Sainsbury’s, Apsley to Waitrose, Berkhamsted
A bit further to cruise today so another early morning. Even Tilly was expecting us to be up at 4.30am as she started twitching the curtains. No early morning spring to our step today, it was more like slow motion.
The second lock up (it always smells of coffee) is meant to be left empty, but it was full. We’d not seen any boats go past yesterday afternoon so we wondered if we were following a boat that had started earlier than us. The next few locks were all full apart from Fishery Lock which had been left empty and the walls seemed to be dry, maybe no one else was cruising yet. By the time we reached Lock 61 plenty of trains were whizzing by and there were plenty of people up and about in Winkwell marina. I was worried that we’d arrive at the swing bridge between locks just as the locals were heading to work and I might end up with many angry car drivers. A gap soon showed itself, I turned the key and pressed the button. Pretty quickly the lanes filled in both directions, then cars started to turn round. At least the impatient drivers were taking themselves away. Once the stern cleared the bridge I pushed the close button and opened the road again. Only twelve held up, but at least four gave up.
As we approached lock 59 there was someone emptying the chamber. The gate opened but there wasn’t a boat. NB Endeavour was moored close to the lock landing and one of the chaps on board had gone up to the lock to empty it for us. I hopped off and thanked him. They had been moored in the pound above us yesterday, but had set off when the day had cooled off a bit, so we were following them! They were still having their morning cuppa so wouldn’t join us to come up the remaining locks to Berko. I said if we saw them we’d wait, saving water in this hot weather.
On we pootled, a passing walker warned us of a low pound ahead. In Nicholsons it warns you not to moor between locks 57 and 58 as the level drops overnight. But past experience is that it’s actually between 57 and 56 and today this pound was low, the walker was right. Mud banks were showing on the offside, but with a bit of a distance to the next lock it looked like we’d be okay going up. So the lock was filled and Mick started to gradually work his way to the next lock, I stayed on the towpath just in case. The lock should be left empty so I did this, just as Oleanna ground to a halt mid channel.
I walked up ahead to see if I could send down water without causing a problem for others as Mick called C&RT. Two boats were moored in the pound, well and truly sat on the bottom, their mooring ropes almost audibly straining. Above the next lock the level was down by about six inches and the long line of moored boats put me off letting water down. With no walkie talkie or phone to hand I walked back to report to Mick. C&RT were trying to get hold of the local chap and would call back. Mick could reverse Oleanna and trying to move forwards again he gained some more distance. By now NB Endeavour was pulling up below the lock, so I walked down to warn them. I got them to ring my phone which was on Oleanna, I’d then be able to let them know when we were in the next lock and if it was safe to come up themselves. Mick was now stuck again and having no luck pushing Oleanna off the bottom, but the sight of a chap in a blue t-shirt gave us hope.
He opened paddles at both ends of the lock above and rang back to control to see if someone could be sent to let water down from the Waitrose pound. His morning had been spent sorting out the levels in Berko and he’d just finished that when he got the call about us. This pound quite often drops overnight, but had been fine all week. He asked if the gates were open or had it not been emptied, but I’d found it as it should be, empty with paddles raised. However the amount of water leaking from under the top gates was likely to have been the cause and I showed him a picture. Once he’d got us through he’d go down and clear whatever it was stopping the gate from sealing properly.
It took us an hour and a quarter to get through both locks and Mick had scraped his way along the bottom once the level had risen by a foot. A boat had appeared above the lock, once we were up they would go down. Now back on the boat and reunited with my phone I could call Kevin and Matt on NB Endeavour and tell them to fill the lock, but wait for the boat coming down so that they could swap over at the lock as there wouldn’t be enough depth for them to pass mid pound. We were back floating and the sun was getting hotter.
Not much further to go before we’d reach our destination and hopefully shade for the rest of the day. Another lockie was by Ravens Lane Lock letting water down, the levels would soon be back to where they should be. Our water tank could do with filling but more importantly we wanted a shady mooring, so we continued until one came into view. Not quite in the shade when we arrived but after an hour the trees did their job. But with the temperature outside being 30+ again and there being no breeze the cabin got warmer and warmer. I finished off editing my folio during the afternoon as Mick and Tilly bimbled around, all of us feeling the heat.
Yesterday I’d noticed that Mikron had been doing one of their shows at The Rising Sun, luckily we hadn’t missed them totally as their other show In At The Deep End about the RNLI was on tonight. So we put on fresh clothes and walked back down the cut in the still sweltering heat. Plastic garden chairs were lined up alongside the lock and they were already three quarters full. Mick joined the queue for liquid refreshments as I baggsied chairs. The view wasn’t going to be that good from so far back, but shortly before the show started the landlord of the pub suggested that the back few rows move up and add a chair at the side of the further forward rows. So our timing had worked out very well, with much better views.
The four actor musicians worked their socks off to give us a very entertaining show with plenty of laughs and a tear from one or two of the audience members towards the end. We the audience were glad not to be in full sun, the actors who had to wear oil skins or thick fleeces for some of the show were even more relieved. Only one boat came through the lock as we watched the show, the landlord assisting them, but at least 20 bikes, joggers and a bull dog with a mouth full of tennis ball negotiated their way through the audience chairs. This is all part of seeing a Mikron show even if it’s a bit distracting.
14 locks, 5.3 miles, 1 swing bridge, 12 held up, 1 creeper, 1 bottom at the top, 2 men in blue to the rescue, 1 marooned cat, 0 call back, 4 patches of shade along the way, 20C up to at least 31C, 4 hours photo sorting, 17 shows to show off, 2 hot 2 do anything! 4 actors, 8 socks worked off, 6 yellow wellies, 3 life jackets, 1 boat, 1 boxer, 3.5 pints.