Extreme Lock Painting (Day 11 on my GUC cruise)

GU Canal D11 Lock, Sink, and Tunnel to Braunston

Day eleven of my September 2007 cruise down the GUC sees us almost back to base. As a side note I finished this video in early April, but no idea why I forgot to actually put up an entry for it here?

It was a sunny but blustery day, so we head off up the Grand Union Canal passing Weedon before we see our first boats out to Braunston. Warm autumn days are a great time to be out on the cut, there are less boats out and you can just travel without a sole around. Of course you can get the timing wrong and end up with several days of rain when you’ll either push on through or sit inside looking at the world around. Luckily today was fine and sunny, though we pass a sunken cruiser, or as many refer to them “Tupperware boat”, with its top open – has it sunk under heavy rain or did it have a leak and its been left open as the owner grabs all their belongings and ‘abandons ship’.

Next up are the first locks of the day, Buckby Locks. As we empty and ready the first lock, a boat comes round the corner – ah help, may as well beckon them in, much easier to ascend wide locks with two boats. An American couple on a hire boat NB Poppy rounding off a trip to the UK. Once through we both carry on heading towards Braunston Tunnel. Its now 1pm, and time for lunch at some point. The southern side of the tunnel is all in cuttings, so rather than moor here, we carry on through to the side. We passed a couple of boats inside, though I could tell the first was a boat, but the second looked more like the northern portal, although the engine noise said otherwise. Passing in tunnels is part of the canal experience, but you’ll be amazed at the number of boats you see waiting until they think its clear – I wonder if they panic when half way through they see an oncoming boat decide to start on into the tunnel?

There’s plenty of space above the north portal to moor, but as much of its in shade with a seemingly permanently muddy towpath we set off through the first lock with NB Poppy before parting company whilst we moored for lunch on board. The canal in September isn’t as empty as I first thought, or Braunston is so special it always has a healthy volume of boat traffic, as when we set off lo-and-behold another boat pops round the corner. Well we were about to set off, so I asked their skipper if they wanted to lock share (after all they may already be paired with another lock-partner from Buckby), and off we set down Braunston Locks. A surprise at the first lock was a BW employee painting the gates – well BW painting the lock gates wasn’t a surprise, makes me sound as if I believe they “don’t do maintenance”, but that the guy was painting the gates and letting boats still use the lock. He hung from one arm almost oblivious to the gates opening and closing and the stream of boats passing through – though I did try my best to ensure I didn’t knock him off as we passed.

When you’re out and about on the cut and see other boats, you often make assumptions. With hire boats you’ll treat the steerer as if if its their first time out, unless you find out otherwise, and those on their own boat having at least some skill. I’ve passed oncoming boats at crowded moorings with inched to spare, and usually most boaters are okay with close encounters. Obviously not all, the boat we were lock-sharing with went close to the lock gates whilst waiting for the occupant to rise up, but then had to reverse as the steerer of the boat in the lock refused to leave until they reversed. There was plenty of room and the lock was in-line with the canal (so it wasn’t as if there was a tricky manoeuvre to be done), it turned out to be another Ownerships boat – there goes my believe that even shared-owners can steer too.

Lastly we come to the camera shy boater. Once into Braunston we found a space through the bridge-hole and behind a line of boats. Once we were firmly tied up I went inside and was about to stop the boat-cam when someone pops out of the boat in-front and sets off. Obviously just coincidence, though he sets off quickly and doesn’t look behind him – which is a pity especially as a boat came through the bridge behind us and was almost forced into the bank opposite as they had to quickly slow to avoid colliding with them.

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