Emily had gone home after a few days of birthday activities. Joey was on the boat to help me now until we reached Milton Keynes. Alan had to work so wasn’t with us for most of the end. We are at Cowroast and decending toward Milton Keynes. There are 24 locks and about 24 miles until the journey end.
The beginning of the day was a long pound of about 3 miles before the locks down next to the reservoirs. Alan was working from home on this day but stuck inside so didn’t get to enjoy the beautiful views. The 7 Marsworth Locks were manned on this day and we mostly just were along for the ride. The pounds were a bit S shaped between each one though which was rather awkward. Passed there were the Wendover and Aylebury arms which will have to wait for another day. We were now in known territory for me which brought some anxiety relief. The day was still early and we got through two more locks before lunch. At this point we had to decide how far to go. We knew there were excellent moorings not far ahead at Ivinghoe but we had plenty of light. In the end we decided to stay at Ivinghoe and unload some stuff we didn’t need anymore….like an anchor and our poo buckets. There was parking almost next to the boat which is so rare we had to take advantage.
The next day we knew that in the past we had only gotten to Slapton and totally planned to moor there. With the little more experience than last time as well as more light of day we had lunch at Slapton and moved on. We knew Leighton Buzzard was doing towpath work so moorings on the south side were restricted but I hoped we might get lucky. The boat we shared locks with found a mooring big enough for both of us at the Grove Lock pub but moored in the centre of it so we had to move on. Through Leighton Buzzard we went. It was HOT, hot and we were exhausted. We passed through town and were offered a shopping mooring at the Tesco there but were not in need. We carried on to the Leighton Lock and shared with the kind boater that offered the shopping spot. While chatting to the man helming the boat I learned he would soon be a near neighbour as he also moors at Campbell Wharf. While in the lock I spotted a mooring under a tree and took it. I could have found better farther down but I needed out of the sun and I didn’t know if this would be the better option in the end. This was so much farther along than we imagined. That was when we knew one way or another we would be at the marina the next day.
Thursday morning about 7am. We are 10 miles and 5 locks from being done. I have been told by others that this is totally doable. We set out as early as we could so as to avoid too much afternoon cruising. We were in the second heatwave of the year and the afternoon was estimated to be 34 C (93F). We arrive at the Three Locks and someone wants to share with us….great. We have lockkeepers….great! The other boater was a freaking crazy helmsman that insisted on coming out of the lock next to us than crossed in front of us in a pound not that much longer than my boat. I tried to hold back and nearly did a 360 when the wind caught me (this was also a winding hole) as he couldn’t control his boat in the lock and get it to the side promptly. The next lock I let him go first and he came out of the lock fast enough to pull my boat across the lock. Had to use reverse to not hit his rudder. I hadn’t experienced this before. I arranged with him that I would go out first the third time as Joey would be getting the next lock sorted for us. He did the same pull out at the same time thing forcing me to speed up and up to get in front. Fine, the last lock I had him go out first and I held right back. Someone was coming in so Joey got on board rather than close the gate and we were off again. The crazy guy got far enough ahead that we didn’t see them again.
Joey got to do some helming after that lock which did slow us down but he did a great job and I was able to go to the toilet, get drinks and we ate lunch on the go. We saw a boat with seating on the roof and admired it causing the American on board to ask my origins. I didn’t expect to see them again but as we arrived at our last lock the American walked up and asked if they could share as they were just about caught up. No problem. It ws an extended family of older parents and grown daughter and American husband. The parents helmed as the others did the lock with Joey. At the end they offered to close up so Joey got onboard and we cruised on. The last lock was at Fenny Stratford just down from where we used to live. We know that is just about 5 miles but no locks to the marina.
The heat was terrible. Joey and I took turns helming but after a while he was ready for the shade. We probably should have stopped for lunch and both had shade but I knew I was close to done. It was like the last couple miles of a half-marathon. You feel like you have nothing left. You are exhausted and overheated. All you want is to stop but you have to finish. I had to finish! After months out on the cut, broken bones, and terrifying accidents it was almost over.
About 100 metres from the marina and Alan turned up on the towpath beside me. I had kept him updated on our location all day and he took a long lunch to help me moor up at the end. Could not have been happier. I was probably becoming heat stroked. I was light headed and shaky at this point but all I had to do was turn into the marina and moor up.
I got to the entrance and it was so narrow and awkward. How one gets the widebeams in I can’t imagine. With a bit of direction from Joey I did get into the marina to find another boat blocking the way. Shit! I am hovering while this boat backs out of the closed diesel point. I can see Alan on the jetty. The boat moves past and I head for Alan. I get lined up as perfectly as I can and try to float in…..it is another freaking winding hole and it got me. The bow whacked the jetty and the stern was trying to turn. Alan got the rope and I pivoted the boat into the space not hitting the boat moored beside us. I was exhausted to the point of tears. I was also home. No more cruising for a few months and not for so long again I hope.