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A two week cruise to the Ashby canal – Day Thirteen: Hillmorton To Willoughby Wharf

Yesteerday was a relaxing and extremely enjoyable day; a day at odds with the plans we’d made.

Our intention was to cruise from Hillmorton, up through the six locks of the Braunston flight, through the mile and  a quarter long tunnel, cruise another hour and a half to Norton Junction, turn round and look for somewhere to moor for the night before a 6-7 hour cruise back to Clacutt today.

We just couldn’t be bothered.

After a very pleasant, rather blowy cruise from Hillmorton we stopped at Willoughby Wharf to let Charlie and Daisy out for a run before the planned lock flight and tunnel at Braunston. There’s no wharf at Willoughby Wharf now, just a very pleasant view of hilly meadows. We liked the location so much we decided to stay for the day, forget about the additional cruising and just cruise two and a half hours back to Calcutt today.

Weatherwise, yesterday was the best day of the week. Sun wasn’t forecast until the end of the day but we were blessed with clear skies for most of the day. We walked along the towpath two miles into Braunston, enjoyed a coffee overlooking the canal in the garden of the boathouse and ambled back to the boat to spend the rest of the day relaxing in the sun on the towpath, me reading and Sally chatting via her iPad with her cousin in Manilla.

I love the simple life on the boat, but I also appreciate the technology we have at our disposal. Our Three dongle hasn’t failed to provide us with an internet connection at any one of our mooring spots over the last two weeks. The Edimax WiFi router allows us access to web world throughout the boat. Yesterday I finished my current book. A quick search, a couple of clicks and there was another book waiting to be read on my Kindle. I love it!

 Update Day Fourteen: Willoughby To Calcutt

After waxing lyrical yesterday about my wonderful Three dongle and how it always allows me to connect to the internet, yesterday it failed for the first time. I had just about finished writing the day’s post when I noticed that I had no connection. In poor reception areas the signal often cuts in and out which allows me to compose a post offline and then publish it quickly when I have a signal.

Yesterday I couldn’t manage a connection at all. I tried constantly over an hour before we set off for the day but then gave up. By the time we arrived back at Calcutt and I had finished one or two maintenance jobs, we were into the afternoon so I decided to wait until today to update you on the last two days of the cruise.

We were moored just a couple of hours from Calcutt. The route was familiar, the landscape stunning and navigation was a bit of a challenge. Gale force winds were forecast for later in the day but the wind was brisk enough to make steering in a straight line at normal cruising speed very difficult and cruising at tickover past moored boats virtually impossible.

I had one near miss with an out of control boat on a particularly windy corner. The boat’s bow appeared around the corner cutting across my bow and over to the towpath on my starboard side. I had to take evasive action and pass it on the port side to avoid hitting him square on on his starboard side. I managed to pass him without touching. I was very lucky there wasn’t anyone following him.

The (new) owner of the boat apologised. He said that the wind had caught him as he rounded the corner. He’d tried to correct the drift with his bow thruster but he had pressed the wrong button and had helped the boat further in the wrong direction rather than back onto the right hand side of the canal.

The rest of the journey was uneventful apart from a tricky turn into the marina. It’s always difficult getting into the marina when there’s a stiff breeze. The prevailing wind blows out of the marina entrance towards the towpath side of the canal which means that it’s very easy to get pinned against the towpath when you come out of Calcutt Bottom lock.

The choice is to either charge out of the lock and start to turn towards the marina before you reach the entrance or, if you can’t get the bow around, turn away from the marina and reverse through the entrance. I just about managed to get the bow in afer a bit of a bump.

So, we’re back on our mooring now. We’re back “home”. It’s great to be back (and slightly disappointing to find out that Calcutt Boats hasn’t fallen apart without me). The reeds next to the boat have grown about a foot in the two weeks we’ve been away and there’s a welcome splash of yellow from half a dozen iris which weren’t there last year.

Front-fender-old-and-new

Yesterday I collected a fender for the front of the boat, a button fender with wings, ordered at the Crick show and delivered to Calcutt reception while we were away. The old fender was, quite frankly, an embarrassment. You can see what I mean in the photo. The old fender was on the boat when I moved on board. I had so many other improvements to make that I didn’t notice just how tatty the front fender was until Sally pointed it out to me a few weeks before the show. The back fender wasn’t in much better condition. We managed to pick up a new rear fender at the show but the only trader selling fenders at the show ran out of them on the first day. We ordered one from them but knew that it wouldn’t be delivered to Calcutt until after we left on our cruise.

The new fender is a huge improvement both aesthetically and practically. The old fender didn’t offer any protection at all. We just need to take the boat out now for a cruise to test it out.

We’ll be planning our next cruise very shortly. Sally and I love living on James at the marina. We have a beautiful mooring on a stunning marina in a tranquil part of the country, but we’ve now been bitten by the continuous cruising bug. It’s always been our intention to uproot ourselves and travel extensively as soon as we are able but we now want to do so sooner rather than later.

I’m fifty three now. Sally’s probably a similar age but she’s not letting on. Neither of us are getting any younger. We’re both seeing an increasing number of friends, relatives and work colleagues suffering life changing illnesses. I watched an item on the news last week which claimed that 50% of the population can now expect to contract cancer at some stage of their lives. It’s a frightening statistic. One of the guys working at the marina had a very close call last year. Thankfully he’s on his way to making a full recovery but over a year later he’s still not fit enough to come back to work.

I see far too many moorers here at the marina, who spend a lifetime working very hard towards their goal of owning a dream narrowboat and the financial resources to enjoy it, only to find that health issues – sometimes terminal  – prevent them from realising their dreams. It’s such a shame.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Sally and I can’t afford to retire yet, but neither can we wait until the time is “right” before setting off on our travels. We met a couple on our recent travels on NB Cream Cracker. They took the bull by the horns, gave up bother their jobs, sold their household possessions, rented their house out and set off to cruise the network in March this year. They’re loving every minute of it. Their plan for the end of this year is to find a winter mooring, work as hard as they can over the colder months to build up their financial reserves then set off on another six months’ cruise next spring.

There’s no reason why Sally and I shouldn’t do something similar so watch this space!

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Paul Smith
 

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia now wander Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 32' Dutch motor cruiser.

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