After proposing a cruise to the South East of the system to commence the 2016 season, Cormorant II (2 not eleven) were joined by The Great Escape with Mo and Mike Wood for the adventure.
We left Saul Marina on May 18th bound for Gloucester Docks, with Lynn’s 86 years young Mum, Sheila as a passenger. Now, after 11 years of Cormorant 2, she actually admitted that she can see why we enjoy it so much!!
Thursday 08:00 saw us up, life-jacketed, anchor weighed and away up the River Severn, thankfully in a benign mood for once with fine, windless and warm weather to cruise to Tewkesbury. There, we bought the requisite licence had a day off to attend a party in Derbyshire (Enterprise Car Hire recommended- other car hire firms are available) and on our return, Mike and Mo had arrived safely from their base at Stafford.
After a short afternoon cruise, Eckington Wharf was deserted and a pleasant Pimms taken aboard as the rain pattered down.
So a sharpish few days upriver as Mo had booked tickets for RSC and Hamlet. At Nafford lock, we were reminded of how violent this river can be when we saw a Narrowboat sunk on the weir.
A pleasant day was spent in Stratford’s Bancroft Basin, while we re-victualled and prepared for the next bit. The performance of the Play was brilliantly performed and our thanks to Mo for organising the evening.
Now for our first canal locks of this year. It wasn’t long before we had our first encounters, not all with hirers either! Unhelpful boaters seem to be becoming the norm. Not that it stopped us helping things along, Lynn and Mike valiantly battling heavy paddle gear and the single bottom gates. Disaster struck when Mo slipped off a lock gate walkway and fell in, fortunately with only (very colourful) bruises to show for the experience.
Soon, we turned at Kingswood and headed down the Grand Union, just in time remembering the brolly for Shrewley Tunnel, particularly wet this year!
Now, the Hatton 21, where we breasted up the boats, and descended in fine style. 2 3/4 hours with most locks against us. Bob and Lynn swapped duties a little way down (Lynn claimed more than halfway) but Mike bravely stuck to the whole, complete task.
We had a great mooring overnight in the Saltisford Arm, highly recommended and a deserving trust.
So, onward down the GU and the Oxford. After four or five days of freezing cold weather and lighting the fire every night, our last half day on the Oxford and the 2 days on the Thames, the sun came out for us.
The Thames licence for Cormorant II (not eleven) was we thought, expensive enough at £172.50 for one month, but the locks are superbly maintained and mostly operated by keepers.
So now after 174 miles, we are safely moored in Lechlade, (only 37 miles by DIRECT canal route) ready for a quick trip back home to do “stuff.” Then we begin the downhill bit and eventually get to London to join the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park opening cruise.
This was a very late addition to the plan, actually not confirmed until a couple of days ago.
Happy Cruising to the boaters. Happy summer to the rest of my friends
Bob and Lynn Hallam.