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GUC D6 Off to Hemel Hempstead

Thursday 13th September 2007: Today was the half way point of our holiday, so no matter what we needed to turn around at some point – though as we had gone up the Wendover Arm and had a couple of short cruising days, then it needn’t be during the day. It was a bright sunny morning so not wasting time we set off. Not for long as we came across a boat across the canal, which we at first thought was someone in trouble, until not seeing anyone shouting, waving arms or prancing back and forth with a barge pole realised it was a loose boat. So stopping we got off and went to secure the boat – the pin had been pulled out, probably one too many boats not slowing down. The hire boat coming the other way decided to squeeze past without a word – is cowroast a dodgy area? They’d have wound up their windows and push the door locks down if they could 😆 .

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNiZYyLLUfA[/youtube]

So after filling the empty Lock 47 (now we know why they sped off 😉 ) we went in, down and then into the full lock 48 (that’s a strange one, two locks the top was empty, so assume a boat had come down but the bottom full as if one had come up, but none in between??). This is a nice stretch of canal down through Berkhamsted, several locks mostly in pairs with a short pound in between. The town doesn’t encroach on it, much until you get into the town centre as it passes the railway station, but then only for a brief period. We caught up with a boat we’d met at Little Tring (Wendover Arm), they stayed there whilst we set off.

At lock 56 a heron had also heard about my time lapse videos, and wanting its 15 minutes of fame and flew over to the bank next to the lock and directly in front of the boat! Now those of you who have been on the UK canals will, if you’ve encountered herons, know they are usually more concerned at playing tag with boats – sitting on a bank/tree/etc until the bow of your boat draws level and then flying off a hundred or so yards and waiting for you to catch up, before again flying ahead. I suppose this heron could have been waiting for the bow of my moored boat to reach it, but I was surprised that it was quite tolerant of people walking by – I guess it was star struck. I guess news of my trip must have spread as two locks down, and low and behold we have a swan waiting by the lock and I could swear I heard it hiss “hello mum”. Next up Foam Lock, okay lock 59 isn’t named as such so maybe there’s a new boating campaign “hands that do lock winding can feel soft as your face, with mild green … “.

The morning sun continued, hard to believe that it’s the UK in September! We went through Winkwell, past Boxmoor, and thought about stopping at some point – near one of the supermarkets, preferably. Well according to my map there’s one at Lock 66, so we went down the lock and as there was just about enough room to wind here, passed a boat coming into the lock we just vacated before quickly turning and following them into the lock. There are moorings outside the supermarket below the lock, but the water point above meant that I could fill up the water tank whilst the crew went on the supply run.

It was mid afternoon and we could go back to Boxmoor, Winkwell, or even further … except … we went up through Lock 65 and as I was steering the boat into Lock 64 the engine cut out as something big had got hold of the propeller and wasn’t letting go! I’m just glad I was going very slow at the time since there was no way to stop the boat – I needed help of the lock sill for that. After a quick rummage down the weed hatch I found it was some sort of big sheet – well we may as well fill the lock – easier that way. It turned out to be a tent – one with a zipper opening and lines attached, and took around an hour to painstakingly remove. By now it was starting to get dark, and we just needed to find a mooring spot. The towpath side was fairly shallow here, and although we probably could have gone on the offside where the park area was, we carried on to just before Fishery Lock and moored in a space between two boats. Time to hit the pub.

Watch this video blog on the Youtube picture above or check my Stage6 page for higher quality/resolution versions.

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