Oxford Canal (South) - August 1982

Napton to Lower Heyford

Editorial note from Andrew: This voyage was my second canal trip at the age of 21 again with my parents and some old family friends, the Laraways.

The text from the original log is reproduced verbatim but I have added comments into the log text and the occasional extra photo or link where, for instance, we have cruised the same part of the canal and have a more recent photo.

One thing that really stands out as a contrast to how we cruise now in our own boat is how late we travelled each day. There are numerous instances of having dinner then carrying on. Nowadays, we tend to be mooring at 4-5pm with no intention of carrying on! Of course on this trip there were a lot more steerers / crew available and being a hire boat there was the desire to do as much cruising as possible to get our money's worth.

The Boat

The Ledbury Navigator was hired from Gordons Pleasure Cruisers, Napton Marina.

The Crew

Captain - Bryan Laraway
Chief Eng. - Rodger Smith
Purser - Frances Smith
Chief Cook - Doreen Laraway
Leading Seaman - Andrew Smith
Leading Seaman - Howard Smith
Able bodied Seaman - Melanie Smith
Able bodied Seaman - Ellen Laraway
Apprentice - Glyn Laraway

Day 1 Sunday 1st August 1982

14.40 Ships company mustered to join ship.

15.00 Stores & crew's gear loaded.

15.20 Vessel accepted from dockyard.

15.30 Napton Locks closed till morning due to lack of water. Captain Laraway therefore set course eastwards towards Braunston.

15.40 Joined Grand Union, heading east.

16.28 Ran aground starboard side while Captain steering. Came off immediately.

17.20 Very twisted canal near Nethercote.

18.10 Turned at Braunston.

20.00 Moored on southern side just past Nethercote but advised by passing boat the farmer was hostile.

20.30 Moored near Lower Shuckborough. Howard almost fell in. Bryan's fishing gear did fall in but was retrieved. Good meal - salad, chicken, wine, pudding.

21.30 All hands turned in early

Day 2 Monday 2nd August 1982

Weather bright with low haze. Warm & humid.

07.00 Hands roused with tea (by Doreen) after a disturbed night. Lub oil dipped, bilges pumped, stern gland greased.

07.40 Hands to breakfast. Cereal, toast, coffee.

08.25 Engines on standby.

08.30 Under way.

09.00 Moored at Gordons Yard to take on supplies, water, badges of rank etc.

09.40 Underway heading south

The first lock - some apprehension

10.00 Began locking up Napton flight.

12.00 Moored at Lock 14 to visit farm shop for supplies.

12.30 Underway again.

13.00 Some delay at Marston Dole lock due to weight of traffic

Top of the flight - supreme confidence

13.35 Clear Napton Top Lock (Marston Dole locks)

16.30 Captain takes over due to difficult conditions caused by lack of water

17.10 Reached Fenny Compton after difficult passage.

17.30 Shore leave for crew but blinking pubs were closed!

18.00 Situation saved & mutiny averted by Chief Cook & Purser producing excellent meal, savoury crumble, peaches & evaporated milk, cheese & biscuits with wine.

19.25 Underway again.

20.45 Moored at Bridge 143 for the night. Crew fishing.

Day 3 Tuesday 3rd August 1982

05.00 Fishing party on deck.

08.00 Crew roused

09.00 Breakfast of sausages etc cooked by Mel & Ellen.

09.15 Underway heading south.

09.30 Queuing at Claydon Locks ladies visited shops.

11.30 Cleared Claydon after buying from local vicar's stall.

12.05 Queuing again at Elkington Lock. Crew had beans on toast while locking through.

13.55 "Full Away" Broadmoor Lock (Bridge 150) course south.

14.15 Cropredy Lock

14.30 Cropredy water point

14.45 Changed moorings to east bank. Shopping party went ashore

15.45 Underway south. Water still very shallow

17.00 Cleared Little Bourton lock.

18.15 Arrived at Banbury intending to go ashore for meal. Mooring very crowded.

18.30 Thunderstorm & torrential rain!

18.45 Ladies again saved the day. Concocted marvellous meal. Fruit juice or grapefruit cocktail, ham in mushroom sauce, angel delight pudding with chocolate wafer, cheese and biscuits & lots of wine.

20.30 Crew in euphoria! Got underway in heavy rain & bikinis. Editor's note: I think it is highly unlikely that I was wearing a bikini! Banbury Sea Cadets were so impressed by our seamanship and other attributes that several deserted their ship & followed us along the bank for miles.

21.30 After some difficulty found mooring place close enough to bank near Grants Lock past Bridge 173

Day 4 Wednesday 4th August 1982

Weather hazy fog, cool but promise of very warm & humid.

07.00 Hands roused with tea.

07.20 Lub oil dipped etc.

07.25 Underway - course south. Water very shallow. Ran aground in outlet from Grants Lock.

08.00 Slow passage to Bridge 177 where party went ashore for milk etc. Cheap takeaway noted for return trip.

08.25 Water improved greatly by Kings Sutton Lock. At Aynho Weir Lock where the River Cherwell crosses the canal, we contrived to lock 3 craft through together. This was foolish as the whole point of this shallow but wide lock was to provide extra water per boat ready for Somerton Deep Lock.

11.25 Passed Aynho West dockyard. Will stop here on way back & visit Aynho. Plenty of water in the canal - making good speed.

12.00 Arrived Somerton Deep Lock. This has a fall of 12'. Even standing on the cabin top Howard who is 6' 2" could not see out.

12.15 Cleared Somerton Deep ducking under the bridge on the way out. Weather still hazy.

12.25 Moored for lunch. Mince with choice of rice or potatoes.

12.50 Underway again still heading south. Pleasant countryside & plenty of water. Passed under the Upper Heyford flight path. Very noisy. A great deal of maintenance work is being done on this part of the canal, piling & dredging. We rammed a dredger on the curved approach to Heyford Common lock but failed to sink it.

15.06 Turned about at Lower Heyford winding hole. Course now north.

15.15 Moored at Lower Heyford to shop & take on water.

18.00 Left Lower Heyford heading north.

18.30 Moored for evening meal. Assorted sandwiches & wine at Heyford Common Lock

19.15 Away after meal.

20.00 Moored just north of Bridge 196. Mel sprained ankle & dignity jumping ashore. Boys played frisbee. Bryan & the boys fished.

Day 5 Thursday 5th August 1982

Weather cool but dry & bright.

07.15 Hands roused after slightly disturbed night to trains. Bryan had fished since 06.00

08.20 Under way north.

09.25 Moored at Aynho. Crew cleaned up for "run ashore". Aynho is a pretty little place. We bought provision & were able to get coffees & beer at one of the pubs. Quite a long walk back to ship.

12.00 Rejoined ship. Underway heading north. Water very shallow after Kings Sutton. Very hard going with propellor on the bottom all the time. Easy to see why some people experiment with "stern wheelers".

16.00 Moored just below Banbury Lock. Just as we were ready to go ashore a local chap accidently cycled into the canal. Very muddy & embarrassed. Loaned him towel. Ashore Glyn bought a bag of maggots for bait!! The rest of the crew bought wine, chinese food, cream cakes (& fish & chips for Howard & Glyn). Made mental note to return to Banbury to explore this interesting little town. Editorial note: We did return just 24 years later! See the trip report here.

17.00 Captain & Chief Engineer returned to ship ahead of rest of crew to carry out inspection of screw through inspection hatch. Cut off cloth & plastic rubbish caught round screw boss. Hope this will help our speed tomorrow.

17.50 Ate our chinese meal with wine followed by cream cakes. Very pleasant. Mel told us she had been recognised as the bikini girl by one of the Banbury Sea Cadets in town!

19.10 Underway again. Some delay at Banbury lock due to British Waterways staff letting water through to try and raise water in the pound below Banbury.

20.45 Moored for night just north of Little Bourton lock near Bridge 158. Crew fished. Andrew worked on Rubics Revenge having bought book in Banbury on this subject.

Day 6 Friday 6th August 1982

Weather overcast but dry

07.00 Hands fishing. Mel sick - but could be excess of rice last night

08.15 Started breakfast

09.15 Set off north

10.10 Moored Cropredy. Canal obstructed by hotel boat stuck while winding. This caused severe chaos. Boat had partially stuck previous day. At first it could move aside to permit others to squeeze past. Today it was being left across the canal to force British Waterways to do something. Everyone went ashore to shop, gawk & talk to other crews.

12.00 Coffee & Banbury cakes

12.45 Hotel boat freed by letting water through from upper pond but this left water very shallow above Cropredy Lock

14.55 After considerable delay due to congestion at lock, we moved to take on water at Cropredy water point.

15.10 Passed through Cropredy lock

16.15 Cleared Elkington lock. Cups of tea all round

18.00 Cleared Claydon Top Lock & moored almost immediately

18.05 Crew had "dips & crisps" as appetiser before meal. Square egg, baked spuds, apple pie & custard. Tried to go for walk ashore to nearest village but towpath in poor repair. Played party games instead.

Day 7 Saturday 7th August 1982

Weather overcast, dry but cold wind

07.20 Hands roused with tea. Bryan fishing.

08.00 Underway north.

08.45 Entered Fenny "Tunnel" (which isn't a tunnel). Breakfast on the move.

09.15 Short stop at Fenny Marine for stores & to take on water.

10.30 Passed Fenny Compton. Had meal underway.

14.05 Reached Napton Top Lock

15.50 Cleared last lock, bottom of Napton flight. Celebrated with an icecream. Fed tame duck.

16.32 Passed Gordons boat yard heading east.

18.00 3-point turn at Braunston Junction & moored almost immediately. Boys went to nearest pub to shop.

18.30 Magnificent "paying-off" dinner. All hands made special effort to dress up and meal & wine-list were top class. Followed by charades & party time (Mr Men as prizes). Turned in for last time.

Day 8 Sunday 8th August 1982

Weather dry & bright

07.30 Hands roused to clean ship

08.00 Breakfast. Underway

08.30 Spare hands packed gear ready to disembark quickly on arrival at boatyard

09.50 Boatyard in sight on port bow. Mooring parties standby.

09.55 Commenced manoeuvring to come alongside

10.00 Secure fore & aft. Finished with engines. Miles steamed 80.

10.15 All hands signed off with clean discharges.

10.30 Crew homeward bound

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