The Captain, Security Officer, Sea Cadet (in waiting), and I (Bosun) are back on the water.
We’ve been commissioned to (very slowly and very gently) explore the lower reaches of the Oxford Canal.
As is now traditional, ahead of picking up the boat, we stopped off at a nearby National Trust house. This time we chose Nuffield Place, the home of Lord & Lady Nuffield. It was a surprisingly humble home, for someone who was so rich and influential.
We were guided around the house by volunteers, who definitely knew their history and wanted to make sure we knew it all too.
As a result, we only just made it to the wharf on time, our heads full of information about the man behind the motor industry,
We’ve decided to hire our narrowboat from a small independent company this time, rather than a national chain and we reaped the benefits of that as soon as we arrived.
There was no hanging around, we were greeted politely and promptly. Necessary paperwork all tidied up in moments, and after a brief and friendly introduction to the boat we were on our way.
Having spent the first part of the day driving on the road through fog, the sun popped out as soon as we were on the water. Let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come.
Wolvecote lock was our first obstacle, and the Security Officer and I leapt (ok, stepped) off the boat and got straight to it.
Fortunately, these locks have single gates on either end, which make them easier (and quicker) to operate, especially on your own.
The Sea Cadet showed its approval of my lock operating technique by giving the Captain a swift kick in the rib cage.
I suspect it was this sort of thing, or perhaps the Security Officer calling for her attention, that caused the Captain to crash into the bridge.
Let me explain…
After the lock, we were confronted with a tiny lift bridge. So tiny in fact that I had to hold it open to allow the boat to go through. If it helps, picture that old school playground game “Oranges and Lemons”, with the lift bridge and I forming the “peak” and creating a gap for the Captain to drive the boat through. Only the Captain didn’t quite give us enough time to get into position and there was a very slow and very gentle bang! as our boat made contact with the bridge.
The Captain operated the next lock, Dukes Lock, whilst I drove the boat. With typical efficiency we were soon through it and on our way. Two locks done.
One thing about travelling in Autumn is that you don’t get a lot of daylight, and so you can’t go too far, as you’re not allowed to be under way in the dark. That means mooring up by around 17:30.
After Dukes Lock, we found our mooring spot, just a few hundred yards from the next lock, Kidlington, and it was time to settle down to fish pie and an alcohol free beer shandy for the Captain (and by extension the Sea Cadet), and a cider for me. The Security Officer promptly took himself to bed.