When I thought about living on a narrowboat for an extended period I had images in my mind from the first time when we went to Langlollen. The draw was two aquaducts, the Pontcysyllte and Chirk which lead into a village called Trevor. Already my mental images are a reality as we wander around on various canals
The weather has been phenomenal the last few days, and this week is supposed to be even better. We have seen daffodils in full bloom. I was helming so couldn’t take any pictures but hopefully Sue will send me some.
Getting there physically has been interesting. Sue and Katherine arrived on February 10th, we had an evening and night with Sally and Trev and then we were off. It was hard saying goodbye to Sally and Trev. I had been with them from about Nov 25th. We had made it through 10 weeks together and are still friends, and Sally was amazing at gathering stuff for the boat and organizing it on the boat. They are able to re-claimed their dining room table!
During the winter there are stoppages on the canals so that work can be done on lock gates, tow paths, silting up, slipping banks. I had spent quite a few hours trying to match the stoppages list with the canals in question. There are many canals and many branches of canals all with slightly different names. Apparently there used to be an interactive map, but no more. So me, an amateur, unfamiliar with the canal terrain tried to work it out. Calling didn’t help. They kept referring me back to the list. Which they, sitting in an office somewhere, were using as well. Sue said “lets just wing it”. I already knew my first route was closed, so off we went. We arrived at Wolverhampton only to discover that the Wolverhampton flight was closed. At the point of entry. So we were able to see the lock empty, the bones of the canal. It was something to see. Each lock gate, which can weigh 1300 kg or more, has to be made for each end of each lock. Two at one end and one at the other. It is keeping at least one manufacturer busy. They last about 25 years. Given the rise in canal use by both permanant moorers and permanant cruisers, by weekend “cottagers”, and live aboards, narrowboat time shares and traditional holiday companies such as the one I am using, Cheshire Cat Narrowboat Holidays, they are frequently used.
One of the advantages of starting early in the season is that there are hardly any other people on the canals. I am practising steering and manouvering with hardly anyone else around. Good practice for the warmer months when the canals will be swarming with boats. Any hints about how to steer in reverse are greatly appreciated. Every time I get through a narrow bridge or a lock without hitting the sides I hear Alan Gotlib’s voice in my head – “well done you”. It is generally, as they say, a contact sport, and the scrapes on the boats demonstrates it. Tonight we are on the River Severn, ready to risk this tidal river tomorrow. Jane and Martin are meeting us in Droitwich to give me a new sim card. Yes, I dropped my phone in the canal. It was in my inside pocket of my coat, and I bent down to tie up the boat. Now I want a phone harness.
Getting there inside the boat as well. Sally got me started on organizing the space. I have baskets for veg, for crackers, for food basics. So much easier than rummaging around in the cupboard. Today I sorted out the cupboard for books. Bought two more baskets. Now everythig does not fall out of the cupboard as soon as it is opened. Every nook and cranny is being utilized to make this five months comfortable and easy for people to come and go. Katherine has bought two chairs and a small table. The two chairs are just about the colour of the paint work of the boat. Great for sitting up front during the day, and on the canal side in the evening. Ah, the luxuries.
The final “getting there”. Managing the infrastructure. The boat runs on diesel and should be topped up regularly to avoid condensation. The toilet is a cassette and needs to be emptied regularly to avoid overflow. Yucky poo, literally. Water needs to be loaded on, and we humans can be profligate with water. I am getting into a rythmn with all these things. It takes some planning, looking ahead at the route and ensuring that our needs are met. Love the guides. But I wish there was more consistency between the Nicholsons guides, they number the bridges, and the Canal and Waterways Trust, they number the locks. Try matching those two things up.
The final final getting there is about Zoey. There are dogs everywhere here (have I already said that?). On boats, on towpaths, in pubs. Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. And I am beginning to look at then without too much of a pain in my heart. And thinking, thinking about what would suit me. Has to be small. A Lakeland Terrier? Battersea Dogs Home is what we used to say when answering the phone as kids as a lark. There is a Battersea Dogs Home, now the Battersea Dog and Cats Home. May have to take a look. But I still miss Zoey every day.