We realised that at this point if we pushed on and had a long day we could potentially reach the Thames the next day. Challenge accepted!
Friday was a mostly uneventful day. We cruised from 8:30 am until 6pm. As we hoped to be onto the Thames the next day we topped up our water as we were not sure how easy it would be to find it along the river. We discovered along the way that the Thames would not be our first river though as we came to a lock putting us on the River Cherwell.
River Cherwell is not a big river but it is a river. It was wide and lovely and Alan enjoyed going a bit faster. There was a dog swimming in the river and giant satellite dishes to our right. We were only on thre a few minutes but it was a lovely section.
We were in the lock coming off the main river section when I noticed the boat making a louder noise. It I revved up a bit it made a chugging sound like a struggling train but in low speed it sounded fine. Alan came back to me and I again tried to go into a higher speed and the noise happened again. Big red flag….something is wrong.
We made our way to the first spot we could moor up. It was a questionable spot on a lift bridge landing but the bridge was open and out of commission so not really in anyone’s way. We moored up and decided to let the engine rest for the night as it had been a big day.
We headed over the the nearby pub called The Boat Inn at Thrupp. There were other boaters in the bar area as well as some lovely dogs to pet. We had drinks and chatted to the others. It was a nice evening and I tried a whiskey I had not had before, Jameson’s. I like non-smoky highland whisky and haven’t had much luck with others but I had not had Jamesons before so decided to try it after having finished the dregs of both their Glenmorangie and Glenfiddich. I was happily surprised that I like it and now have another option to choose from.
I was actually quite taken by Thrupp. What I saw of it was a lovely little village. The lift bridge there was pretty as well. If it hadn’t been for our time constraints I would have liked to have stayed a while.
Saturday morning we got up feeling positive that the engine was tired last night and would be good that morning. We started her up and she sounded fine. We moved off and headed toward the lift bridge. Once past the first couple boats we tried to give more revs and the noise returned. We couldn’t moor back up so we limped along until we could moor up.
There was a long line of boats all the way up to the bridge but we knew there were visitor mooring just past there and hoped something would be available for an emergency. A CRT man helped Alan work the electronic bridge and we passed through. Alan stayed on the towpath trying to find a spot. The first one was too short. The second one might have been ok but a tree blocked my view and spooked me. I hit a hire boat as I tried to get past the tree covering the canal. At this point I have the speed down to a minimum (less than I had ever seen before) and she was screaming at me to moor.
Alan found a spot. There was a boat coming the other way and Alan warned them I had limited control. Actually I had full control but if the engine blew as it sounded like she might I would have been adrift. I made it to the two day mooring next to the next pub along called The Jolly Boatman. This was really helpful as it gave a distinct location for River and Canal Rescue to come out and help.
We had a couple hours to wait before the engineer could get out to us. We were so lucky that he quickly saw the problem and was able to fix it then and there. The bolts holding the prop to the engine were shearing off. One had sheared off completely and others were loose. He replaced the bolts and The Nut House was back in action.
We cruised on toward Oxford. Our original plan was to enter the Thames at Isis lock but we also were still considering Duke’s Cut right up until the lock before the cut. In the end both of us wanted to see Oxford from the canal so we headed toward Isis lock.
It is slow going through Oxford as much of the approach from the north is Agenda 21 moorings (government paid moorings for the poor) so we needed to go slow. That is etiquette anyway but many of these boats looked one good knock from sinking. It is great the government helps them have a mooring but many need help with maintenance as well as they looked unsafe. The people were friendly though and at one lock we acted as a bridge for a resident to step across. Definitely felt like a community there.
It was already well into the afternoon so we just searched for the first mooring we could find. just on the north side of Frenchay Road Bridge we got lucky and found a 7 day mooring. It was tempting to stay that long but we had time for one more full day of cruising before Alan went back to work.
Alan finally went back for the car left back at The Pig Place on Thursday. While he ran, used a train, and ran some more I headed to the store for milk. Waitrose sells the oat milk we like and was 1.8 miles away so I headed there.
Walking to Waitrose was actually pretty helpful for me as it took me past Isis lock and down the Sheepwash channel to the Thames on foot the day before cruising it. I had a good look at the lock and chatted to a nice lady from Massachusetts who is now living in Oxford. I seem to be an American magnet at times. I was also able to prepare for the low rail bridge over the channel and see where I was turning hard left. It was great reconnaissance but it also meant carrying lots of heavy stuff back in a backpack for almost two miles. Pros and cons to everything.