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GUC D8 Stoke Hammond

Saturday 15th September 2007. Setting off from Bulbourne we reach Marsworth Locks within a few minutes. There was no boat waiting to share, just it seems people operating the locks! As it turns out they were from a pair of boats behind us! A group of business executives were out in three hire boats as a “team building exercise” which seemed strange as it wasn’t about the boating but pushing on as fast as they could. They donned earpieces to two way radios and developed their own jargon – “roll it” meaning to wind up the lock paddles, and other such quaint terms – I guess they were “thinking outside the box”. The boats behind wanted to catch up to the one in front so asked to pass us, offering to set the locks for us each time. Well, we weren’t in a rush so let them past, but obviously TV shows like The Apprentice have a lot to answer for!!! Why, well as soon as we’d let them past they went through the next lock and onwards not setting any locks for us, so an empty promise they had no intention of keeping to sweeten the deal! Obviously its a good business tactic so long as you don’t plan to do ongoing business with the client again, but I would have let them past once they explained why they wanted to (to keep all three boats together) as I wasn’t in a rush – if I was to a tight schedule that’d be different. Its a shame because any good feeling you may have in doing someone a good turn by letting them pass, was undone by the empty promises that make you feel as if you were gullible. Still I just reminded myself I wasn’t in a rush and its more pleasurable without a group behind you clock-watching eager to push-on.

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When we entered Lock 41 we were joined by a swan, who had obviously figured out it was an easy way to move levels without all that effort of flapping your wings (and if you’ve seen a swan take off, then you’ll appreciate just how much effort is required!) or waddling up the bank. Whilst birds may be cautious of sharing such a confined small space with a big steel boat, this swan had realised the big steel thing usually tries to keep away and not squash you up against a wall. So up we went and the swan swam out as soon as the lock gate was open. Once was obviously not enough and seeing that we were also going through the next lock, the swan again joined us. Once through this time the swan went off and joined their family (another adult swan and a few cygnets). Smiling at the family reunion we went off into the next lock, and you’ll never guess what happened next… Okay, you might. Well it seems today was a school day and the lesson of energy conservation was been taught in swan-school. The swan followed us into the lock, followed by the five cygnets – “keep in line children … that big metal thing won’t harm you … stop picking your nose” was been sternly given in swan-speak, I swear it. 😀

The cygnets were curious, keeping an eye on the boat as they approached the lock gate and exited the lock as the gate opened. Then we left them behind as we carried onwards, past Aylesbury junction, and then into Lock 38 which we were helped through by a kind couple who had just gone through and were entering the lock below. They waited so we shared lock 37 down and went onwards together through the swing bridge and into lock 36 seamlessly. It was a wonderful sunny September day, ralaxing and taking iot easy lock-sharing and enjoying the scenery. The other boat was stopping for lunch after Ivanhoe locks, but we carried on and I went through lock 31 single handed as everyone else had their lunch – nothing to it, I don’t know what all the fuss is about 😉 . Time to change skipper as I went for lunch, keeping an eye out in case I was needed at a lock. Usually we pull over for lunch but sometimes we have lunch on the move, taking it in turns to steer.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2Jx8QbjwIU[/youtube]

We carried on to Lindslade and stopped for provisions at the Tesco there, before setting off again. As we approached Leighton Lock there was a boat in who kindly had waited for us. So down we went in tandem. The canal was fairly quiet, well it was a mid afternoon with the sun low in the sky. As we reached Soulbury Locks there was another boat waiting for us. Now, I’m not sure if all these boats just sit in a lock waiting for another boat to go down with or whether we are noisy enough to be heard from a mile away??? We’ve a BMC engine and a dry silencer on, so we are no way as noisy as many out on the cut. It is probable they look behind them on the turns leading up to a lock and decide to wait if they can see a boat behind them – its what I do. The sun was setting now, still plenty of light, but no point in going on too far, so we carried on to Stoke Hammond Bridge 106 with the aim to go to the pub for the evening. We did, and although the pub wasn’t as cosy as a village pub (it was on a major A road so catering as a B&B and a restaurant for people travelling there by car).

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