For want of a plug, the ability to recharge the iPod was lost; for want of the iPod, the blog was lost...
We have completed our epic journey, and are now safely home. We includes me, Jim, Hairy Neil, Paul, Bakewell and Chertsey. The mad, impossible plan actually came off.
An enormous thank you to Hairy Neil and Paul for moving Chertsey, a stunning feat rendered only the more impressive by the fact that they managed to take in at least one (and up to five) selected real ale pub every night, and polish the brass to boot. Clearing (with Nev's help) Fradley with hours to spare before the stoppage began, they really got us out of a hole.
The itinerary went something like this...
Monday 31st - Jim and I arrive at Stockton and take possession of Bakewell. Jim cleans the porta potti. Nick arrives at the top of the locks with Aldgate.
Tuesday 1st - We stroll up to help Nick down the locks, and hitch Bakewell to Aldgate. We get a crash course in butty steering and breasting up while on the move to enter double locks. We realise that Bakewell is woefully undersupplied with ropes, and what we do have is green and slimey. Bakewell finishes the day at the top of Hatton with a very knackered crew.
Wednesday 2nd - Aldgate and Bakewell leave later than planned owing to having to rescue Kat from up a tree, but still manage to get to the other side of Lapworth to finish another exhausting day in the Blue Bell Cider House. Meanwhile Neil drives over to Torksey and sets Chertsey's timing, then takes her for a test run up to Saxilby and back, and then on to Dunham Bridge.
Thursday 3rd - No locks for us today, and we spend the night in Birmingham. Chertsey finally gets off the tidal Trent, although a malfunctioning lock means curtailing the day's journey at Fiskerton.
Friday 4th - A short run for us into Smethwick, where we tie up and go shopping. Chertsey on the other hand keeps going to Trent Lock, very nearly the end (or beginning) of the river, an epic day's travelling.
Saturday 5th - We visit Halsall and entertain Madcat, drink beer and watch fireworks. Neil and Paul on the other hand finish the night at Barton Turns, where they try five different pubs before deciding that the one at the marina might be the best bet after all.
Sunday 6th - our turn for an early(ish) start as we creep away from Smethwick at seven. It takes us around four hours to get both boats down the 21, and Jim starts answering to 'Dobbin' and demanding sugar lumps. We make it as far as Wolverhampton Boat Club before the light goes completely. This and Tuesday were our longest days, and around ten hours. Chertsey meanwhile makes it to Radford Bridge on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal - they have made it through Fradley before the locks close on Monday morning!
Monday 7th - We have another late start owing to the errant Kat, but with only a few miles to go, we are tied up at Stretton on our lovely new mooring well before lunch. Chertsey makes it to Brweood before the light fails, and after Jim has trained and taxi'd back to Stockton and collected the car, we drive over to join them for a few beers, and a have very expensive meal in the newly refurbished Lion Hotel (if Jim and I hadn't needed to eat we would have stayed in the Swan, where they had Directors).
Tuesday 8th - Not at seven a.m. as threatened (I wonder why they might have slept in....), thank goodness, but later in the morning, Chertsey joins Bakewell at Stretton. Tea and buns are enjoyed, Neil and Paul have a tour of the yard, then pack all their gear into Fang the Volvo for the drive back to Torksey, whereupon their luggage is transferred to Neils ex London cab, and we regain the A1 and head for home, where we arrive at nine o'clock.
And that, in brief, is the epic journey of three boats and five people, to safely get Chertsey and Bakewell to their mooring for the winter. Many many thanks to all concerned.
Photos to follow.
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