Gayton Junction

We don't usually moor here for the night but we are on our way down the River Nene on an early autumn trip. The weather was dreadful when we woke this morning at home and our duvet was a bit too heavy, so we didn't finally leave Yardley Gobion until 12:00. However, when we got to Stoke Bruerne Locks we found ourselves with help from a pair of volunteer CRT lock keepers. We went up the flight very efficiently. The weather had been fine but going up the locks we found ourselves on the fringes of a line of sqaually showers.
Stoke Bruerne Top Lock 

The trip through the tunnel was good with just two boats coming the other way and both able to steer effectively so no bumps.

In bright sunshine we cruised through Blisworth and turned down the Northampton Arm. Tonight we are opposite Gayton Maruna where, back in 1996 we had our first permenent mooring.

Gayton Marina on the Northampton Arm

An evening meal of chilli with a very large homegrown Bramley Apple (612g) and blackberries from the hedgerow outside our window went down a treat. Tomorrow the 17 locks down to Northampton.

Mega Bramley Apple with Blackberries - scrumptious

Stoke Bruerne Village at War 2016

We decided to go to the wonderful Village at War event over the weekend but with Harvey, our 1932 Austin Seven Box Saloon (RN). The weekend started inauspiciously with heavy downpours all Saturday so we stayed at home, but today the weather came up trumps with loads of sunshine and crowds of people.


Renactors aplenty

Harvey fitted the 1940s theme well being first registered in 1932. Our friends John and Gill Hinson brought along an altogether bigger vehicle - an ex Isle of Wight 1936 Dennis Single Decker bus.

Harvey in the foreground
(the Denis bus is well in the background)

The magnificent 1936 Dennis Bus
Late in the afternoon Nick Hewer (of Countdown and The Apprentice fame) came into the vehicle park with his Austin Seven Tourer. He lives locally.

Nick Hewer and Austin Seven

Time for tea

NB Sculptor going down the locks

We had a great day and also enjoyed the drive to and from the event. Going was much quieter and we didn't cause any traffic problems but coming back the slow climb up the hills to Grafton Regis meant we had a good tail back of following traffic by the time we turned off the A508 to our village; Harvey rarely gets to 40 mph.  However, most were patient and gave use cheery waves. 

Boat Sinking at Stoke Bruerne

Boat on the cill, Lock 15 Grand Union

Over the weekend I was involved in helping with the Over and Under the Hill event at Stoke Bruerne which is run by the local canal partnership and we took Albert along so we could stay overnight. On late Saturday afternoon the weather was wet, and we only had four paying customers, but it led us to witness part of the events that led to a boat sinking in Lock 15 and stoppage lasting most of Sunday.

Over and Under the Hill (NB Charlie)

The Over and Under the Hill event involves passage through the tunnel on trip boat Charlie and then  a return guided walk over the hill. I was involved in helping lead the walking section. As we reached the tunnel northern portal around 6:15 PM on the Saturday we saw a boat travelling south on an erratic course towards us - it ran aground a few times and was across the navigation when I first saw it. Because NB Charlie had a return trip through the tunnel with paying customers they asked the steerer of the boat in difficulties if they could go ahead. He agreed and then did a very professional job of reversing his traditional-engined boat away from the tunnel portal - a process which often causes embarrassment, particularly when there is an audience. Unfortunately, when he then tried to go forward he ran straight aground on the off-side. At this point we left him to his devices because we couldn't help and had a walk to lead.

On reaching Stoke Bruerne we began to hear that the boat in difficulties, which was unnamed, had struggled to get through the tunnel. The crew had also had great difficulties getting it into the top lock. At one time I gather it was broadside across the navigation.

On Sunday, just before we led our second walk, we found out that the boat had got into the second lock down the flight (Lock 15) and was sunk - caught on the cill. The lock flight was therefore closed and CRT were involved in trying to recover the boat. On the hatch of the boat was a partially full bottle of whisky and a half-full bottle of white wine; both had miraculously stayed upright as the boat sank.

Upright bottles and glasses on the hatch

CRT staff locked the whole flight first thing on Sunday morning and then drained the Long Pound (pound below lock 15). After a few hours of pumping out they managed to get the boat afloat and eventually, around 3:00 PM when the Long Pound was full again, boats began moving again. The whole process was handled very efficiently. Being Sunday there were numerous onlookers for the whole operation and lots of discussion about the causes of the incident.

On the cill

Afloat and filling the pounds

As you can imagine, once the stoppage was lifted by CRT the lock flight suddenly became very busy. One aspect was the difficulty in working out which boat had moored up for the stoppage (and wanted to move on) and which was just moored up for the night.

Because we need to turn Albert to go south, our return down the flight was not helped by boater thinking that because there was a stoppage he could moor anywhere and leave his boat unattended. This included right opposite the winding hole by the tunnel where there are very clear no mooring signs  Luckily the crew eventually returned but only after we had two futile attempts to wind. I think the owners realised that we were were far from happy with their actions.

We were accompanied going down the flight towards Yardley Gobion by a boat named Komet. The owner was an enthusiast for the German (Me 163) Komet WWII rocket plane. I am lucky enough to have seen one of these midget planes close up when I worked at what was then Cranfield Institute of Technology. In  the 1970s Cranfield also had a V1 flying bomb engine and a complete V2 rocket which now appears to be in the Imperial War Museum.


And a Right Good Crew - Life Magazine

As Maggie noted in her post on Emily Kimbrough's book, part of the American boaters' trip included a photo session for LIFE magazine. It appeared an important part of their journey, probably because it helped promote the forthcoming book. The US members of the eponymous crew, apart from the author, were author-actor Howard Lindsay, his wife actress Dorothy Stickney, author Arthur Kober and Sophy Jacobs who was described as an "Urban League leader" and who was a long term friend of author Emily having attended the same college. They all feature in the magazine article that appeared in September 1957.

Howard Lindsay was a Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winner and he wrote the book for The Sound of Music. Dorothy Stickney had her birthday whilst on board Maid Mary Sue and received canal ware as gifts. Reading the episode where the group collect the gifts it appears that the unnamed canal painter of the cans and dipper was from Braunston. Like Mike Verdmore who has also reviewed this book, I think it is likely that they bought the cans from someone associated with Nurser's yard. Dorothy Stickney went on to have 101 birthdays in all and died in 1998.

The narrowness of our canals and their small dimensions of their boat fascinated the New Yorkers. During meals it was quite a crush as the Life photographer recorded and Arthur Kober sketched in a cartoon that appears in the book.

Sophy Jacobs negotiates the dining table!

All other cartoons in the book were by Mircea Vasiliu who worked in the USA as a diplomat for Romania in New York during WWII but sought asylum after the communist takeover. It appears he wrote children's books on his own account and illustrated many others. 

Mircea Vasiliu

Maid Mary Sue Ascending Napton Flight

The photographer assigned to cover the Americans journey for LIFE magazine was, according to the author, called Burrows. He appears as an important character in the book because the photo-shoot features strongly; he was even featured in a cartoon. The older Americans were amazed at his agility.

Burrows in Action on the canal

It appears that the photographer was Larry Burrows, who at that time was working for LIFE in London. He achieved fame as a photojournalist covering the Vietnam War - a far cry from canal cruising. Burrows was tragically killed in Laos in 1971 and would have been 31 at the time of his Napton assignment. 

Burrows in SE Asia (Wikipedia)

The boat hired by the Americans for their journey from Stone to Thames Ditton came from the famous Maid Line and Sophy and Emily were in  contact with the IWALionel Munk who founded Maid Line and was soon  to be IWA Chairman. 

And a Right Good Crew

by Emily Kimbrough with drawings by Vasiliu

When a friend was clearing her family home after the demise of her parents, she came across this book. Rather than pack it up for the charity shop, she thought of us and handed it on. Steve usually reads factual books, and is constantly researching his various interests. I prefer novels and biographies and have thoroughly enjoyed all Terry Darlington’s accounts of their sometimes hair-raising adventures on the canals at home and abroad. This book, written in the 1950s, appealed to me, so I read it and offered to write a review.

The book is amusing and well written. Emily Kimbrugh was a New York based writer of several travel books. With a small group of friends, all well-heeled authors and actors, she planned two trips on the English canals. The first trip was to be from Stone to Llangollen, then she was to be joined by more friends to travel south from Stone, onto the Thames. Her journey was well researched and she shows an enthusiastic appreciation of the English canal system. However this did not extend to practical knowledge of the working of locks or boat handling. On her initial familiarisation trip, accompanied by her friend Sophy, they hired a 50 year old ‘boy’, Mr Walley, to steer a converted narrowboat and work the locks. He returned to his home every night on his motorbike. Her description of the boat and delight at the interior is a joy to read. Later in the book she is fascinated to learn at first-hand about the boaters’ way of life.

Stone High Street

An interesting aspect of the book is the comparison the author makes between the modern way of life in 1950s America and behind the times England. They search Stone High Street for an ice bucket and ice, essentials for evening drinks. However they do not complain and see the trip as a great adventure. As we do now, they remark on the pace of travel, and they enjoy the tranquillity of the English countryside. When the rest of the group, including two men, join the party for the second trip from Stone to the Thames, the division of labour is interesting. They do things in style, staying overnight at local hotels and inns where the men could peruse the morning papers over ‘the men’s breakfast’. After lunch each day, when they share the tiny table on board, the ladies clear up while the men play a hand of rummy and enjoy a post-prandial drink.

On the Llangollen Canal - lift bridges!

As minor celebrities, with close connection to what nowadays is called the media, the crew are joined at Napton by a reporter and photographer from Life Magazine.
A canal-side picnic with the Life Magazine photographer looking on

Another feature of this book is the reference to places we have also visited by boat, such as Coventry happily rebuilt now after the devastation of the war, as well as other places much unchanged such as Shugborough and Aynho Park. 
Meeting the neighbours!

I enjoyed reading this book. It paints a picture of a time gone by, the England of our childhood. There is probably less about the boating than about exploration of our country via the inland waterways. The book is written with wit and humour but avoids being patronising. It is bursting with amusing anecdotes as well as a real appreciation of our heritage. It is also well illustrated with cartoon drawings which are "very much of their time" as you will see. Finally a useful Glossary of boating terms, a breakdown of basic expenses, and letters from people they met en route are included.