In which Captain Badgerguy and his trusty crew (and one pirate otter) navigate the Oxford Canal. Follow the route using Google Earth.
Due to work commitments sandroo, furyfox and I weren't able to meet with the initial group at Coventry train station, and went straight to the Swan Lane Wharf boatyard in the north of Coventry. Here, badgerguy, kyyanno, hytiger, and tungro were busy stowing numerous bags of shopping in the Squire Trelawney; the narrow boat that was to be our home for the next few days. emejn and utlah74 arrived at the boat yard about the same time as us. Once the shopping was stowed, clothing was taken on, and there still seemed to be plenty of space left. The boat had lots of ingenious little cubbyholes to discover. Even though there would be twelve of us, we weren't packed to the max, and that meant that fursuits could be taken too. It has to be said that the boat had a certain damp-dog and cheese smell about it, so a shopping party was organised for Febreeze, Oust, and assorted air fresheners.
Once klepsydra and Simon (who I don't think has an LJ) had arrived we were given a tour of the boat by the owners and some of its stranger (to us non waterways types) features, like the hand-pumped loos, and the weed-hatch (to be kept closed). After a final check to make sure everyone and everything was on board (and cars were locked) we got on our way with Kyanno at the tiller. I'm so glad we had someone with us with previous experience.
Despite pleasant sunshine, the initial few miles out of Coventry cannot be described as picturesque. However, the good Coventrians have made an effort to spruce up the arse end of industrial units by installing a number of pieces of urban artwork, and providing a printed guide on the boat. With Badger reading the commentary, we passed numbers 11 onwards. No.13 "The Navigator" a solar powered installation under a bridge wasn't working, and No.18 "The bridge that flows" was a big disappointment. The picture in the guide must have been taken from a low angle with a macro lens, the edifice looking monumental against the sky; in reality it wasn't much over three feet tall!
Passing under the M6 motorway, we got to Hawkesbury Junction where we turned on to the Oxford Canal, and encountered our first lock. Giddy with excitement, half the boat seemed to pile out, and armed with windlasses and walkie talkies we went up about 3 inches; all that separates these two stretches of canal. The scenery began to take on a more rural feel as we pootled along, enjoying the sunshine, Sandroo's pancakes, and the odd drink, towards Ansty and the Rose and Castle pub and our moorings for the night. The pub was mostly restaurant, and very busy. Seating twelve wasn't going to happen, and as it had started to rain we propped up the bar in a genial way until they were able to seat us four at a time.
In retrospect, it might have been wise to take a torch to the pub. The full moon was obscured by thick clouds, and was the only light available as we squelched back along the towpath. I'd half expected everyone to be up until the wee hours, but full bellies, darkness, and general relaxation lead to an early night.
Utlah was on the top bunk at the bow of the boat, facing the canal. He took a last look out the window before turning in, and was surprised to find himself being stared at by four ducks. His paranoia wasn't helped by Hy Tiger deciding to shine a torch on them from the other end of the boat.