Sunday 15th May
Blisworth to Fenny Stratford
I was awake at 05.30 to a lovely sunny start to the day. The fire had kept alight throughout the night and I could now add more coal from the coal box, which is also the back cabin step. It is an 18 ins drop from the top step to the coal box step – quite a surprise when I first encountered it!
Motor back cabin. The coal box is beneath my feet.
Range to the right with drop down table further
forward and bed 'ole nearest camera.
After tea, coffee and some additional shopping, just in case we couldn’t find a food pub later, the engine was fired up and we moved off towards Blisworth Tunnel with myself steering the motor accompanied by Mouse and Janet steering the butty with Trevor for company. We emerged about 40 mins later, having passed several boats without incident. There were no moorings to be had to display the pair at Stoke Bruerne, so we passed through two locks and moored in a long pound for a fried breakfast cooked by Mouse in the butty galley. As I washed and dried up, the others did several odd jobs around the boats.
Centre of Stoke Bruerne from Top Lock.
We set off again down the rest of the locks, with us all sharing steering of both boats and working the locks. The Stoke Locks are fairly close together, so the pair remained breasted up. After the locks, with myself steering the motor and the pair singled out (towing on cross straps), we approached a line of moored boats on the outside of a long bend. Being wary of trying to keep the pair away from the moored boats, I got out of the deep channel and begun to run aground on the outside (opposite to the towpath). Hoping to slide off the mud. I kept the boats moving, but was getting closer in towards the vegetation until I was forced to stop any further forward movement. Mouse went forward and attempted to shaft the bow off, but we were too stemmed up at that end to get pushed off. I then decided to drive the aft end off into deeper water and go astern, which of course caused a jack-knifing of the boats and forcing the butty stern deeper into the undergrowth. In the meantime, Janet was attempting to shaft the aft end out, but as I towed the butty further forward, she had to let go of the cabin shaft (boat hook), which was stuck in the mud. As soon as we were moving again, Trevor came forward from the cabin to hold an inquest into how this had happened – how was I supposed to concentrate on steering with him breathing down my neck wanting to know all the details. “Piss off and do it later!” I wrote in my log, although I didn’t say it at the time, but I told him in the pub after a couple of pints and we all laughed like drains. Another entry says that there is no gardening page in the NBT training manual, which needs remedying in future and that secateurs should be an essential part of boat equipment.
All went well after that incident until we moored up in Fenny Stratford just after 7pm and repaired to the Red Lion for a pint and food, only to find yet another pub with beer only on offer. So, it was back to the butty back cabin for pasta with a readymade tomato sauce and onions. Back to the pub for more beer (thirsty work is this historic boating with NBT) only to find that it was quiz night. It was not a pub that I would stop at in future (I wrote at the time), however I have been there many times since when on Stronghold. Canal pubs are very few and far between and advantage has to be taken at every opportunity if you are a real ale lover.