….my last post ‘The Way it was – a cruising retrospective October’ in which I introduced the new Xenia!
Since April we’ve been out for day trips and picnics and BBQs, when the weather has allowed, and for one overnight trip to test out future ‘camping’ arrangements but have all along been promising ourselves a cruise to Lechlade, some 70 miles up river and the furthest navigable point towards the source of the Thames. We had antifouling and polishing and fender pressure cleaning done in August, so we felt well prepared.
After a morning game and excellent lunch on Bowlers and Boaters Day at the Island Bohemian Bowls Club we set out with the Thames Valley Cruising Club flotilla of some 7 assorted boats for Mapledurham, where they all turned back at the lock, but we continued on upriver.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon, despite some gloomy weather forecasts, and we put our canopies down to fully enjoy the pleasures of open day boat cruising on this lovely stretch of river. By tea time we were moored up in Pangbourne Meadow for the night.
However, that night it rained very heavily and we awoke to some damp patches at the feet of our sleeping bags. The seam below the bow window canopy was visibly leaking. We would need to test out the new tarpaulin, which we had the foresight to bring along, but did we have the means to secure it and would it fit? And how was it best to arrange the canopies so that we could quickly react to intermittent rain showers whilst still being able to see to navigate?
At Wallingford we stopped for lunch at the Old Post Office.
We lived behind this building when it was a Sorting Office but all that is left of our old house (now incorporated into the Waitrose Car Park) is the cemented over car turntable in the driveway.
An overnight stay at the Shillingford Bridge Hotel gave us time to sort out the tarpaulin and it all worked very well and would certainly be needed with heavy rain forecast. We made a morning dash in hopes of beating the rain to Long Wittenham where friends Ros and Gregor joined us for an excellent and convivial pub lunch at the Plough.
The threatened rain was late in coming and didn’t start until after lunch and we got caught out badly in Culham Lock so we called it a day in the Cut just above the lock. Another very wet night but the tarp kept our feet, and everything else, dry.
Passing through Abingdon in the morning we stopped to buy a Waitrose Rotisserie Chicken which we ate, still warm, for lunch at Sandford Lock before going on through Oxford.
We had Godstow Abbey down as a possible mooring for the night but whilst having a cup of tea there remembered just how noisy the traffic on the nearby A34 was, so we carried on.
At Eynsham we moored below the lock and were delighted to find that there was a heated shower and toilet room available for use by boaters. The rain held off and we had our first BBQ of the trip.
Passing Oxford Cruisers the next morning, and spotting a crane, we were reminded of old Xenia’s launch here and her Maiden voyage down to Abingdon in Feb 2009. A lot of water under the bridge since then – but nostalgic none the less.
We made a welcome lunch stop on the Island at Shifford Lock, on the pontoon really assigned to recharging electric boats. Sausages and mushrooms cooked on the spirit stove.
We did beat the rain to Tadpole Bridge where we had reservations for two nights at The Trout.
Maurice and Lauren joined us the next day and our plans for cruising were put aside (although in fact it turned out to be one of the dry days) in favour of a relaxed lunch.
We knew that Saturday was going to be bad, but the Trout was fully booked that night, so we decided to soldier on in the rain. It was dire, and at Buscot Lock, whilst trying to find my way in through the lock gates, our middle rope must have slipped over the side and fouled the prop. We pulled Xenia in to the lock and filled it whilst wondering what to do. I hate swimming and had no diving kit and there’s no weed hatch.
As luck would have it though Greg, of Cotswold Boat Hire, was working on a boat across the river at his yard and kindly volunteered to tow us across, lift us with his crane, and free the prop. All miraculously completed in about half an hour!
At Lechlade Marina Ian was there to welcome us and provide a berth for the night with shower and loo facilities included. Another very wet night but dry in the boat.
Next day things brightened up and we decided to make as much progress as possible.
Stopping for lunch on the Trout Pontoon at Tadpole Bridge we were self-catering this time and then continued on to Eynsham where we moored above the lock and had another BBQ.
With nothing more serious than showers forecast we headed on down through Oxford, making rapid progress, and reaching Abingdon in time for lunch at Annie’s Café and a top up on diesel. We were doing so well that we decided to make it to Shillingford Bridge for another night in a comfortable hotel room.
After 9 nights away we were beginning to want the comforts of home and so next day managed to cruise the 19 miles home to Fry’s Island in Reading. The weather was kind to us and gave us a lovely final day to the cruise.
We could have had fairer weather and I have to admit to some aching joints after rather cramped days and nights on the boat – but still a wonderful break from routine and so lovely to be cruising the upper reaches of the wonderful River Thames once more. All told we cruised 140 miles using 26 engine hours over 10 days.
So from my last blog ‘for fair weather day cruising and picnics only’ can now be added ‘some overnight camping too’ – but still definitely ‘no winter quarters’!