Sunday, 15 June 2014

Vroom vroom and flippers please.

So having been totally and utterly whacked and knackered, the five of us had a VERY early night 
(not together you understand).  Sleep came quickly to all however at about 1am all hell broke loose with a thunder storm pretty unrivalled this year.  
The thunder was bang overhead, it had begun sort of gently then peaked then drifted off after about 20 minutes, it woke us all of course, then it returned with the most tremendous BOOM overhead again and I was cuddling David who had dropped off again,  I jumped a mile and woke him up again.  It was a mighty storm alright and in the morning, it was confirmed that Reading had been hit badly with houses and trees struck, electricity off and some localised flooding.
But we were all ok.  I was awake early, David got up to listen to the rugby and I went back to sleep for a well earned nap….
So today we wanted to finish the K&A but what do we find but the river section running a bit faster… Just what we didn’t want.  We decided to continue anyway.  People had said all along this canal that it comes up quickly after rain and goes down again equally as quick.  We had plans that urged us to go and not tie up for a day or so.
Swing bridges aplenty today and about seven or eight locks.  So up and at ‘em girls.
Last night's pretty pretty mooring

First of todays swing bridges.

Water meadows and the winding river. 

Waterlily in front.

The day was overcast, then cool, then hot, then drizzle, then a downpour, then a monsoon and finally warm again.  Coats and jackets were on and off like a whore’s drawers.  (Is that expression terribly un-PC?  If yes, then I apologise).

I have to say having not done this very lower section of the K&A on the way up  (Our Boat-Sharers did it over Easter Weekend)  That I did think it very very pretty.  Very winding sections through trees with the sun shining down in places was lovely, but the river which was flowing very strongly in places changed all that and drove us smack into the bank on one occasion and a reed bed on another.  
Reader I am told that there are a few scratches on the paint which “Should” come out with polishing…

Bendy bendy.

So onward, none of this cissy stopping for lunch oh no!  Next was the second and last of those Turf Locks.  They do look much prettier this time as the Cow Parsley and Irises have grown up.

Amanda said this looks just like a smiley face with hair.

Turf Lock in the sunshine.
Metal girder sides and cow parsley.

This is the second of two scalloped edged locks.  But I do think this one has a much wider gap between the lock side and the beam stopping point, if you should be momentarily distracted I am sure I would fall down the space…. 

Very very long lock

With a bloody great gap though.

Now one thing we have all noticed on this canal is that the locks are doubles but rarely are there spaces for two boats to land on the lock landing, here was a case in point.  One of us moors and deposits their crew, then the other hovers trying to stay out of the way of the weirs.  On this lock I couldn’t shift the gate so I called Neil who had roped up his boat to come and help.  He did like the good egg he is.  Then David brought Wal into the lock. To our surprise another narrowboat came hurtling around the corner a speed, really top speed it was heading straight for “Our” empty lock  Pauline yelled to Neil, he sprinted to Waterlily, vroomed into gear and got into the lock, the arriving boat, paused and then put itself onto the lock landing in the vacated spot.  
All well.

My new rain jacket from Bradford-on-Avon 
Hurtling boat just whizzed up to the lock after Neil VROOMMED in in front of them.

The  two men even came forward and fairly well ushered us two ladies back onto our boats and did the gates for us, how kind thinketh me…..?
Cast your eye at the below lock landing after last nights storm.  It may always be like this for all I know  but it was an indication of water flow rates.
Errr this is the lock landing.

Sudden downpour, me inside of course.

Flippers anyone....?

Onto the County Lock, there was a nasty bend and brick wall on the approach with the river flow taking you nicely towards a brick wall…  a paint scarred brick wall I might add.  Just past there on the other side was a length of moorings but these were actually permit holders moorings.  Both captains stopped there, it was a bit of a bun fight with crew leaping off, rope grabbing and hauling to secure both boats against the flow.  Sorry for the lack of photos here but I had my hands full.
The captains walked to the lock to see what strategy was required.  Stupidly, there is no access to the lock from the towpath side, thats good isn’t it on strong flow conditions?  Waterlily went ahead with Amanda to set the lock, they moored on the only small section of lock landing, again how mad is that for two boats? David and I stayed on Wal for the signal via phone from Amanda (These three would be totally out of view to us waiting back a bit),  as we waited then a boat came into view from behind us, yes you’ve guess it, the same boat that had come hurtling to the open lock before.  They were going much too fast for the river conditions, David called to them that we were waiting for the lock to be prepared for us… 
“Okay” he called back as he sped past, we thought he would moor up in front of us but no, he hurtled on and around the corner almost smack into a poor innocent narrowboat that had just exited the lock coming up.  When this boat got alongside us that captain had a few choice word about the speed merchant I can tell you, the poor wife looked pale too.
Just then Amanda phoned to say the lock was ready and we could come along, while she was on the phone the speed merchant appeared to her from nowhere, past Waterlily on the lock landing and straight into “Our” lock.  Well Amanda (who is no shrinking violet went forward to remonstrate with them… She pointed out that they had known full well that this lock was our lock and that their actions were not on…. The captain swore at her then actually did say he would reverse out if she was going to carry on bitching….!!!  How rude was that?

NB Bubbles, Lock Stealers, if you see them HOLD YOUR GROUND!!!!

Neil and Pauline said that if they stayed on the lock landing it would be impossible for Wal to make the sharp turn into the lock anyway.  So NB Bubbles took our lock, it was clearly their plan as they were going so fast toward the lock previously and the approach to this one too.
Both our captains and all crew were livid about this.  Would you have been?

When we finally slipped gingerly around the corner, it seemed pretty hairy to me.  Then as I got off to see the situation for the first time, I was faced with a scene that reminded me of ‘Hawaii Five O’, maybe Reader you are too young to remember but Hells Bells and Buckets of Blood, I almost got the Screaming Abb Dabs…

Neil off the landing and Wal nervously making the turn.

Wal fighting the pull towards the weir off to the right hand side.

Hurrah he's in.

Me and Pauline winding up.... then I realised just where we were headed... others laughing at me!!!! If I could have walked I would have.

Nothing for it but to send Neil out into the breach first (That was my idea)  and follow on, camera in hand ready to snap photos.  Now the weather turned really hot, but that might have just been the tension.

I sent Neil off first... Just then the bloody lights changed to red!!!!!

Hawaii Five O are us.

 The whole section through Reading town centre reminded me somewhat of when I used to take the kids down the flume rides at the local swimming pool, the boat was veering one way then the other, maybe if I had had a stiff drink before I may have quite enjoyed it.  
Amanda had nipped along and pressed the traffic light controls so they were on green and Neil moved forward first, then us and away from the edge the current took us and those bloody lights turned RED!!!!!  There was no going back as we were committed, then they turned green again inexplicably. Thank Goodness.

We were heading to moor just down the way by the canal museum but as luck would have it today was the Reading Canal Water Festival, all moorings closed, so it was decided upon to go for with to Tesco’s on the Thames to grab whatever space was left.

Finally, on the Thames, it appeared to be hardly flowing, such a relief.  Breasted up together, crack opened the gin with other nibbles and the afternoon ended rather better than it had started, with much laughter and red cheeks, well that was Pauline who is only allowed one gin, Neil had to take her home when she started singing dancing and telling more rude jokes.

We have so enjoyed this weekend with Waterlily and Amanda of course.  A great way to have finished the Kennet and Avon canal, and OH BOY!  I am glad we have finished it.  Glad to have done it, but can’t say I ever want to go on it again.
Bit sad really to say that CART.

Supper was salmon with Amanda's courgette salad with lemon and chilli dressing, eaten at 9:45pm!!!!!

PS I have been informed that I haven't been nearly abusive ENOUGH about NB Bubbles, my crew were that livid.


  1. Maffi would've called those speeding lock stealers Feckin' Arses or some other suitable description I am sure. Beautifully refrained in the telling. I was hopping mad having helped the boat coming up to do the lock - the wife said " never again" about the white water rafting only to have these lock stealers nip in to it like that. Still the afternoon gin helped. No mention of the fabulous cupcakes that passed from Waterlily into WaL's cratch later on by an apologetic Pauline as the ganache wasn't quite set!!!!!

  2. I think you've been very restrained, particularly as that boat appears to have a garden sun umbrella on the back deck - grounds for strong language without all the other bad behaviour.

  3. Welcome to the Never Again Club. Have so enjoyed your take on the K&A.

  4. Amanda,
    Calm yourself, think of your blood pressure.
    Yep they were hits.
    Thank you for the welcome to the Never Again club. How many members?