The Cruise of the Dondevoy


Off at last! I had arranged to meet my parents at Stoke Bruerne Museum at half past ten in the morning on Monday, so I was anxious to try to get there the night before, especially in case they were early.

I set off at ten o'clock, and reached the top lock of the Northampton Arm flight of seventeen within five hours, including a stop for lunch, and an unscheduled stop to talk to a couple who were fishing.

At the top, I met an interesting family, and we talked for the rest of the afternoon. He gave me an ounce of tobacco, so I gave them a cup of coffee each, so they gave me some food... time passed quickly. He had a long and sad story to tell, but it was of his private life, and has no place here.

After saying goodbye I cast off, and headed towards Gayton Junction, where the Northampton Arm joins the "Main Line" of the Grand Union Canal. I turned left, and soon came to the mouth of Blisworth Tunnel, the longest still open in this country. I waited for about half an hour, hoping to be able to follow another boat through, as the replacement I had bought for my flashlight, which had been stolen, was not very powerful. However, I plucked up courage, and plunged into the darkness.

Navigating a canal tunnel, for those unused to it, is an awesome experience, and for me, on my own, with only a bicycle headlamp for illumination, it was terrifying. I even admit I felt like screaming once or twice. I passed one boat coming in the opposite direction, and the wash after its passing bounced my boat from one side to the other in an alarming fashion, but by now the end was in sight, and all I had to do was to aim at the little point of light, and to dodge the falling water leaking through the roof.

At Stoke Bruerne, there were plenty of people, it being a Sunday, and the pub was crowded, so there was nothing to do but wait until the morning. I was lucky enough to get a mooring just outside the museum, free of charge.

Stoke Bruerne lock and museum.

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