Friday 28th April
Three wise men at Teddington.
The following morning we agreed to cast off at 5.50am so as to have the Hanwell Fight of locks to ourselves and catch up with Cranley and Barleytwist at the top of the flight, because Terry had arranged a lunch at Willowtree Marina at about midday. We met up at Norwood Top Lock, but not before I had stemmed up in the pound below the lock, which was 18ins below normal level. Just to add to the delay, Stronghold got a padded jacket around the blades, which I had to remove with a knife down the weed hatch. I motored on, as Brian also had to clear the blades on Zavala, before he could make any progress. I reached Bull’s Bridge and moored up with difficulty, as another boat was on the water point. Apparently, a lot of the moorings were taken up by barges loading top soil from lorries to transport elsewhere.
We all made it to Willowtree in good time for a very good home cooked meal. Since being here last, the restaurant has been taken over and renovated, much to its advantage. The next pound took about four hours and was full of rubbish, which held me up for short periods just chucking back, until I finally got a piece of polypropyline cord around the blade, necessitating removing the weed hatch once more and cutting it off.
Arriving at Little Venice, I was eventually directed into mooring no. 47 on the towpath in The Pool and had to reverse in with everybody watching. I avoided all other boats, but did manage to hit the towpath on Rembrant Gardens before tying up. This was my first time in Brownings Pool and it was a one man boat handling competition just to get moored up, but as I was entering all the competitions, I soon became adept at it.
Stronghold moored up at Cannie Cavalcade.
I had fish and chips and did the quiz with Terry, Chris, James and Hazel Bell before opting to go to bed after a very long and tiring day. Apparently, I left halfway through the quiz, but we came 2nd anyway. Maybe if I had stayed for the whole time, we might have come first – oh well!
Saturday 29th April.
It was time to put up the bunting for the Best Dressed Boat Pageant, which took me about two hours – there must be an easier way! Although the pageant theme was Waterway Tales, I decorated Stronghold in the usual manner just with bunting. In my opinion it takes more than one person to decorate the boat in the style of a theme. Maybe I am just a lazy person, or do I need more crew?
General view of Cannie Cavalcade.
I picked up Dave and Kay Murray at the start of the pageant and they stayed for the complete run to Cumberland Basin and back before leaving the boat. They could not afford the time to come on their boat, so came by train for the day. All went well and we moored up again on the towpath, reversing in with additional help from neighbouring boaters.
In the evening, several of us went to see Kate Saffin do a one person play on The Idle Women, which was very well done and no mean feat. Again I had to leave early to get a meal on board about 8pm.
Sunday 30th April.
It was the day of The Boat Handling competition and the bunting had to be partly dismantled so that I could see easily where I was going. On leaving the mooring, I realised that the blades were well clogged with plastic bags and it took several attempts at chucking back to clear it all off. All seemed to go fairly well, although I did do a few reverses during the 180 degree turn towards the end. I actually exited down the correct arm this year.
However, the wind blew a gale at the end of Paddington Arm and where I was to wind the boat and I tried stopping to replace the bunting, but it was hopeless and I left it until I had finally returned to my mooring. Just as I was doing that, Maggie and Mark came on board briefly and Maggie had a load of pics on her mobi of the work that needed to be done to Nuneaton and Brighton before they could carry any solid fuel in August. Brinklow Boats had the job and a slot had already been reserved there in July. Shortly after Andy Belton and his wife stopped off for a chat, having come up by train for the day. Whilst I was talking to Andy, a stranger was waiting to talk to me – it turned out that he and his wife had recently bought nb Cadia, which is on my home mooring. They also had problems with a mink getting under the cratch cover, as I had had on Stronghold. It really is a small world.
Time was getting on and I had yet to put up the lights of the Illuminated Boat Procession at 9pm. Hopefully it won’t take as long as the bunting. I also had to get something to accompany the chicken and had to shop.
With the lights up, I had a meal before heading off to wind down the Paddington Arm and join the other boats on the procession, starting at The Horse Bridge. Each boat was announced and greeted with applause from the crowd and horns from the boaters. I followed the boat in front of Stronghold, but felt naked in comparison to the myriads of lights on other boats. We winded in Paddington Basin and returned to our respective moorings. After which I turned in, unable to keep up any longer.
I followed this boat on the Illuminated Pageant.