Well – the last few days have been like ripping off a plaster quickly! Having waited, like so many others, for better weather, we decided to go. We spent Monday and Tuesday at home getting things ready – and if we thought that not having Oscars’ things to pack into the car it would give us more room we had a surprise in store! So, loaded to the gunwales (as usual) we drove up to Frouds Bridge Marina on Wednesday.
Getting there at about three in the afternoon we had a good few hours of daylight left to get the preparatory work done on ‘Chance’ before leaving the marina. It was bitterly cold but James managed to sweep the chimney, check the batteries, check engine, gearbox and stern tube and get the wooden taff rail fixed on (after reconditioning it over the winter months). Meanwhile, Doug (just) managed to get everything we’d brought with us stowed away safely. We did a Tesco shop at 9’o clock in the evening and decided that, as everything was done, we could be off in the morning!
Before we left we filled with fuel (95 litres – the cost of keeping ‘Chance’ safe over the winter – surprisingly cheap we thought considering the perishing weather this winter) and then we were off! The “fur coat” which had grown on the hull in the last 5 months seemed to make things feel a bit sluggish but it’ll soon wear off we hope.
We were soon down the cut by half a mile and secretly enjoying holding up the Aldermaston traffic by operating the massive hydraulic bridge just below the lock.
For lunch we had a bowl of home made celery, lentil and snowflake soup. To add to the bitter cold easterly wind we had a steady and continuous fall of snow all day ………….
……….some people have all the fun!
Doug, with his new trappers hat (made to measure in Lithuania and absolutely brilliant!) waiting patiently for the turf sided lock to fill.
As we progressed towards Reading the River Kennet, which enters and exits the canal on a regular basis, got a whole lot trickier and we had some hairy moments as we were going down stream on a fairly fast current. On the outskirts of the town we had to negotiate a fallen tree across the river and we were going faster than we’d have liked! Having succeeded in missing the tree, we stood no chance of missing a branch just a few yards further on. It scrapped down the entire length of the roof rail and, if James hadn’t ducked he’d have been in the drink! No damage to the paintwork miraculously.
Anyway, entering Reading we made it successfully through County Lock, which is awkward at the best of times, before heading through the Oracle Shopping Centre which resembled a sort of Bobsleigh run. This is James (cool as a cucumber) steering ‘Chance’ towards a safe mooring outside Reading Gaol. Notice the very bent ‘coolie hat’ after the episode with the overhanging branch earlier!
Here we are this evening, 5 hours after starting, safe and sound, having enjoyed an exciting day surfing down the K and A. The snow has stopped and we’re out of the wind and we’re happy. Tomorrow – it’s the River Thames towards Oxford.