Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Things That Go Bump in the Night...or The Return of the Hireboaters from Hell

In the morning we winded "Sunshine" and set off north again, heading for Brinklow. The rain began almost immediately and, with plenty of time to spare, we decided to stop at Weedon and sit it out. Bernard set off into Northampton on the bus, whilst I settled down to pass the rest of the morning reading and generally watching the world go by. The Grand Union was quite busy, despite the weather, and soon I heard the familiar sound of approaching boat engines overlaid with loud music that signified the arrival of yesterday's "hireboaters from hell" - still drinking and now taking full advantage of the rain to enjoy dancing on the roof of the boat!
Fortunately the passed by without stopping and by mid-afternoon, when Bernard returned from Northampton and it appeared to have stopped raining we resumed our journey.
Round the very next bend were the hireboats- now empty with the crews probably ensconced in the pub, but easily recognisable by the large plastic bags full of empty beer cans on the roofs of each boat.
Approaching the bottom of Whilton locks we were pleased to see the gates open and a boat emerge. We were even more pleased to see a lone boat enter the lock, with whom we would be able to go through, sharing the workload. We weren't quite so pleased when they closed the gates almost in our faces and proceeded to fill the lock!
It would have been an unfriendly act at the best of times, but given the weather - by now it was pouring down again - it was unacceptable and Bernard went forward to "have a word". I don't know what he said, but they waited for us at the next lock and we worked the rest of the flight together, being back on speaking terms by the top! It was about six o'clock when we reached Norton Junction, but we carried on through Braunston tunnel, meeting three oncoming boats inside and tied up above the locks.
After a meal, Bernard fancied an early night so I walked down to the Admiral Nelson on my own. I was only away an hour or so but when I returned Bernard was wide awake. Apparently two boats had gone past flat out, causing Sunshine to bang against the bank, despite being well tied up and then a third boat had actually run into us from behind! When Bernard got out of bed to see what on earth was going on he found two large gentlemen in fluorescent jackets "helping" a single-handed boater tie up behind us. They claimed to be "British Waterways Police" (that's way they said!) and were searching for two hire boats. They had been tracking them along the canal all the way from Gayton in response to a stream of complaints, the last of which had reported them entering Braunston tunnel, from which they were now waiting for them to emerge.
After that peace and quiet returned for the rest of the evening, but in the morning we could just glimpse two ABC hire boats tied up in the distance just outside the tunnel. Whether they had stopped there by choice or whether they had been ordered to proceed no further I don't know!

No comments: