Appointment With A Stranger. 19th June

Rowington Embankment to Cape of Good Hope Visitor Moorings

Shrewley Tunnel

Up early again! Breakfasted and on our way just gone 7:30, we had about an hours cruise before we’d reach the top of the Hatton flight. Shrewley Tunnel was really quite wet, Mick had remembered his waterproof, I’d forgotten and got quite damp and chilly. Yesterdays rain had helped reduce the temperature so I soon popped on a fleece, knowing full well it wouldn’t stay on long.

Heading to the top lock

Two people climbed off a hire boat at the end of the moorings above the flight. Were they just going to have a look at what lay ahead or were they about to set off? Would they have already picked up a boat to partner with? When they reached the lock they started to fill it, no sign of their boat following them, maybe they were just generous souls!

We checked to see if they were willing to share the flight with us, they were, but not sure when their boat would be arriving, the men were being tardy at pushing off, we could go ahead if we wanted to. Many hands make light work of the Hatton flight so waiting a few minutes would save many more minutes further on.

Starting the flight

Philippa, Helen, Keith and Steve (?) were experienced hirers, out for two weeks. They’d already done the Avon Ring so had decided to use up their remaining days by descending Hatton, winding and returning tomorrow. The hire company had said that Birmingham was a bit grotty, so not to bother!

Is that a C&RT volunteer?

With three of us on the lock side I walked ahead to open up the next lock which was already full. I was also keeping an eye out for volunteers and a stranger. A volunteer was spied watching us from the bridge down the flight, then the blue and red vanished, maybe we looked as though we’d got everything sorted, we would do soon.

There was someone walking up the flight with purpose, could this be someone heading for a bacon butty at the cafe or might it just be the stranger I was looking for? She looked across at the boats in the lock, Oleanna tucked behind the ABC hire boat. We’d been a little bit early for our rendez vous and had jumped at the chance to share the flight. I called across, ‘Hello are you Jane?’ ‘Yes’, came the reply, ‘You must be Pip!’.

Coming down

Jane is a colleague of my old college friend Emma who lives in Warwick. I’d messaged ahead a few days ago with the hope that we’d be able to meet up. Plans were put together and could they bring along their friend Jane who is wanting to buy a boat to live on. This then morphed into us having an extra pair of hands for the flight if we could do it on Monday morning. Never turn down the offer for assistance when faced with 21 broad locks!

Us ladies soon split up into two teams that would leapfrog each other down the flight. Philippa and Helen walked on down to the next lock to set it whilst Jane and I got chatting. I knew next to nothing about Jane other than she was keen to help today. She’d been on several holidays and earlier this year she’d done a helmsman course in Braunston where she learnt the normal things along with single handing and how to break ice! Therefore I didn’t have a novice on my hands.

Waiting for an uphill boat

On our way down we met two boats coming up, one with a couple of boys in blue assisting them, another had been helped up the first three but they were now on their own.

Philippa and Helen waiting to open the lock

Thankfully the sky was a touch cloudy, not too much to give concern, but enough to help keep the temperature down. Jane and I had a good old chat about all things boat, crafts, etc as we walked between locks and as we waited for Mick and Keith to bring the boats into our lock. We didn’t get chance to chat to Philippa or Helen as we were leapfrogging each other.

Just about halfway down

Mick checked to see if we required refreshments at the halfway point, but we were fine. Working every other lock with someone to chat away to makes for a less gruelling trip down the flight, certainly far far better than it just being the two of us, which we have done before.


Jane and I got to work the last lock of the flight, we maybe should have waited a touch longer before winding up our paddles so that Philippa and Helen could climb back on board with ease, instead they had to climb down a ladder, maybe they didn’t know about the steps down below the lock which would have been far easier.

There had been conversations at the helm of the hire boat that maybe Keith should swap with one of the ladies. This was turned down. The ladies were working the locks today, he and Steve were going to do them tomorrow, that’s if Steve has finished reading his book at the dinette by then.

We pulled over onto some armco and popped the kettle on. Some choc chip cookies had been freshly baked this morning, time for a well earned sit down for all of us.

Thank you Jane

Thank you so much Jane for joining us today, your enthusiasm for boats and the canals shone out, it was a pleasure having you as crew. I hope your house sale speeds up and then you can start in earnest to look for your boat and home. I hope our paths cross again soon.

The flight had taken us 2hours 22 minutes. Time to look back on previous passages. Back in 2013 (our first descent) we’d teamed up with another hire boat with six crew, today we’d beaten the 2 hours 30 minutes, in fact today was the fastest we’ve descended the flight. May 2016 was 3 hours 15 mins and February 2017 Mick managed the flight in 46 hours 34 mins due to my broken ankle and a storm holding us up for a day.

Hatton Bottom Lock

Todays time however didn’t beat our record which was when we teamed up with Nb Cygnet and had my brother and nephew as extra crew, when we managed to head up the locks in 2 hours 15 minutes. Maybe today if we’d not had to wait for the two up hill boats we’d have just beaten it.

We poolted on to around the corner almost opposite The Cape of Good Hope to moor for the day. Only one other boat when we arrived, but by the end of the day the moorings had filled up, including our locking partners from today, now ready to face the flight again tomorrow.

A jot of work this afternoon saw me go back through all the scenes of Panto, a few more notes taken and some of them worked through before it was time to freshen up and head to the pub.

Emma and her husband David had just arrived. It’s a couple of years since we last saw Emma and longer since we met David. Lots to catch up on and a lot of cat talk, they currently have seven in their house!

Burger burger burger

Normally I have a Kiwi Burger with a gluten free bun, but today I decided to try their gluten free option of fish and chips. Mick went to order our food, only to be told that the gluten free batter was made with beer. This isn’t that unusual as it’s normally made with gluten free beer, but today it sounded as if the gluten free batter would be made with normal beer, hence making it NOT gluten free! Maybe something was lost in translation, but it really didn’t make sense and as some of the first things I gave up because they weren’t agreeing with me were beer and fish and chips I really didn’t want to risk it. So instead I had one of their lovely burgers. At least I knew what I’d be getting.

A lovely evening with friends to end a good day at the locks.

21 locks, 6 miles, 1 hire boat with 4 crew, 1 inside, 1 valiant volunteer Jane, 0 volunteers to assist us, 1 super speedy descent, 3 cookies, 1 left, 4 hours shore leave, 1 model just about complete, 3 burgers, 1 fish fillet, 4 rustic chips, 7 beers, 2 glasses wine, 1 very lovely evening.

2 thoughts on “Appointment With A Stranger. 19th June

  1. Adam

    Our best is two hours flat — when we teamed up with Martina and John on Burnt Oak, and had some friends along to help. There was nothing else moving to get in our way, so there wasn’t a moment when the boats weren’t moving! I can’t imagine we’ll ever do it that quickly again.

  2. joamungoanddog

    7 cats is impressive .. but I have 11 so what do I win?!
    My two then 6 x 9 week kittens and 3 hand rears who are now 4 weeks old.
    Please send my prize soon before I drown in kitten poop!

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