I had a somewhat leisurely passage to Braunston from Banbury. It’s been scorching hot so I tended to find a shady(ish) spot and stop early. I’ve been pretty lucky for the most part, finding pleasant and/or cool spots. It’s still a bit difficult to sleep some nights, even with the fan. The route had a number of locks at the start and at the end (coming down into Napton) but the middle part was flat and winding. Some canals were built to follow the contours of the land rather than putting in lots of locks. Others have locks to make a more direct route. In this case, they did both.
Braunston is sort of narrowboat-central. It’s the meeting of several important canals, and has lots of chandelries and boat-yards. I got some particular paint I needed, some spare belts, and new chairs! I managed to finally get rid of the ugly couch too. While here I found a nice shady mooring and got some actual work done on the boat. I drilled, tapped, and mounted the first of my folding steps! Let me say, drilling holes in my boat wasn’t something I was thrilled about. I have a fairly cheap cordless drill, and fairly cheap drill bits. Oh, and fairly cheap tap and die set. So I had to be very careful or I’d be leaving bits in the side of the boat! It all worked out well, taking my time and drinking continously worked well. Here’s what it looks like:
I’ve been researching solar panels, and getting tons of great and conflicting advice! I think I’m going to do what Trump does, and take the last advice I got. There’s a great little boatyard here (where they also build boats) and they absolutely recommend flexible panels. They’re a bit more expensive but easier to install (basically just glue them to the roof) and can safely be walked on. As I’m on the roof a lot working locks, this is important. I won’t do it if I can help it, but knowing that I can will make it much easier. And I won’t have to drill a bunch of mounting holes. So that’s for coming weeks. I’ll probably order them online and pick them up in Warwick.
Here’s some shots of Braunston and it’s famous double bridge:
The trip has become more of a way of life now, rather than an adventure. The novelty is wearing off, which is good as I’m doing fewer pubs and spending more time just enjoying the scenery. I also feel like a bit less of a newbie, even though I still hit stuff and over-steer. I’m getting better though. Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m far less concerned about what’s coming up, where I’ll moor, or how long it’ll take. I’m more laid-back about everything, it all seems to work out fine. It’s particularly good if I start looking for a mooring by the early afternoon, there’s always plenty of spots. They fill up later. Having said that, there’s almost always remote spots along the towpath, just pound in a couple of pins and you’re done. Along these canals there’s miles of ‘proper’ moorings though, with either Armcote (metal railing to moor to) or rings in the ground. It’s an indication of how many more narrowboats use this area than down along the Kennet and Avon. That was almost all bank-side mooring with pins.
The people seem to be a bit different up here, I guess it’s a function of just how many boaters there are. Way more owners, fewer hire-boats. And they seem a bit less inclined to talk. I had been led to believe that people up here would be far friendlier and more talkative than near London but I haven’t found that. I suspect it might change when I get on the Grand Union Canal. The Oxford Canal (which I’ve been on for the last while) is a narrow canal with narrow locks. Only one boat at a time. The Grand Union has wide locks, like the K&A did. This allows two boats at a time, and encourages cooperation and chatting. So we’ll see, maybe things will change. I did meet several people today along the towpath and had good chats, they all seemed pretty friendly. It’ll be interesting to compare once I get moving again.
I am leaving in the morning, but still don’t know which way! I’ll figure it out soon I hope. I have some time to kill before needing to be anywhere so I might just head up a random canal and seem where it goes. I should be careful though, there’s lots of locks and long tunnels around here! I might end up going up a flight that I have to come back down. That can be a long day…