Wednesday, 4th June
The locks at Napton were due to open at 08.00 and we were keeping an eye out for the lads from the CRT and their van to arrive as we sheltered from the rain on board, er..."Sunshine". But CRT snook onto the site via a different route, parked their Land Rover, removed the "Locks Closed" sign and disappeared off to work at the collapsed wall up the flight without us noticing.
The locks were in our favour and we also met a couple of downhill boats to keep them that way so the rain didin't slow us down very much and we were soon up at the top lock at Marston Doles.
Every now and then, someone on the cut says, or does, something that you know will stay in your memory for ever and will be re-hashed as a sort of private joke in times to come. We had one such example today. The top lock was full and with an approaching boat, so Bernard went up to help them through while I stayed with Sunshine on the lock landing. The somewhat nervous steerer made a complete hash of entering the lock and his crew didn't look as if they'd be much better with the lock work. Bernard told them to stay on board and worked them through himself. The steerer was grateful and as he (slowly) left the lock he gave Bernard a priceless piece of advice: "Now, when my boat is out of the lock, you'll be able to bring yours in!" Why didn't I think of that?
The Oxford summit was very busy and we seemed to meet a boat at every bridgehole, especially those on the blind bends, but everyone was alert and quick enough to react to prevent any coming togethers as happened yesterday. And all the time it rained.
We had another incident at one of the locks below Cropredy, but at all amusing and a little worrying. Again, Bernard had gone up to help an uphill boat. From the landing I saw him raise a paddle, but was a little surprised that the crew member didn't raise hers. Then I heard the boat engine roar, giving off a cloud of exhaust and the boat shot forward into the top gate. At first I assumed Bernard had drawn the paddle too quickly and he said later that he did too, but the boat had been in forward gear and the steerer explained that he had been having chest pains and they had an arrangement to see a doctor when they got to Cropredy. He'd just experienced a stabbing pain and in reacting had pushed the throttle lever forward! He didn't seem too worried given the circumstances but when Bernard explained all this to me once we were in the lock I wondered if we shouldn't really have tied up and offered to help them up the Cropredy. I hope they made it and that everything is OK.
It was, of course, still raining and it continued to rain until we tied up in Banbury after 11 hours boating and went into the cabin to eat, when it stopped!