Rinsing Down the Port Side. 11th June

Evan’s Bridge 42 to Fessey Bridge 58

About five minutes after lights out last night, Mick already making the sound of a man asleep I heard a noise. I sat upright in bed. What was that?! It was a similar noise to that which Tilly makes when she comes home to find the back doors closed, she jumps up from the board that covers the engine onto the sliding hatch, the engine board making a slight rocking noise which is subtly echoed by being over the engine bay. Who was in the pram cover?

Had we got an intruder? Had the ants come back on mass? Mick being on that side of the bed headed off to investigate.

So much for checking the ropes on a night time and locking up! According to Mick, Tilly must have opened the hatch, all by herself! I gave Tom a Tilly look, She understood my look.

Shortly before Gayton Junction, by a bridge there was what looked like a LOT of rubbish that had been dumped there. But on closer inspection there was a canoe tied up to two mooring spikes. A bag and a rucksack, an assortment of cuddly toys. By the bridge was a carrymat and possibly a sleeping bag. Was someone living on the canoe? Using it to move their possessions? Had they settled by the bridge?

Which way?

At Gayton Junction we looked down the Northampton Arm, one day we will venture down there and explore new waters, but not this year there are more important things to do this year.

Blisworth Mill

Soon we were approaching Blisworth Mill, looking fine as ever. New houses were going up on the towpath side, this is where Mikron’s van was parked last time we passed, it would most probably now be in someone’s living room.

An interesting greenhouse, wonder if it folds flat for bridges?

Then Blisworth Tunnel. 1.75 miles long it is straight and quite often you can see from one end to the other. Today however the tunnel was full of mist, fogging up our view. We were glad of an extra layer of clothing under our waterproofs because it was decidedly parky in there. Beams from our lights were visible as the light from the northern portal faded away.

Blisworth is wide, two narrowboats can easily pass , which is what happened at the 1km mark. The light from ventilation shafts showed quite clearly in the mist, then the water coming from them would be caught in our tunnel light, a quick mental note of where the heaviest water was before we found out if we’d missed it. One shaft gave the port side quite a good rinse down.

At the southern end we came back out into the sun, a wide beam moored up presumably waiting for a booked passage tomorrow morning. Two narrowboats may be able to pass in the tunnel, but if you came across a widebeam, one of you would have to reverse.

Stoke Bruerne

With no one following us through the tunnel we watched people on their boats to see if anyone sprung into action hoping to share the locks ahead. But no such intention was seen. The top lock was full so we went straight in and started to work our way down.

Swapping locks

We passed an uphill boat in the next pound which saved opening gates. The next long pound has moorings, but nobody was getting ready to go down hill there either so we carried on.

Through the sideways trees

The next three locks are quite close together, you can get one going and walk to set the next one without too much of a walk. I set the top lock, the next one having just emptied and the bottom gates were being pushed open, the next lock sitting with the gates open waiting.

The boat came out of the lock and went way over to the offside. What were they doing? Then I could see the side of it, an ABC hire boat, maybe they’d got their lefts and rights mixed up and gone drastically off course. Then there was more cabin side visible, ahh they were winding! Another boat came into the lock, soon followed by the hire boat having successfully winded.

I waited for them to start filling the lock before I opened up the bottom paddles, our water could help raise them. By now the lock below had been turned for an uphill boat, so when we’d moved into the next lock we waited again before emptying the lock. I spent the wait admiring the cow parsley growing on the lock gates!

Below Lock 18 you used to be able to walk under the bridge on the offside, but now a very big pipe fills the walkway access blocked by fences.

No access anymore

A chap was trying to open the bottom gate at Lock 19, here only one paddle works and the amount of water leaking in at the top was just about winning. The two of us managed to get the gate moving, he headed off to get his boat. He’d been expecting to share with another boat that was following at the lock below, but instead a Weedon hire boat came along to share. They pulled into the lock, I suspect their second ever uphill lock with the amount of panic showing in the chaps eyes.

Co-ordinated hair dye and narrowboat

The chap at the helm shouted to his wife to hold the boat in at the bow using a rope. I suggested his centre line would be a better idea, he should take his time instead of trying to rush. By now the boat wanted to be on the other side of the lock and fortunately the chap bringing in his boat behind was able to avoid any collision.

Boats all going up

Discussions were had how to do the next lock between the hirers. All very well having a plan, but both boats ended up on the same side of the lock! I think the single hander was going to need quite a lot of patience to get up the flight!

Plenty more boats were waiting to come up, the one working paddle creating a queue. Mick wove his way through the uphill boats and brought Oleanna into the bottom lock. Now we just wanted to find ourselves a mooring with a view.

Container boat

We worked our way past numerous boats, the container boat moored by Bridge 57, I don’t think it can travel very far due to it’s height and straight sides.

Sadly no space showed itself deep enough for us with a view to the east, so we made do with a high hedge and gaps across the way. None of this mattered to Tilly as there was plenty of friendly cover and trees to climb.

Catwalk time

Whilst Mick listened to the cricket I set about with a brush, buckets and cloths. Time to spruce Oleanna up. It’s a long time since she’s had a wash, the mooring in Goole wasn’t long enough to make washing the cabin sides easy, then I had work, then there has been the escape and now our continued journey southwards.

After a couple of hours half the roof was clean and the port cabin side was reminded of what shade blue she had originally been painted. One half of the tunnel bands got a good wash and were returned to being shiny again. Just have to wait for the towpath to be on the starboard side to finish the job.

Hello again!

7 locks, 8.61 miles, 1 straight on, 1.75 mile tunnel, 5 mysterons, 1 near escape, 2 many boats, 40% of Oleanna clean again, 60% still revolting, 1 happy cat to have towpath company, 8 actors measurements.


2 thoughts on “Rinsing Down the Port Side. 11th June

  1. Adam

    I’ve just been to look at the pipe under the road at Stoke Bruerne (and have checked my theory with Kathryn) — the pipe was always there, it just used to have a path on top. You might remember that you used to have to duck to avoid hitting your head on the bridge. I’m told it was damaged in the frost and the path was taken away to expose the pipe, and isn’t being put back.

    1. Pip Post author

      Thank you Adam. I do remember ducking now you mention it. Hope you didn’t get too soggy on your walk. Here’s hoping the weather improves tomorrow

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