up in batches of five, and the good news is that we are number 5. Once we start moving, progress is swift; Fiona has volunteered for lock duty with Elizabeth, but there is a bunch of five boats at the top, all with large crews keen as mustard to come down, so Fiona does little more than one paddle for the whole staircase!
As we emerge from the last lock the weather is still holding good – it’s one of those days when the moment you put a jacket on the sun breaks out. Crick Tunnel is damp, however. We start looking for a mooring the moment we exit, but there is plenty of space. We have booked a table at Edwards, a restaurant we have wanted to try before, but it’s either been shut or we haven’t had time. They bill themselves as a “Slow Food” restaurant; when we first arrived I wasn’t to sure – the only draught bitter was off and they seemed a bit disorganised, but soon the place filled up as did a full complement of staff. The food was excellent, the service very good (for Britain!) and the prices not horrendous for a special occasion. After a couple of drinks we noticed the amusing drawings all round the walls- my favourite was captioned “Cod moving in mysterious ways”. I’ll let you imagine the picture. A peaceful night.
Easter Sunday 20th April. Boat movements started early this morning, but we are in no rush. We turn at the winding hole past the Marina; a strongish wind, a boat moored close to the hole and bad positioning on my part means the front gets blown off course and I have to have a second go, but end up turning with Polly Anna’s stern in the hole – as the boat is 63′ I get away with it. We decide to stop at the water point as it is free and fill our tanks before returning through Crick Tunnel. We haven’t seen many boats go past but there is another queue for the Watford staircase, and this time we are….. number 5. The Lock Keeper is the unmistakable Crystal, much to Elizabeth’s pleasure. Once in the first lock she sets me on my way and retires to her boat to get the lunchtime sandwiches. Now, Fiona may have had plenty of help, but I worked every single gate and paddle for the rest of the flight. The only “help” I got was from a bystander; I struggled to close the top gate against the back pressure of our boat having moved in and as I walked away it began to swing open again. “If you open the bottom paddle it will soon shut” was his help. I’d just seen Crystal make sure the previous top gate was firmly shut before opening the paddle, and she was watching from her boat. What would you do? I just give him a Paddington Bear Stare and move on.
As we pull out of the bottom lock Fiona hands me the tiller and disappears with her phone and the Nicholsons. Minutes later I learn we are stopping for lunch at The Stag. We get there at 2:20 just in time for last food orders and have a very good, value for money, Sunday Roast. The rest of the day seems to go into slow motion – a bit of brass polishing and a a potter down to Norton Junction. We stop before the end of the Leicester branch as the moorings on the main line can be full, which they are, and eventually visit The New Inn for a drink, although when Elizabeth sees they are still serving Children’s Roast Dinner, she promises she will eat it all, and nearly does.
Walking back through the gloom, a boat is drifting at the junction. A plaintiff voice calls to us “Is there a Pub anywhere around here?”. “Just round the corner, but they’ve stopped serving food” I reply. “Oh, we don’t care about that!” is all I here as the engine cranks up to speed….
Easter Monday 21st April. We start to drop down the Buckby flight about 10:30. As I return from depositing the rubbish at the BW facilities, the Landlord of the New Inn emerges and thanks me for not dumping it in his bins, “Like most of them”. He probably started unlocking the pub when he saw me emerge from the boat with the bag….
A familiar name is waiting to enter the top lock as we emerge, Ernest, Flagship of the TNC fleet. I say hello to a cheerful woman who later turns out to be the WWW. (Historical note – the Tuesday Night Club is a group of people who cruise the canals (amongst other things) Their website was an inspiration long before the use of the Internet became so widespread. They are still going in 2020!)
We travel the rest of the flight swiftly again, and Fiona does some real lock work this time. She agrees that the Buckby flight has got easier. I forget about the leaking side wall on the left of the bottom lock, and get soaked. We get some gas at Whilton then stop for lunch in the middle of nowhere. It’s just the last bit to Bugbrooke and then home.