Setting off on the South Oxford Canal

Had our boat blacked at Braunston over the weekend and collected her back up to set off on our summer adventure to Devizes. This has so far meant traveling to Braunston on the Grand Union Canal and now we will be turning off onto the South Oxford. In about a weeks time we will arrive at the River Thames in Oxford and travel down to Reading where we join the Kennet and Avon Canal for cruising to Devizes. Today is be getting of the Oxford Canal for us.

I should probably say that while out of the water for blacking we officially changed the name of our boat. No longer is she known by the moniker of Adam’s Apple. My I present narrowboat …….The Nut House.

Old picture but new name…The Nut House. We will get a name onto her as soon as we can.

So we set off around about 11am having checked out of Braunston after fueling up. Turning left out of the marina we went the down to the triangular junction of the Oxford and Grand Union canals. These two canals actually merge for a short ways before diverging again so technically we were on both canals at once.

This was our first narrow canal. This means the locks are about 7 ft wide while our boat is 6ft 10in wide. It is like threading a sewing needle with yarn only it is a 16 ton boat that is also your home. The first few locks had a bit of banging about as I tried to line myself up but I got the hang of lining up the bow and then allowing her to just coast in. What we did learn was that in a narrow lock going up is violent if you let water in too fast.

Letting the water in too fast was a tough lesson for Alan to learn. The Nut House was thrust backward toward the cill and back gate so fast I needed to use the engine to stop her from bashing the rudder into the gates and damaging the boat. But the moment backward motion halted I was pulled forward even more rapidly crashing into the front gate. It was worse that any bumper car experience and it was with my own home.

After two or three locks of abuse, Alan sent me down to check on Peanut. Good thing he did as Peanut treated me with concern at the sight of the kitchen. All the dishes were fine; however, the pantry was not. Luckily only one casualty this time….it was the flour canister. Yes, the food version of glitter. It was and is everywhere. I cleaned up the broken Kilner jar that held 3kg of white flour. The flour was improved but it is still all over the pantry floor and much of the other items. I fear I will never be able to get all the flour cleaned up but I keep trying.

The day was mostly just about locks. Very slowly learning that one must let the water into up locks slower than slowly and still expect a good shaking about. Six locks later we were shell shocked by the violence and destruction and I started the clearing up while Alan took over the helm after lunch.

The rest of the day was just cruising. No more locks. We did diverge from the Grand Union at Napton Junction but otherwise it was just puttering along. Probably about a mile after the junction we moored up for the night on the northern side of Napton on the Hill.

Alan then set off on his bike to go collect the car and bring it up to our new location. This was to become the daily task of cycling about 8-12 miles each day after working locks and walking much of the canal paths. It is a big hassle but Alan needs the car to get to work next week. While he is out I make dinner before we settle in for some down time.

This week of cruising everyday seems like it might be a bit tiring. Hopefully the destruction on day one isn’t an omen for the rest of the week.

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