I awoke early, to the sound of a male cuckoo singing his heart out. There are worse ways to begin a day, that’s for sure.
A full English breakfast gave us all the energy we needed to get going, and we were soon off and moving.
It wasn’t long before we were swinging our windlasses, raising paddles, pushing and pulling heavy gates, and generally working our way through lock after lock.
This all came to a halt when we arrived at Lock 73. As we approached we saw a herd of cows standing around on either side of the lock, and one or two walking across the swing bridge that straddles the lock itself, allowing the cows to get from one side of their field to the other.
The gathering of cows was an unusual sight, as they were all staring down into the water at the lock gate.
It was only when we got closer that we saw a lot of splashing going on in front of the lock. There was a very tired, very scared cow desperately trying and failing to find a way out of the canal. It was barely keeping its head above the water.
Elaine, the Ship’s Boy, and I were off the boat and so first on the scene. We quickly set to work, Elaine guided the gathered cows out of the way, the Ship’s Boy and I went to the cow in the water. We held its head up, fear in its eyes, and pushed it towards the far bank.
Trevor arrived, with a rope from the boat and we thought we would have to somehow get the rope around the cow and pull it out between us.
Fortunately that wasn’t necessary, as at the same time, the Ship’s Boy and I managed to get the poor cow to a shallower part of the canal and it did the rest, climbing out of the water and leaping through the fence to rejoin its family. Wet, weak-kneed, but alive.
I will never forget the look in that cow’s eyes as I held its head above the water line.
With the rescue over, we carried on our journey, and everyone’s thoughts turned to finding a water point, and what we might eat next.
We found a water point in Hungerford, and the Ship’s Boy and I went shopping for a few essentials, including ice creams for everyone.
It took a long time for the boat to fill up, though we weren’t surprised about how empty the tank must’ve been. Five adult(ish) people use a lot of water.
After the mixed weather we’ve had so far, today was nothing but sunshine. Everyone got their legs out. Even the Captain began to warm up!
We clipped an umbrella to the tiller, as a way to try and generate some shade on the stern. Whilst the clip worked well, the sun was in the wrong direction and so we only really managed to shade a small patch of water directly behind the boat. Ah well, it was worth a try, and I’m sure the fish appreciated it.
Nachos appeared next, as a much needed pre-lunch snack.
Lunch itself was pizza. That’s right, it was time for me to get in the galley and rustle up four different options for the crew to enjoy.
Given how quickly they were consumed, I can only guess they were acceptable.
We picked up another boat in the next set of locks. The Brentford crew. The ladies were chugging champagne in the bow, the men were wise cracking at the stern. You can take the people out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the people.
They stuck with us for a while, happy to let us work the locks and get them through a lot quicker than they expected.
After they moored up, and we were on our own again, we came to a lock that mysteriously seemed to be taking a long time to fill.
Trevor and the Ship’s Boy were operating it, the rest of us were on the Ross’s Gull. Elaine was driving.
As we approached on the boat, the boys were resting on the lock gate arms, enjoying a moment of peace in the sun.
Until, that is, Elaine spotted the reason the lock wasn’t filling.
There was a paddle still open on the bottom gates, effectively letting the water flow straight through the canal and preventing it from filling completely. A rookie mistake.
Elaine pointed this obvious error out, and you’ve never seen Trevor run so fast to correct it.
Newbury was the next destination, and we travelled through this quaint town without further mishap. But we did pick up another travelling companion.
Ross. He’s a live aboard, and spends his life on his canal boat.
So, Ross in his boat (I didn’t catch the name), and the crew of the Ross’s Gull journeyed through Newbury and out the other side.
The canal picks up a current here, and in one lock we almost had a problem, as it was just about impossible to get the boat into the lock. The current kept sweeping the stern away. It took a fair bit of pushing and poling but Trevor and I eventually got the nose to turn, and the Captain did the rest, driving the boat neatly into the lock.
The final challenge of the day was finding just the right spot to moor up. It had to be away from others, with enough sunlight and a little shade, and give us space to set up and enjoy a barbecue.
We found it, near Thatcham Nature Reserve.
Rounding off a day of food, the barbecue was delicious. Well cooked by the Ship’s Boy, and well eaten by everyone else.
As we sat there enjoying a moment of peaceful tranquilly, what did we hear?