Travellers who know the meandering, but magical summit pound of the South Oxford Canal, will know immediately from the title, where ‘Futurest’ and I are spending the night.
About two and a half miles north by canal distance from Fenny Compton, though because of the canal’s winding snakelike nature, only one and a half as the crow flies, is a very quiet and safe mooring known by all as the Radio Aerial Mooring.
It is on a long stretch of well maintained tow path and the banks of the canal have been well reinforced with interlocking steel pylon; just right for quickly slipping through your ‘gee’ hook mooring pin. So secure is the mooring here that I have made up two hooks with a length of mooring rope spliced to each. At the other end of each rope I have spliced another eye so that when I come to a mooring that I consider safe, like this one, I slip the loose eye on the dolly at the stern and quickly slip the hook down behind the ‘Tin’. Then going to the bow, I similarly hook the loose eye over the mooring ‘tee’ and similarly poke the hook behind a suitable hole behind the steelwork. The whole process is very quick, safe and the vessel is always held firmly against her fenders. Obviously the two ropes differ in length with the one at the stern being much shorter so it doesn’t do to get them muddled up.
One needs to moor up as quickly as possible for example when one arrives in the middle of a heavy rain shower, as we did today, so I found this method really ideal. Without exaggeration in two minutes flat we were all fast fore and aft.
Apart from this one soggy shower, the Sun shone beautifully for us all day in a puffy brilliant white and blue speckled sky. Nature was all around us bursting forth in all its deep generosity. Clouded Yellow and Brimstone butterflies chased each other about and a herd of cattle galloped and leapt about as exuberantly as their bulk would allow, like new born lambs. It was a joy to watch.
There was plenty of traffic on the canal as well, families making full use of the Easter school holidays. They were mostly hire boats and came regularly enough in the opposite direction to us so that I never had to open nor close a single gate as we passed through the eight locks. It was perfectly timed as we never had to wait to use a lock either; couldn’t have been planned better.
When I bought ‘Futurest’ three years ago at Great Haywood and while I was waiting for her to be repainted, I got to know a girl called Lesa who lived by herself on a converted small butty called ‘Eileen’. The boat was in a poor state and Lesa, as she could afford to do so, was refurbishing it. But because she was a working girl the project never progressed very quickly and last October as I was towed through Great Haywood I spotted ‘Eileen’, if anything looking worse for wear than ever. There was no sign of Lesa as I passed so I was unable to pick up her latest news. So today I was most surprised when I met a smart little converted butty with a man at the helm whom I only had time to pass the time of the day with before we were past and gone. It was only then that I noticed ‘Eileen’ on each side of the stern. Whether Lesa has sold up or whether she has found herself a travelling companion and was aboard and down below I may now never know, but I’m sure it has to be the same boat.
Sorry I’m rambling on a bit today but talking of meeting people; yesterday at Bourton Lock I met another old friend; John on a beautifully looked after boat called ‘Mr Jinks’. He and I became firm friends two years ago while marooned at the bottom of the Caen Hill Locks for a month on The Kennet & Avon Canal. Though we exchanged contact details then, we had lost touch in the meantime so it was a pleasure to meet him again. He is on his way south to return to the K&A and we had quite a catch up while we did the lock together.
We covered eight and a half miles today so we did very well. ‘Futurest’ seems to like her new engine as well as I do and always answers the helm and the throttle so quickly and positively. She is a delight to control and behaves impeccably.