The main focus for today was to set off promptly and travel as far south as possible, to make the most of our last full day on the boat.
There were 59 bridges between us and our final destination, as well as five locks and a host of new narrowboaters (it’s changeover day for a lot of the hire companies).
We achieved a prompt start, getting underway almost an hour earlier than any other day so far this week.
Our first challenge was the five lock staircase at Llangynidr. The Captain had decided that it was high time she showed the rest of the crew exactly how to operate a staircase of locks efficiently.
She was right, too. To start with, anyway.
The Captain had the first two locks filling and prepped at the same time (no burly assistants today, either), so all Jerry and I had to do was drive in, and wait patiently.
This approach worked for the first few locks, but then Good Luck Charlie in his blue Canal and River Trust t-shirt, and his bright red life jacket came along. No mobile phone though, which is unusual in our experience of lock side
Charlie is a volunteer who gives up his free time to assist canal travellers through the staircase and on their way, whether they need or want assistance or not, with a skilful twist of his windlass and a “good luck” for all who pass him by.
Naturally the Captain took offence to such behaviour and decided that it was time her acting First Mate stepped in.
Charlie and I finished off the last two locks together, whilst the Captain and Midshipman remained aboard.
“Good luck!” Charlie offered up with a wave as we set off southwards. He was a throughly pleasant man.
Next up we finally secured some water for the boat, taking on two days worth of fluids took a while, but we got there.
The southward journey continued at barge speed (ie very slowly), through bucolic countryside and under clear skies – not as warm as yesterday, but still very pleasant.
Not all travellers are entirely pleasant and on several occasions we were prop-washed into the far bank, as they hammered their poor hire boat engines into submission, leaving us to pole ourselves free from the shallow water.
Knowing that we just had to keep moving, these minor setbacks could’ve been frustrating, but actually became a bit of a game for us… here comes another one! And more often than not we were underway again before they’d figured out that they too were stuck on the bottom of this incredibly shallow canal.
We maintained our high spirits with food (nachos to be precise), they were delicious and just the right fuel to keep us going.
I even managed to find a decent ice cream shop today, which made everyone happy – including the Midshipman (who had spent most of the morning recovering from yesterday’s sunny hike).
The sugar rush may have been the root cause for Midshipman Jerry’s outburst shortly afterwards, in which he managed to unleash a bark so scary that 5 squirrels scurried away at once (please note, no squirrels were harmed during the making of this documentary). Or maybe he just had a point to prove once and for all to his small, furry enemies, as we didn’t see another squirrel all day.
This brought us to what should’ve been the end of the day, things were going well we’d spotted a good mooring location and so pulled the boat up next to the towpath and— got stuck in the shallow water about five feet away from dry land. This was no good, the plank wasn’t that long!
After a quick shove back out into the deeper water we carried on, and tried again in another scenic location. With the same result.
The light was fading, and we needed to find somewhere practical to moor up for the night. It took us the best part of an hour to finally find somewhere we could stop.
The plank is in use once again, but at least we ended the day on a positive note – everyone got on and off without incident.
The Midshipman also had a chance to really stretch his legs for the first time this week, with a bit of a run along the tow path.
It has been an outstanding week: the weather, the scenery, and the adventures have all been fantastic.
We have one more day of Welsh adventuring tomorrow, so please stay tuned for that.