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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fellow bloggers Converge at Braunston

"What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open." ~ Jose Manuel Barroso, Portuguese politician and 11th President of the European Commission
    Les' Urology post-op was originally scheduled for August 5th (over two months since the surgery occurred and rather pointless overall but there 'ya' go), then canceled and rescheduled to August 12th. Since we were heading for the Leicester Arm anyway we decided to nip down to Napton first and visit with our friends Andy and Tina (NB Ytene). As always we thoroughly enjoyed their company and a delicious dinner at the Kings Head pub. Thanks you two, for a great day out.
   We spent three days total on our favorite part of the old North Oxford canal before it became part of the Grand Union canal. The views across the fields are stunning, with total peace and quiet at night. No noise or light pollution to disturb one's sleep. The stars and planets are easy to see on a clear evening, but mercy me was it busy and looking back, we had no idea the ins and outs of boating we would encounter along the way!
David and Lisa's boat. Sorry we missed you!
   I brought our boat through Braunston where we spotted NB What a Lark moored up but no one was home. If you haven't read their blog you are missing some really fine writing and spectacular pictures. 
   On through the narrow water lane of boats and through one of the double white arched bridges I steered, onto the old North Oxford heading south.
   Les took over shortly after. We took our time as it the wind was brisk, this canal is full of winding S curves which one cannot see around, and we were not in any hurry--per our usual modus operandi. 
   Earlier as we were traveling down the Braunston flight, Les had put our airer (clothes rack, for Americans) out on the bow and pinned the freshly washed laundry to it. The large flannel bed sheet, large terrycloth bath towel, and other items would dry in the sun and wind in no time. 
   Just after we passed the winding hole beyond Bridge 99 I looked to my right and spotted a corner of my light blue bath towel sinking quickly out of site in the cut. I warned Les and tore down the stairs and up the boat to the bow to secure the laundry to find everything had vanished!!
   After doing a mental accounting of the laundry items which had disappeared which assured me I could replace them easily from Ikea, I decided not to have a melt down. I walked back to Les and told him, "Our airer is gone--it's all gone into the cut!"
    He didn't believe me at first, then he started to reverse back and look for it all but I knew our large pale blue flannel bed sheet, large blue bath towel, assorted tea towels, etc. were still pinned to the airer which was laying on the bottom of the canal. We spent the following ten minutes vacillating between hysterical laughter, embarrassment (yes there were boaters on permanent moorings watching us) and shame, knowing there is a high likelihood in the future some poor sod will end up with our laundry wrapped around their prop. Now we know how those duvets and sleeping bags end up in the cut!
   As we sat moored up last Monday Les counted twenty two boats passing in one hour. We watched a hire boater in the early evening sun take the S curves of this canal at full boar and, having caught up with a meandering hire boater who had been about fifteen minutes in front of him, Ramjet the Rookie decided to overtake the plodder only to discover he was not on the A5 carriageway and a boat was bearing down on him from the opposite direction. You cannot pay for such entertainment.
Me with Amy and James next to MB Willow
   We upped sticks Thursday morning to make a feeble attempt at heading back up the Braunston flight, stopping at Midland Chandlers for some boat bits and bobs, then cruised off to the water point where a short time later a large blue and white boat with a wooden hull slipped smoothly in front of us and Amy and James on WB Willow appeared on the towpath!
    We had sandwiches on our boat and tea on theirs while the water tanks filled.
   Les and I had an initial tour of MB Willow just over a year ago when we visited Cambridge for a day with John and Jackie on WB Pippin. Amy and James being neighbors and friends, took us on a tour of Cambridge that included punting on the backs. They had just recently taken possession of Willow and she was basically a remodeling construction site in progress. Still, with strong, solid bones and a grand past it was well worth their time fitting her out to live in. We've followed their blog with fascination for the past year as Amy and James have taken every remodeling and construction task to heart with determination.     Now MB Willow is a lovely, wood filled floating home filled with energy and love. There are wonderful touches in every section as James and Amy have restored it livingly while making Willow their own. If you love old working boats then you really must check out their blog. We parted as Amy and James continued on toward Birmingham and we moored up just before the Braunston Marina bridge.
   Amy had mentioned NB Yarwood was still moored up at Braunston and of course we knew this somewhere in the dim recesses of our aging minds but as we came down the flight on the way to Napton we totally forgot to look out for them, so we decided to walk up to the bottom lock and say hello to Joe and Lesley. We had a tour of Yarwood, which was full of firsts for me: first tug style bow, Beta tug engine in its own engine room (not under the floor), and first time I ever entered a boat by a side hatch (lovely wide steps with a reasonable rise for short legs). It was all fascinating and teh new changes that Joe took us through will only add to the lovely atmosphere aboard their floating home. Tea and donuts in the late sunshine and a good natter with the Yarwoods and we wandered back to NB Valerie. 
   I was too knackered to cook so we decided to eat out and Les chose the the Boat pub for old time's sake. We arrived just in time for him to take video of the steam boat President and its butty Kildare which he will include in another post. 
   We sat outside in the balmy evening air with menus. Les ordered scampi, chips and peas; I ordered rump steak, king Prawns on skewers over a red pepper salad with the house dressing. Dinner arrived: Les' was exactly what he asked for, while mine was not. No King Prawns in sight anywhere. Instead a clutch of wet, pink baby shrimp had been haphazardly scattered across my salad. I called the waitress to the table and explained my concern. For nearly £15 I was not going to accept canned shrimp in place of King Prawns--no way. 
   She apologized and went back to the kitchen to check with the chef, returning to say they were out of King Prawns so a substitution had been made. She asked if I wanted something else from the menu instead so I ordered Beef and ale pie with steamed potatoes instead of chips. It arrived ten minutes later and was an equal disappointment. The potatoes may have been steamed but they had no butter, parsley or anything on them--just dumped on the plate gray and naked, accompanied by a small gravy boat.
   The substance in the boat resembled gravy only in its coloring. It was awful--with absolutely no recognizable taste of anything at all. The Pie was dry and overcooked so I ate what I could and covered it all with a napkin. Needless to say we will not be returning to the the Boat pub in Braunston and we do not recommend it to anyone else.
Boots and Bones coming down the lock flight
   The next morning we set off about 9:30--after The steam boat President and its butty went ahead of us up the Braunston lock flight at 8:30 promptly followed by no less than six boats in quick succession. Lesley had offered to help us up the flight so I gave her a ring and we met her at the bottom of the locks. About half way up we spotted none other than NB Bones coming down the flight with Boots on the roof.  Lovely to see you both again!

    It took us about forty five minutes to move up through the flight with the help of other boaters too. Lesley and I had a lovely natter. Thanks again for your help and company! Sadly though Les took pictures of Lesley and I with his new ee Kestral phone, the pics it takes on zoom are too blurry for anyone to tell who may be in them. 
   Shortly after we entered Braunston tunnel and I counted eleven boats including us in the tunnel at one time: eight passing us, headed for Braunston and two following behind us. We fetched up on a soft bank one bridge before the turn up the Leicester arm and decided to stay here for a few days.


Amy said...

Lovely to see you both! but I must correct you! Willow is made of welded wrought iron, not wood! xxx

Boatwif said...

Hi Jaq,
Empathise totally with the laundry departing the front deck scenario: at Hungerford once an airer of ours, laden with towels, plunged to the canal bottom. All items were rescued but had to be rewashed (in the days before an on board boat washing machine). Another memory is of a white bird (aka a piece of supportive underwear) flying, seagull-like, past Ken on the stern while we were on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Wonder who found that trapped round their prop...!
Sue /Boatwif/nb Cleddau

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Wow Amy! Les and I both really thought Willow had a wooden hull. It must be all that lovely wood inside that led to think so. I stand corrected!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sue,
Well now we are in the same sorority yeah? the lost laundry boatwivs!!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs