Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Up up and away!

So that was winter! It seems more like six weeks rather than six months since we moored up at Caen Hill Marina, and now we're off on our travels again. Maybe it's to do with us both turning the big three-zero but the winter has really flown by.

We really liked Caen Hill and living in Wiltshire for the winter so it was with surprisingly mixed feelings that we slipped out of our berth and back onto the canal system.

We worked our way steadily up the first seven widely-spaced locks that begin the Caen Hill flight and any lingering doubts about setting off  had disappeared by the time we reached the idyllic moorings at the bottom of the main 16 lock flight itself.

We'd been hoping to find another boat to share the locks with and fortunately a hire boat turned up later that evening so we had an easy run up the 16 locks with them, passing a few boats descending. As you can see, the pounds between the locks are extremely short so it's a bit of a logic puzzle how to get four boats round each other in a space barely longer than the boat itself.

The hire boat turned at the top of the 16 locks to return to base at Hilperton and we carried on up the remaining 6 locks to Devizes Wharf. David washed and polished the boat and we made a quick trip out to the market where we bought some flowers for the roof - we're not great with plants so place your bets now how long these will feature in our photos! At least we found a good use for our old kettle which went rusty inside!

Victoria went running one last time with the Devizes Running Club which she has enjoyed being a member of for the winter, and without which she probably wouldn't have finished the Bath Half Marathon earlier this month!

We made a late start the following day having done a bit of shopping and said our goodbyes to Devizes. The canal east of Devizes is known as the Long Pound and with 15 miles without a single lock it is a total contrast to the labours of the Caen Hill flight.

 We chugged steadily along through the beautful Wiltshire scenery to Honeystreet where we stopped for the night.

The next day we walked up to the white horse on the hills above the canal (behind PM here) in wild weather ranging from sunshine to horizontal rain.

We resisted the temptation of the Barge Inn with its home-brewed ales (not to mention "new-age hippies and crop circle enthusiasts" according to our guide book!) and set off eastwards to moor at Wootton Rivers for the night.

Sunday dawned grey and wet and the towpath was sodden after a night of heavy rain. Undeterred, we set off up the three locks to the summit level and through the very short Bruce Tunnel.

Emerging from the cutting the other side, the wind had really picked up. We descended the first lock and out into the worst of the weather.

This photo shows the waves on the canal at the top lock but we were too busy to get a photo of the waves and white horses below it. When we're cruising we tend to fold PM's pram hood down onto the roof. We put the life ring on it to weigh it down and have never had a problem with it. There's a first time for everything though, and the pram hood made a bid for freedom waiting for the second lock to fill - the unzipped doors blew away and sent David off in hot pursuit. Having stowed the saoking wet door canvas in the shower, David weighed the rest of the pram hood down with fenders, ropes, the life ring and, unfortunately, a windlass. David reasoned this big, heavy lump of metal would keep everything in place and walked to the lock to see how full it was. He turned round to see the pramhood blown up in the air again, the life ring hit the chimney and bounce into the canal and the carefully placed windlass four feet above the roof halfway along the boat. So after nearly six years' boating we have finally lost a windlass - we're just glad it did land in the canal really, rather than on the roof, or worse, the solar panels.

So the rest of the pram hood canvas was relegated to the shower as well and we made it to a sheltered mooring above Crofton as quickly as we could. Windlasses are not that expensive but on principal we walked back to the site of the incident and spent the best part of an hour fishing with our magnet to no avail.

Fortunately Monday was calmer so we had a relatively easy trip to Great Bedwyn, passing the Crofton pumping station and waving at trains on the way.

Lesson learned, we've stayed put today as it's still very windy. So windy in fact there are a couple of stoppages out today due to trees blocking the canal - one is a day or two away so should be cleared, the other is just a few hundred yards behind us - close call!