Fazeley Junction to Atherstone, 9 miles, 6 locks
I awoke at 5am to hear the drumbeat of rain on the roof. Peering out of the window as I stagger to the loo, I can see that it's very heavy and not a good sign. By 8am I've slept fitfully and had dreams about Oothoon being in a video game where I have to steer her past various obstacles, including weirs, twisty bends, other boats and other hazards that I can't remember. I get up, with the intention of going to the loo then back to bed, but I realise that I'm too awake for bed and decide to make coffee and some breakfast, then see if I feel any more sleepy. I'm not paying attention while I make breakfast and make far too much, but it does get me in a boating mood. As I eat, I notice that there's water dripping from a grille in the ceiling. These normally cover the mushroom vents and it's not surprising that a bit of rain might have got in, so I think nothing of it. By the time I'm finished, the rain has stopped and it looks like it might be brightening up, so after doing the dishes I get ready and set off.
About 30 minutes later, by the time I reach the first lock, the situation has changed: rain is pelting down from the sky and I'm starting to feel distinctly drippy. I moor at the lock approach as I have to wait for a boat to come down and I wave to the captain of the boat behind telling him to go through. I, meanwhile, go below and get out of my wet clothes and dress properly: lots of layers, my waterproofs and boots. By the time I've changed, the boat behind is in the lock after mine and the rain has died down a little. I manage the lock without a problem and leave the boat in it while I walk the short distance to set the next lock. The people in the boat ahead have kindly left one of the back paddles open for me and the lock is empty and ready. I set it and by the time I've got back to Oothoon there's another boat just arrived so I don't even need to close the top gate because the other crew do it. At the next lock, another boat arrives as I'm leaving, so I can leave the top gate open again.
After the canal leaves Tamworth it wiggles around in the country a bit then passes through Polesworth. There are decent moorings just before the first bridge so I stop there for lunch. I am thinking 'pub lunch', but I remember that I have bread to use up and I fancy some soup, so I have soup and a sandwich instead. The weather improves while I'm lunching and by the time I'm finished it's not even raining any more, but I keep my waterproofs on all the same. I'm curious about this dripping grille, because I've realised that there's no mushroom vent there. I unscrew the grille and underneath is a big bolt. This is clearly on the other end of the loop that my centre ropes attach to. I'm not surprised that it leaks, given the stresses and strains that the centre loop must undergo, but it'll need sorting so I re-attach the grille and make a mental note to look at it later.
There's quite a way to the next lock, which is the bottom lock of the Atherstone flight and it starts to drizzle again. I'm fine in my waterproofs, except that when the rain stops and I lower the hood, my ears and head are cold. I'll need to dig out a wooly hat. The bottom lock is a breeze—as John said it would be. It also has new square bollards on one side, but the middle one is not in the right place for Oothoon's centre rope so I ignore them. This lock is a little more forceful than the previous ones and I'm only just quick enough to grab the centre rope to stop the boat banging into the top gate. Another boat wants to come down, so I'm quickly out of there and a boat has just come out of the next lock and I'm straight in. This time I decide to tie Oothoon to the rear bollard, to stop her going forward. Although the square bollards are terrible for wrapping rope around, they're fine if you just want to attach a static rope. I make a loop using a bow-line and put this over the bollard and it's sufficient to stop Oothoon from going near either the cill or the front gate, even with both paddles open.
It's a similar story with the next lock, except that the rear bollard is positioned slightly differently and the rope almost isn't long enough, but I manage it in the end. At the next lock there's a boat waiting to come down and I chat with her captain while we're waiting for the lock to fill. He recommends mooring just before the railway bridge—which is basically the pound I'm just about to enter. He says that it's relatively quiet (if you ignore the trains), that there are shops nearby (including an Aldi) and that the only problem he had was the boat grounding in the middle of the night. Hoping that that won't happen to me, I thank him for his advice and moor up halfway between Baddesley Bridge and the railway bridge.
I'm cold and a bit damp again so I warm up and get changed, then remember the centre loop. I surround the loop with the sealant that was used on the cracks in the roof near the central heating chimney, hoping that this will work. When I come back indoors, the drips seem to have stopped, so maybe it has. We'll see what happens tomorrow after it gets pulled and stretched a bit.
I can't face cooking so I walk past the next two locks to The King's Head. It's quiet but they do a giant Yorkshire with sausages, which is what I'd have made if I could have been bothered. It's dark when I've finished and I've forgotten to bring the Everlasting Torch, so it's a cautious walk back to the boat. It has stopped raining and the forecast for tomorrow is for occasional light showers. It'll be interesting to see how that's different to today. I'm pooped and in my warm cosy bed by 10:30.