Provisioning Part 2 was done by yours truly and Francine in a dawn raid on our local Waitrose supermarket. Thank Darwin for civilized shopping. Realizing that our boat’s refrigerator would have a limited capacity, we bought food for two days … and another 6-bottle case of wine, just in case 20 bottles was not enough. 😯
As midday approached, the time at which we could take possession of/board our boat, “Juniper”, we swiftly spotted that we were not going to get 4 fully grown adults, their luggage, food and most particularly 26 bottles of wine into our car all in one go. Two trips would be required. How fortunate that we live just a mile or so from the Wyvern Shipping boat yard. We loaded the car with four adults, together with the food and booze and headed boatwards for the first time. Leaving two adults to pack the food and booze, the remaining two adults returned for the luggage and trip two.
Once fully loaded, a little instruction on the daily boat maintenance routine saw us cut loose onto the water, Captain Virginia manning the helm, and heading north towards Milton Keynes. Ah, so that’s the way we’re going round then, anticlockwise. This seems to me to be the sensible option, going downstream with the flow of the River Thames rather than upstream against it.
Dealing with a few single locks warmed us up, us being the lock team of Francine and Franco. dealing with the linked set of three locks at The Three Locks pub just north of Leighton Buzzard cause a little head-scratching but we got it figured out thanks to some on-board instructions: as you drain one lock you have to open the top gate paddles into the next lock down to stop the relatively small intervening pound overflowing. Tricksy!
The starter’s pistol had gone off at 1:30 PM. With our locking skills from 15 years ago being refreshed – that was the last time we did this narrow boat caper – in 5½ hours we’d negotiated 7 locks to race 10½ miles north up the Grand Union and to moor for night #1 in a strangely quiet part of Milton Keynes (it’s very difficult to get away from the drone of traffic anywhere in MK). What progress! A shopping trip in the car to Central Milton Keynes takes about 15 minutes. Had we been walking along the canal towpath, we’d have been about 4 miles further on. One begins to see why this mode of transport became outmoded.
I’m pretty sure this constitutes noticeably slower progress than our merry crew made 15 years ago. The main reason, I think, is that there now seem to be many more residential boats moored at irregular intervals along the canal causing a slowing of progress, from almost 4 mph to about 2 mph, as one passes moored craft.
I’m not sure that the published typical timings for cruising between certain points are actually any longer typical. We’ll have to keep our eye on them and see.