Hubby and I thought (stupidly) it would be nice to do the Stratford run again, hence our blogging absence for the last week.
We stopped after two locks at a free mooring where it was so quiet, you could hear a bird fart. It was actually alongside part of an 88 mile ramblers trail and apart from the people berthed alongside us and one passing boat, we saw NO-ONE.
It was a promising start.
Next day, we did everything wrong at the next lock, one of the deepest on the river. If it hadn’t been for a couple of old hands coming down from Stratford for a break, the chances are we’d still be there.
However, things improved and we ended up sharing a couple of locks further on with some like-minded boaters. We stopped at the same place we had on our second day last time and enjoyed a peaceful night.
The following morning was glorious, but bad weather was forecast for the afternoon.
Everything was going really well, and we joined another boating couple also on their way to Stratford and so shared the next two locks with them.
Coming up to the third, a boat was already inside and so we had no choice but to wait. This would not normally be a problem as sometimes it’s better when we’re on our own, so we helped with the gates and paddles and wished our new friends well on their journey, hoping we’d meet up with them eventually.
As the lock was emptying down to our level, a hire boat came chugging up behind and as it’s etiquette on the water, it was assumed we would share.
This turned out to be a dreadful and almost catastrophic mistake on our part.
Girlie and I closed the gates and put the paddles down. There was a loud ‘plop’ and she stood there whining ‘It’s fallen off and gone in the water.’
The spindle had broken off so nobody could open or close the paddle on that side now. Luckily she had closed it.
The lock itself was another deep one and I couldn’t reach the ropes, even with the boat hook and so ended up on my knees. Rope retrieved, I couldn’t get up and the gate on my side started to reopen. Girlie kindly came over and closed it whilst I struggled to the ladder frame for leverage. My intention was to tie off the front of the boat, open the paddle slowly on my side and then go back to hold the rope as the boat rose with the water. We’ve discovered this system works well for us to control the boat as
a) Hubby doesn’t have to strain trying to control two ropes bow and stern, and
b) I’m not standing around doing nothing whilst the water level is changing.
Only this time I didn’t get a chance as the stupid cow opened her paddle too fast to the full position and nearly capsized us. I couldn’t hold the boat, and spent the duration of the fill hanging on for dear life trying to stop our bow smashing into the front of the other. The guy was having a similar problem as he’d only got one centre rope fixed, which wasn’t sufficient to hold his sixty footer at all.
Luckily there was no collision, and we decided they should go out first (basically to please get out of our way) so Girlie and I opened the gates and in the process of closing the paddles, she dropped her windlass into the river and stood there hands on hips as if the damn thing would float to the surface for her to retrieve it. Capt Chaos therefore had to get off the boat to close the paddle with their spare, as she sulked by the bushes!!!
We decided to take a breather for them to get w e l l ahead, then pushed on to Stratford so that we could moor up, refit our outside covers, and get prepared for the wet weather on its way.
It came with a vengeance, all through the night and all day Friday.
The weekend was however beautiful and we were planning to begin our return journey on Monday having paid for four nights mooring.
True to form, when we plan anything, it usually goes belly up, and this was no exception.
Saturday morning we were whacked by the oars of an enthusiastic female rower out with her boyfriend in a hire boat. No damage was done, and she was very apologetic.
Saturday afternoon, we were run into by three lads messing about and totally out of control of their hired motor boat. They found it hysterically funny, heated words were exchanged, and I marched up to the hire boat basin and told the guys on duty what had happened.
In short, the lads were called in early and forfeited their deposit. Luckily for us, there was no damage to our boat, just our good humour and relaxed disposition.
Saturday night, Maggie was restless, there was a lot of background music (much different and far more intrusive than at the festival) and a guy was walking up and down with his dog and a torch for hours talking into a mobile phone.
Sunday, there was again a lot of activity on the river, and whilst we have no objection to people enjoying themselves in such a lovely location and having fun, we anticipated more problems and so decided to leave a day early and stop a couple of locks down where we knew it would be peaceful and quiet.
We were wrong about that too.
A cruiser hit the weir bollards with such a bang that he put a three-inch dent in his bow just above the water line.
Shortly after, a speedboat misjudged his speed and the course of the river, losing control of the boat and almost crashing it into the lock gates, which were actually shut. The resulting wash was sufficient to throw us against the moorings.
Finally a cruiser with 6 young adults aboard chugged by and moored up in the lock entrance. They all got off, then one got on the phone whilst another went back on board to throw everything out onto the side as they were sinking.
We went over to make sure everyone was OK and thanking us, were told they had help coming and they had everything under control.
‘Dad’ arrived and took control of the boat through the lock then the lads took the car and the girls home. We passed the boat the following day and it was moored, slightly lopsided, at the bottom of the biggest property on the river, with acres of perfectly manicured lawns and private moorings for at least three vessels.
We stopped again at the same place as last time and were glad we got there early as by 5pm all moorings were taken (about 12).
The following day we set off early, made good time and moored at the recreation ground as before, going into the supermarket for ingredients for dinner.
Whilst preparing the veg, I took my eye off the carrot for just a second, which was enough to slice through my thumb instead. It took ages to stop the bleeding, but plenty of pressure and holding it above my head eventually sorted it out and Hubby dressed it for me using a couple of those steri-strips to hold the skin together and plenty of micropore to hold it in place. (I was not trying to get out of washing up, honest! 😉 )
Anyway, it meant that not only could I not finish preparing the meal, but I would have to stay on the boat as I’d be unable to operate the gates and paddles at the final three locks of our journey.
I managed to get the boat in the lock OK, held her on the rope, and when I had to pick Hubby up on the other side I envisaged one of three things happening:
a) I’d crash the boat into the lock wall/gate;
b) I’d push Hubby off the end of the jetty;
c) I’d go sailing by and leave him behind altogether!
None of these things happened, in fact it wasn’t too bad at all as I did things slowly and as there were only the two of us, we could work at our own pace.
More bad weather was forecast for the afternoon, so we pushed on and about an hour from home, the skies opened.
We arrived back, soggy and chilled, at 2.30 and one of our friends came out in the rain to help us dock, bless him.
Note to self: NEVER AGAIN DURING THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS!
This trip inspired several pieces of poetry and diary entries: just hope the photos come out!