Elizabeth returned from a working weekend to help Pete make the decision about where next. Pete spent the weekend listening to Cricket, playing with the neighbour's dogs, including Maisie the tiniest lurcher/whippet we have ever seen (2.5kilo at the minute) and welcoming in Fred and Wilma, the new ducks. We decided we need to stay here another few days to have a base for yet more work travels to different climes and the local rail station is Banbury - very well connected!
So today we let Elizabeth have a bit of a day off and we went to get water. Hmmmmmm. The nearest spot was Aynho, 1.5 miles south and two locks. Doddle. But we are moored facing north. So, here's the trip:
- Untie Bella, set Elizabeth on the towpath opposite the marina holding Bella's centre line, stand Pete at the tiller and throw the throttle into reverse.
- Reverse. Through an ex bridge hole and a lift bridge. Reverse by going forward enough to set the stern in the right place, then reverse with the tiller straight so that Bella keeps going the way she had been pointed, forward again to point her bow over a little, reverse with straight tiller again to keep going the same way. Mind the towpath side which somehow keeps appealing to Bella, mind the tall grasses catching the centre line, mind the boats coming up the cut. Mind the wind. The breezy stuff.
- Wind. (sounds like the breeze, not the turn. But this is turning. Never mind). Point the bow into the narrow part of the winding hole - the large inlet opposite the towpath. Push Bella into forward so her nose/bow rests in the narrowest part of the winding hole, push the tiller over hard and let her stern end turn from north to south. Mind the boat having just left the lock.
- Pull out of the way of the boat wanting to continue north out of the lock. Elizabeth leans on the centre line, pulling Bella towards the towpath, Pete tillers right, left, throttles forward and back and Bella comes to rest.
- Go through Nell's Bridge Lock. Elizabeth lock winds in, takes the tiller, Pete lock winds out.
- Elizabeth minds the queue for going north through the lock. Pete walks the towpath to Aynho weir lock.
- Both mind the British Waterways workers repairing the safety rails under the weir bridge over the Cherwell. We are now on a canal/river shared stretch.
- Pete helps everyone at Aynho weir lock wind, push, and generally move boats. And spot the Kingfisher watching the action. And try to hear the shouts over the roars of the cows going over the bridge over the entrance to the lock. And mind the fishermen/boys catching Carp and Pike.
- Elizabeth moors up to wait for the lock. And minds the BW barge sitting at the repair site. And watches the cows, workers, fisherpeople, boatpeople...
- Go through Aynho weir lock, then out on to the canal, Pete having hopped back on board.
- Moor up at Aynho Wharf, having spotted the winding hole to turn around and go north again. Funnily enough, it doesn't look like an inlet opposite the towpath, it looks like a berth in a boatyard. And Mrs Armitage, moored alongside the berth looking widing hole looks a little too large for Bella to turn around next to. Pete sets up the water flow, Elizabeth checks that there is a winding hole. Oh yes! A 69 footer? No problem. Just reverse up canal past the hole, let one of you take the stern line to keep her hard to the towpath, point the bow into the wet dock gate and you'll be fine. OK. Water filled, we pull out.
- Reverse. Elizabeth on the towpath first with the centre line, Bella snuggles up and waits for two working boats to pass going south. (Where did they come from?). Bella reverses past the berth looking winding hole. Definitely not the winding hole looking berth.
- Pete points Bella's bow into the top of the winding hole - the wet dock gate. No engines here, as it seemed a little too risky for the other boats. So, Elizabeth now has the stern line and works the stern around from the towpath. Pete now has the boat pole and from the bow and as bow Gondalier, is also working Bella around. So far so good. Pete then gets back at the throttle and tiller and reverses Bella out. It's at this point that being like a London bendy bus seems a good idea.
- Get stuck. Stern on the towpath side. Bow somewhere along the side of the berth/winding hole. It was time to ask for help. With some disbelief, the marina staff came to see why we couldn't quite get Bella out and reversed to face north again. By the time they had moved Mrs Armitage (the 58 footer), opened the wet dock gate, moved the tiny narrowboat in between Mrs Armitage and the next 50 footer so that Mrs Armitage turned into a lovely angled winding hole southern edge, they realised. No easy winding hole this!!
- Get under way. Finally moving north again, we pulled out and headed back to the weir lock.
- Wait for ahead boaters to empty the lock, move in, fill the lock, move out, then Pete to empty the lock once again so Elizabeth can now move through. During the wait, Elizabeth fed the ducks, walked Josie, knitted, watched the cows and had a sesame bar or two.
- Elizabeth entered the lock, Pete set it, it filled, the gate was opened and Elizabeth took up her knitting again. A few rows of ribbing later later, the BW workmen had finished fitting the timber to the weir bridge railings and moved their barge out of the way of the lock entrance/exit gate.
- Finally go through Nell Bridge lock, lift bridge 183 and moor up at Nell's Acre, facing north.