Norton Junction - Buckby Flight

We left Bugbrooke at 9:00 today in sunshine and headed north. The forecast was for heavy showers from around midday. We had a pleasant trip through Heyford and exchanged quick words in passing with Colin Dundas at High House Wharf about painting Albert’s bow flares. We got to Whilton (Buckby bottom lock) about 11:30 and found ourselves going up as a single boat. After the third lock the rain started. Hailstones to start, followed by heavy rain and then very dramatic thunder and lightning. Good job we have got all the waterproof gear! 

Newly refurbished coal & fuel boat at Weedon

Floating arbour at Whilton - it used to be a dinghy

The locks have had some maintenance done on them over the winter but operating them you wouldn't know. The gates are as heavy and difficult to operate as always. The third and fourth locks in particular are pigs! The bottom gates are very heavy to move and the top gates won’t stay shut! Do those specifying and carrying out maintenance ever operate the locks?

Locking in a hailstorm on the Buckby Flight

Arrived at the moorings just below the top lock at Norton Junction at around 1:30 and called it a day, we aren’t due into Braunston until tomorrow. The weather then cheered up but as we got towards evening the heavy rain returned. We took the opportunity to polish the internal brass. Got the engine looking good – with lots of elbow grease.

Couldn’t resist an evening meal in the New Inn. We both had gammon – large portions so a doggy bag came in handy. It was cosy in the pub with a large game of Northamptonshire skittles (hood skittles according to Wikipedia) in progress. Good to see the pub busy after its recent closure.

Farewell to Kingfisher Marina (for the summer)

Leaving our home mooring

We have moored Albert at Kingfisher Marina for a decade and are by far their longest serving (?) residents. In recent years, with retirement, we have often boated in the spring and autumn and gone for extended cruises, notably on the Leeds & Liverpool. However this year, with regular grandchild-care commitments, we will not have the time for extended cruising so we have decided on an alternative approach, moving Albert to another marina for the summer. As our base we have chosen Aston Marina near Stone where we moored briefly last year. It should provide us with a range of short trips and avoid the problem of travelling through very familiar territory for the first few days if any trip. Stone is on a direct train line from Milton Keynes. We plan to move Albert back “home” in the autumn since it is good to have her close by during the winter.

Yesterday we started the business of moving Albert north. We left Yardley Gobion around midday. It was dry, bright and nippy. Heavy rain showers were forecast. We got to Stoke Bruerne bottom lock to find NB Dragonfly about to go up – good news; but the even better news was the crew were being assisted by their friend Kathryn Doddington from NB Leo No. 2 and a resident of Stoke Bruerne. As a result we made good progress up the flight but the expected rain (and wind) arrived just as we got to the top lock. Leaving the top lock we were greeted (?) by the sight of a wide beam waiting to come down. They had just gone through the tunnel. I was a bit confused about how they had got through Blisworth Tunnel in the middle of the day but Maggie chatted to them as the lock filled. It appears that they were booked to go through the tunnel on Thursday with CRT organising the closure and decided that with the weather getting worse they would go through the tunnel on their own. It appears that they stopped two boats going north through the tunnel but I am still confused as to how they knew the tunnel empty before they got in because you can’t see all the way through. As we left the lock the wide beam cast off, and reversed and causing Charlie the trip boat to take evasive action.

We continued on through the tunnel which was entirely clear and under rain showers we cruised on to Bugbrooke. We haven’t moored at Bugbrooke for some time, despite it being where we first moored our first boat. NB Steelaway was moored up just behind us with one of the owners (shared) carrying out some maintenance. We just had to go to the Wharf Inn! The food was good, there was a roaring fire, and the staff were hospitable. It wasn’t very busy being midweek. I had my first pint of Whittlebury Ale. Having represented the village of Whittlebury on South Northants Council for eight years it was, as the expression goes, a no brainer. It’s a good light ale.

Alde Sorted

The housing supporting the control knob on our Alde Compact 2930 failed. I purchased another casing but whilst fitting it I found that the all-important micro switch that controls the ignition had also given up the ghost (a technical term?) and the control knob was very stiff. Wary of getting out of my depth (metaphorically speaking) I called in JIMMS who has helped us out before.

Offending micro switch and new casing

Jim arrived on Saturday and fitted a new micro switch and freed up the plunger on the main control valve. All no w working well. I can recommend JIMMS.

Whilst Jim Paker (aka JIMMS) was with Albert he described a recent problem he attended on behalf of RCR. It turned out to be a very serious cause of prop-fouling that caused Maffi lots of problems. He also described a follow-on incident that befell a CRT tug and hopper.

Heads On!

On Tuesday we picked up Albert from Sandling Wharf on Blisworth Arm with all the work completed. Phil Lizius had turned her around in the wind hole just above the Northampton Arm Top Lock. She sounds much more crisp now. As we left Phil gave me a memento - a lump of carbon from behind the valve seat on the number one cylinder.

As with our journey up we were helped by Geoff & Shirley Emmins. Too bad the weather wasn't better - a mixture of sunshine and showers and some of the showers were heavy. We had a very quiet trip with no other boats moving. Blisworth tunnel was, as expected, very wet and we got drenched. Geoff steered all the way through.

We were met at Stoke Top Lock by Kathryn Dodington from Leo No. 2 who lives close by the museum. We discussed the scaffolding that was being erected outside the museum so they can carry out repairs to the roof. It causes quite an obstruction, good job it is a quiet time of the year for visitors. We moored up for lunch close to NB Matilda Rose (a.k.a Contented Souls) in the Long Pound. I see that Contented Souls are keen to point out the effects of the new mooring restrictions; think they might have a point.

By mid-afternoon Albert was back on her berth at Kingfisher Marina. The only problem now is the Alde on Albert is now playing up. The control knob mounting is broken and the main valve is stiff. It happened just as we left Blisworth Arm. I think the latter problem might have caused the former.I will have to get it sorted soon.