I really am writing this on Thursday evening, although I won't be able to post it until the morning, and then only if I'm lucky... That must be a clue in itself – where on the canal network is mobile reception so famously dreadful? Yes, we've made it to Braunston. We left Hawkesbury at ten to seven and arrived here about six tonight. As luck would have it, Chertsey is tied up between Chiswick on one side and Victoria on the other, with Skylark on the inside of all of us, if you want to come looking for us, although there's every chance we might have moved.
Today was another splendid one, although it started a little cooler. Mike came with us as far as Newbold, where we stopped to drop him and the dogs off, to collect his car from Rugeley. Today's travelling was relatively uneventful; the North Oxford has plenty of water compared to the Coventry and even though the level was down by as much, we didn't get stuck at all. On the final approach to Braunston we had a lovely surprise – spotted Mike in a bridgehole. Rather than face the rush hour traffic going home from Rugeley, he'd decided to come back to Braunston. I wasn't half pleased to have him on board to advise when we were requested to go through the marina and back out ontto the canal to get into position. It's jolly tricky, I can tell you, but although I might have managed it with a bit more sang froid, I was delighted at this stage of the game to complete the manoeuvre without touching anything, bank or boat. Mike had even brought us provisions of fresh milk and cakes, and he stayed for a cup of tea and a look around before finally heading for home. What an absolute star!
Tonight I had to cook the pie we bought in Atherstone on Tuesday, so I fired up the Epping in spite of the heat. The pie was super and we had lots of hot water for washing as well, and finally doing the washing up properly. Then I left it, hopefully to burn out and cool down while we went to check out the beer tent. It was quiet but we had a chat with Andrew and Andrea from Dove.
And so ended Chertsey's first journey under its own power for a quarter of a century. It took us five days, at about ten or eleven hours a day, on average, to complete the trip. We were definitely slow compared to most of the other boats, but even if we did only average about two mph, as an average I reckon that's not bad. The engine hasn't given a moment's worry, and it does sound lovely too. I suspect the stern tube does need more packing as it's OK as long as I keep greasing it, but starts dripping after a few hours running, and grease is squeezing out of the inside end. We still don't know whether the battery is charging. And... er, that's it. Can't think of any other problems or concerns.
I think Chertsey is a fantastic boat and I'm sure there are few better. Credit must go to all the people who have worked on it, advised or in any way been involved with the project. An enormous thank you to you all. And please do come over the weekend and see what's been achieved so far.