Maggie's Retirement Cruise

On Sunday, 20th July, we took Albert up to Stoke Bruerne with a group of Maggie's colleagues and friends from Heelands First School in Milton Keynes. Maggie retires at the end of term (July 22nd) after many years at Heelands. The cruise was a "thank you" cruise for her colleagues. Because of the numbers involved we had to carefully organise the joining instructions and the car parking (always tricky at Stoke Bruerne). We split the trip into morning and afternoon sessions with lunch taken together by both groups.

The trip up to the locks was uneventful but it was fun with around 8 visitors on board. Good job Albert is well-ballasted and pretty stable. It was a pity that the weather forecast, which was for clear blue skies, didn't turn out to be accurate; it rained! However, it cleared up for the trip up the Stoke Bruerne lock flight and the rest of the day was thankfully dry. The large team of helpers soon got the hang of lock mechanisms and the procedures involved. We joined up with NB Steamline, an Ownerships boat, at the second lock. They stopped for lunch in the Long Pound but we continued to the top of the flight where we met the rest of our visitors (the afternoon shift) and moored up close to the tunnel.

Lunch was great fun but we had to spill out onto the towpath to accomodate the over a dozen people that were involved! Serving had to be carefully organised with a queue of people boarding Albert at the stern, picking up food in the galley and then leaving via the bows.

Serving lunch in the galley

Taking lunch in the well deck

The "bank" party

Some of our vistors left after lunch, but because a number wanted to experience the tunnel we went up to Blisworth and then returned back to Stoke. As a result, they got the experience twice! Going north through the tunnel we passed NB Venice, a Mel Davis boat that was at the Crick Boat Show and has been featured in Waterways World; more later.

Some of our vistors were picked up by car at the Spice Mill at Blisworth. We then turned around and came straight back through the tunnel. As a result we met Venice again, at Stoke Bruerne Top Lock, where they were taking on water. They came down the flight with us and we had some good chat, mostly about boat design, classic engines and their marvellous boat. Howard Nobel appears to have a great eye for traditional detail; lots of the features on Venice have their roots in FMS and Ovaltine boats. Their sign writing by Peter Hill looks paticularly good.

At the Top Lock we also met our neighbours Liz, Ross and Millie Capps and managed to give them a trip down the Stoke flight. The Capps were out for a walk along the canal at Stoke and just happened to discover us. They had visited Albert back in 2005, before Millie was born, but then we were moored up and didn't move.

All our visitors left us at Stoke Bottom Lock. It was very quiet travelling back to Yardley Gobion with just the two of us! Next weekend we go south on the Grand Union to London (and beyond) for an extended summer cruise. We can't wait. We will be blogging regularly.