Final push to Devizes

We decided to take a long weekend to push on for the last 27 miles as over half of that would be lock free. We had the extra help of Emily for the Thursday and Joey for the full weekend. This extra help was magnificent as without it we couldn’t have cruised on Thursday as I am not helming and working locks all on my own and Alan didn’t have a day off until Friday.

Alan brought Joey over on the Wednesday night so he could help me on Thursday. Emily drove over on the Thursday morning. We set off at about 9am from Kintbury heading for Hungerford in hopes of a visitor mooring so we could get lunch. Our hopes were dashed. We had also hoped to get water there but another boat pulled in just as the water point came into our sights. Oh well, it was still reasonably early and only just getting a bit hot so we were good.

After Hungerford Centre we came to a swing bring over a lock. The swing bridge must be swung before one can use the lock. The bridge was stuck. Joey tried for all he was worth and couldn’t get the bridge to move. Emily had to get off and help swing the bridge before we could proceed. Being his first swing bridge this was disappointing but we did hear from the next boat that it is known to be broken.

Still with nowhere good to moor up we worked through lunch…again. The sun was burning down on us. We had all practically bathed in sunblock in the morning and at least one of the kids reapplied a couple times. I was stuck at the back and never managed to reapply. We did 8 locks and one swing bridge in the mere 5.3 miles we got through that day. It was around 2 or 3 pm when Alan got back to us and helped us find a mooring spot at Froxfield. Emily and I sun burnt and shockingly Joey was not. How someone that pale doesn’t burn?

Friday was the hottest day. By the end of the day it would be 31C. We started out at 7am trying to get as far as we could knowing the sun would become too much quite early on. Just after setting out I came in and opened every window and closed every blind to try and keep it slightly cooler inside than outside. It worked but only by a degree or two.

At Crofton pumping station we came through the first lock and into the pound. The pound was full of underwater plants of some sort. There was nothing you could do but go through it. As I slowed for a boat moored in the pound I went through a particularly thick bit of greenery and it wound around my prop and was hanging off the rudder as well. I was able to limp into the siding next to the now open lock for help. Alan must have pulled about a gallon size pail of long leaves off of the prop and rudder while I held the boat in place. Never been so happy to be out of a pound as then.

Once we were through all of the Crofton flight of locks we found a spot to moor for lunch shortly before a tunnel. We were so thankful that I had food already cooked and the blinds had kept the inside rather cavernous. Getting shaded and vaguely cooler made a world of difference but we needed to keep going. There was no point trying to wait until it cooled down as that wouldn’t happen until the sun went down. We reapplied sunblock and headed back out.

Bruce tunnel was our next landmark. The great thing about tunnels is that they are cooler than outside. They are also shady. I volunteered for helming through the tunnel as it would be my first tunnel to helm. It was so hot that the idea of maybe getting wet did not bother me at all. No dripping in this tunnel though. It was about a half kilometre long and it was glorious. It was like stepping into air conditioning! After the tunnel Alan came back to take over and commented that I was going awful slow. Well of course I slowed down to make the cool sectionlast longer. That tunnel restored life to me though it didn’t last long.

After the tunnel all the locks go downhill. I much prefer going down in the locks as it tends to be less more gentle. We got into the second lock and found a place selling ice creams. Alan and Joey got the lock emptying down while they went inside and got us each an ice cream. I had to bring the boat to the landing after the lock to get mine but it was worth it to get something cool to eat. Alan and Joey walked on and found us a spot to moor in between the locks.

It was only about 1:30pm when we moored up. The spot was slightly shaded and the siding was well trimmed back. The siding had Armco which is metal that you can just pop on easy connector on to tie up to rather than banging metal spikes into the ground. I believe we were next to a campground on the other side of the trees. We could see vehicles and there was a child screaming for their life about a freaking mosquito. The temperature was too much. The boat was 27C inside and muggy. Thankfully dinner would be cold.

We ended up with the windows open over night and even took the glass out of our bedroom windows trying to get as much air flow as possible. This actually worked well. I slept quite well and didn’t wake until Alan decided to wash the dishes in the morning. At least he also made tea and had it ready for me.

Saturday the weather was expected to turn cooler and bring rain. Nothing soaking was expected but some nice light rain. We set out later than usual after having breakfast and preparing something for lunch as well. We had two more locks before 14 miles lock free. I helmed through the two locks which both had people coming up and setting the locks for us. That made the morning so much easier.

Just as we were about to go into the second lock the drizzle started. I prepared with a raincoat but luckily by the time I handed over the tiller to Alan it was still dry. I came in to write and tidy while Alan drives. Joey is in charge of the walkie talkie in case Alan needs anything and for the first time I get to just relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

In Pewsey we come to a bridge with boats moored on either side in permanent moorings. As we approached the bridge Alan called us to ask if it was people he saw in the water. Omg, there was a small child and a dog on a paddle board with a very stupid adult with them. Number one, canal water is dirty!! Number two, it was just on the side of a bridge with moored boats blocking much of the other side. He is in the centre of the canal within a few feet of the bridge. He tells us to come on ahead. I say, “NO, you move over!” He seems confused but moves over. Then Alan tells him he was lucky we saw them and didn’t hit them. To which the idiot said it wouldn’t have been a big deal to be hit by our boat. Our 16 ton boat! Some people should not be allowed to procreate!!!

Most of the way from Pewsey to Devizes was either owed boats or overgrown reeds. Often both at once.we have a few pictures but not much as it was also lightly raining pretty much all day. we did manage to see one of the Wiltshire White Horse hills carvings but mostly my view was reeds.

Pewsey White Horse. Wiltshire is into white horses on hillsides.

When we arrived at our first swing bridge of the day, Joey was outside ready to work the bridge while Alan was in charge of helming the boat and I decided to bake chocolate chip cookies. I still stressed out while they did all the work because I had no control but baking helped. Once all were back on board and we were headed back off again I delivered a cookie to Alan and had one myself.

Only about three miles after the cookies it was time to find a mooring. We have reached Devizes! This is the farthest point on our trip. As per usual the banks are poor for mooring with lots of long reeds and stinging netttle. Again we have the plank out to reach the side but this time because the bank is high with lots of slope.

As Alan was helming, Joey and I got off the boat at the last bridge before Devizes Marina to look for a spot. The towpath was overgrown all the way down and often the bank was falling away. We tried one spot and grounded. Joey found another but the bank was falling away in spots so seemed risky. Finally after the bridge I was aiming to moor near we found a spot with possibly some small amount of solar. Devizes has lots of trees unlike most of today’s cruising.

I got the rope from Alan and was pulling us in. Joey got the plank on so I could get on and off to tie the boat. Got the first pin in and the rope through and went to climb back onboard to tie off the front. My sandals slide on the plank and I went spread eagle down with one leg on the outside gunnel and one leg in the well deck. Wedged enough that I couldn’t move my leg until Joey pulled the plank back out of my way. I got back up and tied off the boat.

I wasn’t injured though I do expected bruising. Let’s be honest…I bruise from the thought of an injury so a bruise is surely coming. I got the back pin in and the rope through before leaving it to Alan. I am hoping that we are not moving this boat again for at least a week. I am sure we will likely need water by then.

I will leave you with a picture of the Good Lord Peanut surverying his domain.

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