Friday, March 21, 2008

Froxfield To Great Bedwyn Avoiding Canoes

2.22 miles, 1 hour 33 mins, 5 locks, 4.65 lm/hr

Yesterday I pulled a back muscle doing the paddles on Hungerford lock. After a rather disturbed night I thought I would be pretty useless today and John would have to single hand. Anyway I managed to get up and dressed and took some paracetamol, sat with a hot water bottle at my back and by lunch time the pain was rather less!

It was pretty windy and also today we knew we would encounter lots of canoeists, as it is the first day of the Devizes to Westminster canoe race, 60 years anniversary this year. The competitors come from schools, colleges, canoe clubs and individuals who are challenging themselves in the endurance race. Those leaving from Devizes today are doing the race in stages. The Saturday/Sunday race is the one that the Army, Police and other serious competitors take part in – a one-day, overnight race.

The first contestants passed us at just after 12 noon.

We decided to set out after lunch – by then I was able to steer providing John did the locks! So we proceeded avoiding the canoeists! It was windy again but sunny and cold.

I admired those who were using Kayaks, as it seemed much harder work.

Some were double crew and some were single.

The supporters caught up with them at strategic points on the canal where roads came near. They provided the contestants with drinks and I even saw one man being fed pieces of banana as he got into his canoe at a lock landing!

When we got to Oakhill Down lock (68) there was quite a crowd as there is room for lots of cars to park. It was like Stoke Bruerne on a summer Sunday!

We were gongoozled and photos taken of us as we locked through!

The best way to control the boat and avoid the canoes on exiting locks (all going up) was to use the middle rope to tie to the convenient posts at the mouth of the lock, thus keeping the length of the boat away from the lock landings, which were being used for portage around the locks. Fortunately most of the locks were set for us, as the bottom paddles on this stretch are left up and the locks empty. In fact of the 5 locks 4 had their gates open! So the windy conditions did not really become a problem and my vision of crushing a canoe and its occupant with the boat was thankfully not fulfilled!

Just as we exited the last lock before Great Bedwyn it began to sleet. We were so hoping that there would be a mooring for us. There was – despite some lads playing around in coracles “supervised” by an adult male. We had to ask them to get out of the way – they did not seem to understand that we were 57 foot long and needed all the space to moor!

Once moored, the heavens opened and the winds blew but the lads continued to muck around bumping into us and using us to fend themselves off – complaining about the wind. I politely suggested through one of our windows that they would be better to get out of the boats than complain!

However Dad or whoever he was continued to encourage them. Finally they got the message and moved under the bridge above us! Then the sun came out and it is still shining and the wind has dropped too.

So now it is back to my hot water bottle, catch up on the blog, emails etc and then a relaxing evening – the chef is cooking tonight!

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