Another ridiculously short day, which even with the addition of three quarters of an hour stuck to the bank at Hopwas, still saw us tied up by two.
But first, back to last night. We made our way over to the Plough at the appointed time, only to learn that our reserved table was not yet available - we were invited to buy a drink and wait until it was. But the place was packed and there was nowhere to sit and precious little space to stand. The Plough sells itself as being a dog friendly pub, but in fact dogs (and their owners) are corralled into a small part of it, and there was barely floor space for Ricky and Mr Jones and the sheer concentration of dogs as well as people made it all quite tense. Even if they did deign to find us a table there wouldn't have been room to breathe and certainly not for the dogs to lie down without constant fear of being trodden on. So we took the decision not to grace them with our presence, and instead repaired to The Boat That Will Be Called Princess Lucy II for takeaway pizza, fetched by the Captain and Jim from Papa John's in Lichfield. It was very nice pizza, and we had a much better evening, for much less money, than we would have had in the Plough. So that was last night.
This morning we set off at 8.30. Although the sun was shining it was distinctly chillier that the last couple of days, with a cold and worrying breeze. Since last year and the virtuous example set by Cap'n Pete, I have been assiduous in slowing down to a quite excessive degree for moored boats - and it does seem to make people happy even when it clearly has no actual physical effect on them - but today I realised that that way might lie trouble. It's hard to know whether people who moor opposite open fields would prefer me to go by them a bit faster than they might usually like, or to be blown sideways into them... The inevitable happened just as we approached Hopwas Woods, but the person whose boat Chertsey got too friendly with was absolutely lovely about it. We couldn't get off the bank after getting past him, so tied up (unnecessarily) for a cup of tea and a bit of a think. After that we got off with the help both the nice man and Jim, with a long shaft at each end of the boat, at the second attempt.
We dragged along the rest of the way; it felt really shallow, which is odd as I don't remember that from coming the other way on Saturday, and the pound wasn't noticeably low. After a while a boat caught up with us, and it was Colin and Annie on Eli. They too are heading for Brownhills and we have both stopped at the Dog and Doublet where we plan to pop in later. They stopped on the Services at Fazeley Junction while we turned off onto the Birmingham and Fazeley canal for the first time, with Jim at the tiller for the first time this trip and me with my big camera out. The B&F seems very pleasant so far. We got slightly stuck going into Curdworth lock 9. We flushed out backwards I had a poke with the long shaft behind the gate and dislodged a small accretion of something. I don't know whether that made the difference or Jim just came in more determinedly the next time, but all was fine. These locks are short and we've had to lift the rear fenders to get the bottom gates shut.
Annie and I spent a while poring over maps while Jim and Colin pored over the engine, and we think we have planned the rest of the journey... a really really short day tomorrow, a long day (at last!) on Wednesday, and possibly another really short one on Thursday to get us to Catshill Junction - all to avoid overnight stops in places deemed unsavoury by various people.
People spend fortunes to have slightly scary holidays in places like South America and South East Asia, but we can do it right here.
Location:Dog and Doublet, Curdworth