Saturday, 13 August 2016

Held Up at Varney's

Our destination for today was only Banbury, so no need for any heroics and we made a leisurely start.
Claydon Top Lock
I was a little disappoionted to see a hire boat entering Claydon Top Lock as we approached, but it had a competent crew and we followed them happily down the flight until we arrived at Elkington's Lock, where we were surprised to see them on the lock landing apparently waiting for it to fill itself to let them through!

They soon explained that there was a problem at the next lock - Varney's - and that the long line of waiting - and moored - boats between the two locks meant that there was nowhere for them to go. At this stage we didn't know what the problem was, but we could see a space below the lock that was big enough for Sunshine, but not for them, so we went through on the underdstanding that we were not taking their place in the queue.
I then walked down to Varney's to find out what was wrong.  A large piece of masonry had broken away from the paddle housing at the top of the lock and was stopping the bottom gate from opening fully. The same thing had happened earlier in the week apparently and, sure enough, the offending piece was on the towpath for all to see.  CRT staff were on their way with a promised arrival time of 12.50, although the steerer of the first boat in the queue was running a sweepstake on their actual arrival time. (It was then 12.20).
Waiting for Varney's Lock

Some entertainment was provided during the wait by a couple of boats electing to try and turn in the unofficial winding hole above the lock. They both made it, but only after a struggle and a lot of "advice" from waiting boaters.  CRT turned up at  One o' Clock (The organiser won the sweepstake!) and soon had the obstruction clear. They stayed behind for a while to speed up the passage of boats  and, after everyone in the queue had regained their rightful place, we were through the lock by 2.10pm.

CRT staff removing the obstruction from the top gate.

Not that we went very far.  A sticking valve aboard Sunshine had led to the water tank emptying itself into the toilet tank during the night - something which only became apparent during the wait - so we called in to Cropredy Marina to empty one tank and fill the other.  Ironically, Sunshine had had a pump out only a couple of days earlier.  Its crew were annoyed at having to pay for another one so soon, although in retrospect they were glad it had been empty when the water tank started to leak.

It all meant we were rather late arriving at Banbury, but we found a space at the end of the moorings in the centre of town, just past the Tiom Rolt Bridge.

That was the end of my few days afloat. In the morning I got the bus back to Rugby and a train home.  Sunshine will be out for the rest of the summer - although the itinerary is uncertain - and I'm hoping for the chance for a bit more boating this year.

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