The GU Southbound – and an emergency evacuation

Monday 2nd June
          It was a peaceful mooring on Sunday evening just west of Norton Junction – sunlit until dusk, with only a country lane in the distance,

few passers-by and open fields opposite. Bliss…
          Between Braunston and Norton Junction the Grand Union Canal runs roughly east/west. Then at the junction there’s a choice – bear left (roughly north east) for Leicester, or right (south) for Brentford (where the canal reaches the Thames). Take the right and you’re soon heading south between two walls of sound, the M1 and the West Coast main railway line. Though you can shake off the motorway it is harder to be out of earshot of the fast Virgin trains…
          First after Norton Junction there are the Buckby Locks to contend with – a flight of seven over a distance of about 1½miles. The gates are immensely heavy, the paddle gear occasionally stiff but there are plenty of rewards for boaters: pretty cottages, clematis in full bloom,

the attractive canal ware shop,

a bee hard at work on a thistle,

the pottery and art gallery

beside the bottom lock, the marina at the bottom pound.
          On the convoy continued, M1 to the left, trains to the right.

Moored boats were passed (many of them), and then came Weedon Bec. From the canal you’d never guess this place’s history – it was chosen as a military stronghold during the Napoleonic War and even had accommodation for George III and family in case of invasion.
          Climb down from the embankment on the village’s southern end and you’ll find golden yellow mellow stone housing,

a pretty church, the occasional thatched cottage and some curious windows.

          A mile further on (just 10 miles from Braunston)

was an easy mooring: the rural views were pleasant but the noise from the trains was a little intrusive! Walk further on down the canal and you’ll see highly individual properties.

          If the day lacked new adventure it did provide some interesting boat names:
Tagula Blue

Tuptonia, the Girlguiding boat for Northamptonshire and Birmingham

Spuyten Duyvel

Cider With Rosie

 and Susan-Mary.

Tuesday 3rd June
          Prepare for the river – that was the purpose of the day: on Cleddau and Tentatrice fill up the fuel tanks, fill up the water tanks, catch up with the laundry, attend to the toilets, position the boats ready to descend to Northampton… such was the plan…
          Stowe Hill Boats was closed until Thursday – so no diesel there. Like buses (none at all, then three at once)

three boats then converged on Nether Heyford Wharf to fill the diesel tanks.
           Refuelled off the boats set, frequently passing moored boats – some of them with an unexpected previous life.
          “Remember that tree,”

called the Captain. (Look closely, it’s a phone mast in disguise).

          Then, just past the charity trip boat

 IT happened.

          “Smoke!” yelled the Captain. “We’re on fire! Get off the boat!”
           Boatwif tore to the front, leapt to the bank. “The washing machine’s on…” she directed backwards.
          “Back on the boat – turn it OFF,” came the order. Another gallop through the boat, a fiddle with the dials and another jump off.
           What to do now?
           While Boatwif held the centre rope the Captain gingerly crept back on deck. Smoke there was, but no flames. A deck board was lifted; from inside the cabin the smoke detector wailed.
           Tentatrice drew in behind – what was up? The two Captains sniffed and inspected…
           A tell-tale scorch mark on the exhaust was the clue to the cause: the plastic tube from the bilge pump, too close to the exhaust, had become over-heated (its innards “cooking”) and the fumes caused the smoke. The smell of hot plastic drifted through the boat.
           Reopen the side hatch.
           Restart the engine …
           Restart the washing machine – and all was well.
           Onwards to Gayton Junction, and the services.

           There are 17 narrow locks downhill here to Northampton, where the canal joins the River Nene. Both the Boat Captains have signed up for Environment Agency information – and by email, text and phone calls the news was clear: the River was on Red Boards, Strong Stream Alert.

            Where to go, what to do…? There is no mooring at the Junction while nearer the locks is dominated by A43 noise. So a couple of miles further south the boats drew in at Blisworth, right behind The Cheese Boat.

 To turn round from here to get back to Gayton Junction requires a cruise through (and back through) the Blisworth Tunnel  (3057 yards/ 2795 metres). That’s more miles to add to the destination total! 

            Conclusion: plans are merely formalised wish lists…
            And tomorrow (Wednesday): with the forecast for heavy rain it’s likely to be a stay at the current mooring sort of day.
 Total distance to Bedford:  341 miles (+ detour)
Distance so far: 134 miles

Total number of locks to Bedford:  143 (+ detour)
Locks so far: 66


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2 Responses

  1. OMG! I nearly dropped my mug of tea as I read this!! We are so grateful you are both all right and no serious damage was done to Cleddau. Your hearts must have literally been in your throats. A bowl of vinegar set out on the table will help pull the smell of burned plastic and smoke from the boat’s interior. A wash of the curtains should do the rest. Holding you both close in our thoughts that this will be easily remedied and the last issue to raise its ugly head.
    Love Jaq and LesXX

    • Boatwif says:

      Many thanks for your thoughts Jaq and Les. Luckily it was the breeze that took the smoke through the cabin and out of the front doors- so no lingering smell. No damage apart to my pride I should have tied the plastic pipe well clear of the exhaust. We are now waiting for the Nene to calm down, the Strong Stream Alert was cancelled last night but we have had more rain all day.
      Love Ken and Sue

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