Tunnels, Staircase locks and Jimmy has a crash course in boating!

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Arrived to meet my Dad to do the handover and was shown the local attractions including a fab canal ware shop (I spent a mini fortune on tat!) a chandlery and a lovely pub called The New Inn.

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After my Dad left I decided to dine at the pub to await James’ arrival. This involved a quick walk down the towpath. It also meant passing the meanest swan on the waterways..luckily Tam and I made it without a peck but it took about 10 minutes of standoff and the swan did not back down. Pretty scary!

The next day, with all the family on deck, we set off for James’ first ever day boating! Unluckily for him the first thing we encounter is … a tunnel! Braunston tunnel is cold, dark and unnervingly windy and as Tam was being really clingy  so James had to do most of the steering.

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We encountered a few boats as we made our way through and mostly managed to pass without drama..

..Until, just as we were leaving the tunnel, I knocked the front of a boat passing! I shouted sorry into the darkness. We then had to wait for the boat to pass at an excruciatingly slow pace. We didn’t make eye contact, the three of us just stood staring ahead..wishing to be out of the tunnel and into the light! Very embarrassing!

James baptism of fire didn’t end there. We came out of the tunnel and straight into a set of eight locks. I didn’t have a chance to explain how they worked – we just had to go for it. Luckily we were sharing the lock with a very patient couple who did most of the work all the way down..!

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After the locks Tam is ready for a nap. James jumps out and walks down the towpath at the same pace as I drive.

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When asleep we bung him in the bow and chug along the canal which is lock free for the afternoon. The evening brings a lovely walk at dusk, then, after Tam is in bed, James and I set ourselves up with wine, books and art in front of a cosy fire.

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The next day we manage three locks before seeing anyone on the waters. We get to the top of another staircase and go in with a family who have hired a boat for a week, completely new to boating, and this was their first day.

It was a comedy sketch going down the next seven locks..

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Granddad was driving but frequently letting go of the tiller to turn round to talk to daughter manning the locks. Grandma was yelling at Grandad to look where he was going from the front of the boat. Two grumpy teenagers reluctantly helped to turn the paddles.

By the end James and I felt like experts and were even instructing the teenagers on good lock practice. All this whilst Tam was in the baby carrier excitedly pointing and bossing everyone around!

That eve we had a well deserved pub dinner and pint.

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On our last morning we were all on deck. We turned the ignition key and tried to accelerate but the boat didn’t move an inch. James tried to push the boat off the the bank but it wouldn’t budge, We were well and truly stuck. Eventually with some clever work with the barge pole (this pole really has come in handy!) we managed to dislodge ourselves from the suction of silt that had glued us to the bank and we were off.

We had only travelled half a day before we had to find a suitable place to moor. We had to leave the boat safely for Lewis to take over in a few days. We happened to be between two locks at a flight called Fosse locks. It seemed decent enough with road access. After mooring and packing our next task was to find some way of getting back to our van. Several unsuccessful calls were made to taxi firms in Leamington Spa. They claimed to not have a clue where we were we, had never heard of ‘Fosse’ and would not send any cars our way. We started to panic.

In desperation we sheepishly knocked on the window of a neighbouring boat down to ask if they knew anyone who could help. After explaining our situation the lovely Manon and Vicki offered to give us a lift back. The kindness of canal folk!

On our way out of Leamington we stopped at The Cape of Good Hope Pub. We had a slap up meal and drove home. It only took 2 hours as opposed to the 4 we started with..

..The Boat Studio is moving closer..

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