The Final Sprint

I say sprint ‘cos today was a short run of just about 2 miles, about an hour, back to Juniper’s home base at Wyvern Shipping in Leighton Buzzard. Narrow boats don’t really sprint even when they are not having to slow to pass moored craft. 🙂

It was another dry morning, though a little dull. What a September we’d had and what weather for what has turned out to be our 2-week trip. We’d had a few spots of rain on our first afternoon/evening but that was it; after that, we’d enjoyed mainly sunny, dry conditions. Good job, too, ‘cos steering a narrow boat and messing with locks in the rain would have been most unenjoyable.

Our first task after casting off this morning was to negotiate the very last one of the documented 175 locks on the Thames Ring. (I imagine that the 175 includes the several manned/powered locks on the River Thames but I haven’t checked.) Francine was all dressed up for her anticipated disembarkation so Franco did this, the Grove Lock, tout seul.

With the 175th lock successfully behind us, Capt. Virginia began cruising slowly passing moored boats and Tiddenfoot Park. His final sprint wasn’t plain sailing in that this was Saturday so the canal suddenly filled with swarms of canoeists most of whom were school children. Embarrassing last minute collisions were mercifully avoided.

Capt. Virginia continued round a few bends, under our final bridge, passed the Leighton Buzzard Tesco store to our right [sorry, starboard] and began to swing across the canal to Juniper’s moorings at Wyvern’s boatyard. Just as he was doing so, yet another swarm of canoeists, older this time, descended upon us from ahead shouting “narrow boat, narrow boat!” to each other in warning. Despite their warning each other, nobody seemed to slow down, I noticed. This narrow boat skipper now had 2 weeks worth of experience under his tiller arm and avoided them. They may have been faster than Juniper but they weren’t going to get to us before we made it to the dock.

We tied up and unloaded while Capt. Virginia completed the scant formalities of bringing the boat home three days early.

We’d done it, we’d completed the Thames Ring in 2 weeks, which it was originally said could be done. I confess, though, that for most of the time, I had generally doubted it.

Our journey had certainly been an experience but in truth had been little more than cruise, cruise, lock, lock. We’d done pretty much nothing in the way of tourism. This was entirely due to the timing uncertainties of our circular route with no quick way back. Having done it once, were we to do it again our experience would enable us to pace the journey more and to pick places to stop off and relax en route. We were all agreed, though, that we would not do it again even with the luxury of knowledge and more time time.

Enjoyable though our trip was in the company of exceptional friends, the canals just aren’t what they were 15 years ago.

Day 15 Map

Posted in 2014 The Thames Ring

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