Ansty to Rugby, 9 miles, 0 locks, 1 tunnel
Great weather again today, so I was up early although I didn't set off straight away. My aim was to get to Rugby to meet Paul tomorrow morning and I figured that as I only had a few miles to do, I could do chores instead. Like getting diesel.
The best place to get almost everything was Brinklow or Stretton Stop as everyone calls it. There's a water point there, so I filled the water tank and also Rose Narrowboats, who were able to fill Oothoon's tank with diesel and sell me a new gas bottle. It was also an opportunity to empty the loo before Paul arrives, because chemical toilets seem to fill up really quickly when there's two of you.
After I got all that out of the way and my wallet emptied of a couple of hundred (Oothoon's got a big tank) I moored up. As I was in the area, I'd said I'd pay a social call on Ken at Brinklow Boats, who had originally fitted out my neighbour's boat Lynx when she was converted from a working boat. They're at the end of the short Stretton Wharf arm, although they're not mentioned in Nicholson's. We chatted for about half an hour about, well, all sorts really, then it was time for me to get on my way.
It was all going really well until I flipped over the page in Nicholson's and saw the phrase 'Newbold Tunnel'. At 250 yards (229m) it isn't very long and indeed as I approached it just seemed like a deeper than normal bridge—I could see the other end clearly. It appeared to be quite wide, so I was surprised that there was a boat in front of me waiting to go through. Surely boats could pass in it? The other boat set off and although I was sure I could manage just fine without a tunnel light or taking off my sunglasses, I put the light on and got my sensible specs, then followed. As I got really close I realised that this is no ordinary tunnel. For one thing there are towpaths on both sides, restricting the width to that of a single narrowboat (that explained the queue); the most surprising thing, though, is that one towpath has been gated off and used to mount coloured lights that wash across the tunnel in a quite spectacular way. All it really needs is for the lights to pulsate under control of a sound-to-light unit and a bit of disco or hi-nrg, and this would be the funkiest tunnel I've ever been through! I was right about the light and sunglasses though—with the coloured lighting in there I didn't really need the tunnel light and the disco lighting meant that I probably needed my cool shades so I didn't look out of place.
Coming out of the tunnel there seems to be a little community of run-down looking boats. I'd heard tell that there were a lot of these on the system and one boater gleefully told me that the ones at the bottom of the Oxford had all been cleared out, making that stretch of canal pleasanter and also providing much needed moorings. I'd only come across boats like this a few times in my travels but I have to say a lot of them are in really bad condition and you wonder whether they're fit for human habitation. Has the availability of dirt-cheap fibreglass cruisers and ancient cargo-carriers allowed the creation of a sub-culture within the boating community. I expect that the relative cheapness of the boat licence combined with traditionally poor enforcement of mooring restrictions has made this possible, but I wonder how long it will last.
I'd spent so much time filling various tanks and socialising that it was just after five when I arrived in Rugby. I'd decided that I wanted to moor between bridge 58 and 59, since there's a large Tesco there (to make up for the Tesco where I forgot to buy food yesterday). There was also a Harvester nearby (yes, I've been to a Harvester before) which might do for dinner and would also be a handy point of reference for Paul when he arrived tomorrow. Except that as I'd got to Rugby in such good time, he decided to catch the 6pm train and come down this evening. I was kind of thrown into a spin about this. I'd caught the sun and needed a bit of a rest and had counted on Paul not arriving until tomorrow to give me time to shop. In the end I went down to Tesco and bought enough stuff to get us through breakfast with the plan that we'd shop together tomorrow. He was saying that his diet has changed recently so I wasn't sure what to buy anyway, but I had cheese and tomato Pizza (£1!) for dinner, which was good enough.
Paul duly arrived and got a cab to Tesco, since there seems to be only one in Rugby. We popped in to pick up some booze, then back to the boat for a noggin and natter before bedtime. We were also quite excited because we both had gifts for each other in Animal Crossing and since we were now within Wi-Fi range, we could visit each others towns. I'd got him a Bunny Shirt, which I'd seen Sable Able making a few days earlier and also a claw-toed bathtub, which I knew he'd love because Paul is forever having Beauty Baths in the real world. He'd got me thick black glasses and an explorer hat, so that my Animal Crossing self looks surprisingly like me with my floppy sun hat on!