Saturday 11th July 2015
7.14 miles 0 locks.
So a bit of background, I have been into canals the history the life on the cut in carrying days, boats and all that is our waterways since my first introduction as a 10 year old. So as I mentioned previously the last canal holiday was 1988, then over many years Karen and I have been cycling the towpath between Bath and Trowbridge and always enjoyed being by the water and boats.
So with a rekindled interest I started searching the internet for boaty things holidays users etc. etc. it wasn’t long before I found Nb NoProblem ‘s blog, then reading through that I came across Sue’s remarks on poor ole Tom & Jan’s predicament at Aldermaston wharf seeking somewhere to stay , while they get their disaster of a build before arriving at Aldermaston sorted. So this led me to a major read of Tom & Jan’s blog to get up to date and they do have some tale to tale. This would of been probably been late 2013. So I’ve been an avid reader of Tom’s blog since then, Tom likes to put up a post everyday so it does get compulsive to have a look.
Well over that time until July this year I’ve made many comments on the blog and a few email conversations with Tom, so when I read Jan & Tom were heading down our way to the the K&A, I thought I’ll have to pop up and see them and Waiouru. Tom posted up along the way about meeting blog readers so the seed was sown and after many emails to and fro, events of ours getting in the way Tom & Jan reached Bath. The Saturday we thought we would be able to meet up we thought we would be on board going down the Avon towards Bristol but Tom & Jan had had a change of heart and advised me that they were actually winding in the morning and returning to Reading.
No problem for us. They would be off at 09.00 to traverse the two tunnels in Bath and wind at Sydney Wharf winding hole. A bit early for us on our first day off of the week so by now we are in telephone contact and Tom advises they will fill with water at Bathampton around 09.30. So we hatch a plan to drive to Bradford-on-Avon and then ride back to Bathampton to meet them.
This is us enroute crossing Avoncliff Aqueduct.
We arrive at Dundas in about 20 minutes and I call Tom to see how they are doing (in case they had an early start which Tom & Jan often do!) no answer so we guess they are cruising I leave a message saying we will continue.
We arrive at Claverton and call again this time Jan answers the first time we have spoken to each other and Jan is unsure how the tank filling is going, so we decide to cycle on and see if we can make Bathampton if not we will meet somewhere and sort the bikes etc. from there. We make it just Tom is just leaving the mooring on the water point as we arrive, in a deft move he pops it into reverse and grabs the centre line and waits for us to get the bikes locked up grab our panniers and get aboard. A little incident while Tom & Jan held for us, a hire boat went by rather quickly into the bridge hole and dragged Waiouru with it! Jan had to apply a bit of forward power while Tom was bankside to stop anything becoming of it.
On board we were welcomed and soon on our way.
Tom on the tiller soon gave us a brief run down of the boat and was quick to point out how Waiouru is so much heaver than a hire boat and needs more starting and stopping more on that later!
Jan & Karen closing up he first swing bridge, shortly after Tom very kindly (some would say foolishly!) offered me the chance to take the tiller, what a treat I jumped at the chance.
Then shortly after I dropped Tom off to do the next swing bridge he doesn’t do them very often.
Tom watching my progress! then after I go through an approaching boat is mid canal and pulling towpath side to stop. I think I’ll pull up after him then another boat appears! he’s heading where I want to go! the first boat has pulled up with enough room in front for me but I’ve got the angle of approach all wrong and underestimate the length and (remember the stopping warning!) the stopping distance required! oh dear bump!! Jan advises poor Toms face was a picture! we collect Tom and I apologise profusely, Tom’s back on the tiller.
Soon Tom decides to let the learner have another go and we manage to nudge on a bit from tick over in a few places. Next bit of excitement as Tom reported on his blog is a slow slow day boat coming through a bridge hole before Dundas the boat in front Little Jack pictured above gets stuck on the ledge avoiding/waiting for the day boat, Tom at the tiller effects a great manoeuvre slipping by them both and offering a tow to Little Jack first the captain declined but soon Tom persuades him its for the best and gets the rope from the forward T stud ties it on the dolly on the back of Waiouru. It does take some application of power to drag them off but soon done.
Then we had to make room for a ‘LAD’ boat complete with chair on roof! and another boat after that one, good job Waiouru handles well and oh forgot to mention bow thrusters which are handy when you get the hang of which button operates which thruster!
We pass the Boatyards fuel boat on the straight before Avoncliff They decided against a delivery as it was a tricky situation not sure why, but he advised they will pass their yard along the way and to grab some fuel.
We meet some canoes with Pirates aboard just before Avoncliff so Tom takes charge to avoid a calamity!
The ladies retired to the cratch soon after Dundas to let Tom & I talk engines! we didn’t really but did discuss the build of Waiouru.
Toms back on the tiller as I thought it wise to select a mooring.
Tom made for a very tight gap, I was not so sure but I learned a lot from watching the expert at work. The boat in front taking up a couple of spaces appeared and kindly offered to move up. So that was it moored up and cruise over just after 13.00hrs about a 4 hour trip.
Then we were spoiled royally by being offered lunch, which we did not expect! It was New Zealand style new to us but in a nut shell don’t expect to be handed anything, it’s help yourself, we were fine with that. Lunch taken and enjoyed and we were given a proper tour of the boat and she is a mighty fine testament to Tom & Jan’s efforts.
Then we said farewell and back to the car and collect our bikes from Bathampton.
All in all we couldn’t spend a Saturday in any better way fab.
Thanks Tom & Jan.