Pitstone to Stoke Hammond

After spending two weeks in Pitstone it was time to move. Unless otherwise stated most moorings are allowable up to two weeks. So on the Saturday we set out with only one small obstacle….we needed to collect our daughter from work at 2:30 pm.

So our cruising time was limited. We also needed to get water along the way and of course get through several locks. We did happen across a gentleman heading in our direction so we were able to do the locks together which did help speed us along. He was; however, only going to Horton so doing one lock less than us.

We got to Slapton lock and started filling with water just as Alan needed to get off to collect Kat. The water pressure was very high and our tank topped up in about 20 minutes. Now you can’t be hanging out at water points as someone else might be needing it. This meant I had to move the boat.

Now here is the problem. I was a lone boater at that moment. Alan was off to get the car and collect K and I had to move the boat. My options were backing up under a bridge and the opposite direction to what we needed or forward and through the lock immediately in front of us. I had never moved the boat alone. I had never done a lock alone. I had also never moored up alone. This was all virgin territory. I chose the lock.

Now if I had been sensible I would have opened the gate while at the water point but I did not. Instead I moved the boat up to the lock landing that is a very awkward angle to the lock. I got the gate open and then tried to figure out how to get the boat in. Driving it didn’t work. Pulling it didn’t work. An experienced boater turned up and asked if I needed help with the lock.

I told the lovely man sporting long dreadlocks that had never done a lock alone and I needed to learn. He was a wonderful teacher and helped me do it myself. First instructing me on how to manoeuvre the boat into the lock with short quick bursts of forward to get the boat to glide into position. Then once I was in the lock he verbally walked me through working the lock. I had worked a lock under instruction before but that was 7 months ago. As I worked the paddles I could see an ideal spot to get back onto the boat (the lock was from high to low levels) without risking my balance on the lock ladder. So decided to pull the boat out of the lock and get on as she floated along. My night is shining armour did close the gate behind me to make my life easier but I had already sussed out how to tie up for a moment.

As I stepped back aboard and took the tiller on I have the engine a bit of power and pulled away. Now for finding a mooring. We wanted to be as close to somewhere to park as possible but the towpath side was poor for quite a ways when it wasn’t on a curve. About a kilometre down the way I finally found a spot just after a walk bridge and pulled in. The mooring process went very well and I was parked up well for the night in moments. I was however nowhere near anyplace for Alan to park and I was exhausted. The plan was to move on but the weather looked iffy (it actually snowed while I was moored up and waiting for Alan) so I decided we were staying put and walked back to the last lock to meet up with Alan and the car so we could go out to dinner.

Day two of the cruising….on to Stoke Hammond. We were able to go well further on for day two as we had fewer locks and no need for water. We started off with the day cold but dry. The locks went to plan well with Alan doing the heavy work and me threading my way into each lock. After Grove lock was a couple miles of lock from travel so Alan took the helm and I hid out in the warm boat.

Not that far into my down time we had made our way into Leighton Buzzard. We lived here years ago so we know it well. There is a two hour mooring spot next to Tesco (supermarket) which was very much ideal. We swooped into the spot and tied up while I went in for a few bits for lunch. Silly me did not think to get my rather heavy bottles of soda at that point as I wasn’t running particularly low but I would regret that decision a few days later.

Alan again needed to go get K from work so we moved up to near the Leighton Lock and moored up while Alan was gone. I was inside and getting a few bits done while the sun came out. The boat because naturally warmed by the sun. The solar panels got us up to 100% on our batteries and the afternoon cruising looked so much more positive. Alan got back with K and we headed through the lock.

This was Kat’s first chance to learn about lock working and helming the boat. Problem was that she was also worn out from working from 6am and Leighton Buzzard is a rather busy area. She helped with the first lock and then came back on to ride with me for a bit before helming. Once we were past a few moored boats I ave her the helm. She was excited and doing fine but within a few minutes a boat was coming the other way while we had boats moored beside us and there was a bridge very close. I quickly took the helm and she wondered off. Her interest was gone and she was tired. I kept the helm from there for a good while as Alan had chosen to walk rather than ride when it was his turn to helm.

Thing is that the beautiful weather had changed as soon as I was back outside and it was getting colder and colder. I wanted a cup of tea and a rest and he wouldn’t take back the helm. Eventually we were at Three Locks in Soulbury and shared the locks with another boat. This of course meant our daughter didn’t get much more practice but I think that was fine by her. We collected Alan after the lock and he helmed until we moored about a mile down from the pub and locks.

This was a lovely spot in Stoke Hammond near to a bridge where we could park the car. The solar was excellent and the internet access was decent but not excellent. We were next to a field of sheep on one side and an empty field on the other.

I was glad to be done for the week cruising wise. Two long days of work was enough to feel we had earned a rest in the countryside. I am immensely proud of doing my solo lock and mooring but I would much prefer having help in the future.

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