Before I begin, just let me say that I appreciate all the comments you’ve made regarding my Blogs. Thanks. Even the negative ones are appreciated. I learn as I go. I have also to tell you I write for me….so, if anything upsets you or you disagree with something, tant pis. And just one more thing….this Blog is more informative than sexy. I like comparisons. My last book compared London, England to London, Ontario. Madcap maybe. Fun for sure. Since drastically changing the way I live, I find myself looking to the waterways of life. I love being on the water or beside it. A psychic once told me I needed to be near water. Here I am, living on a boat in a marina in England just outside London.
Marinas in England are very different from the ones I knew growing up in Ontario, Canada. First of all, the boats are different. You don’t find narrow boats, wide beams and Dutch barges on the Trent-Severn Waterway (canal, rivers and lakes) in Ontario. And the marinas along the way are mainly for gassing up and getting a few supplies. The marinas that do have accommodation are usually for cruiser and sail boats. And most of those are found around Lake Simcoe. Only the Port of Orillia on Lake Simcoe took boats at maximum 80 feet in length. The rest are between 30 to 60 feet, most on the low-end. Lake Simcoe is a massive 19 miles long and 16 wide covering 279 square miles with 150 miles of shoreline.
The Trent-Severn Waterway system is 240 miles long, running from Trenton on lake Ontario to Port Severn and Georgian Bay. Only 32 miles of the waterway are man-made canals with 45 locks and 39 swing bridges. The rest is lakes and rivers. The system took 87 years to complete and was supposed to transport logs to saw mills but soon lost its economice viability. Today it is a recreational waterway. Along with cruisers (motor boats) and sail boats, you can rent house boats….sort of boxes on a barge. I did that one summer a long time ago. Lots of fun. They are as stable on an open lake as they are along the canals. Ontario has over 250,000 fresh water lakes and 62,000 miles of river. Lots of water and places to boat, even if only by canoe, kayak or rowing boat.
You can fit the UK into Ontario nearly 41/2 times but the linked canal and river systems in the country are to be envied. It boasts 2000 miles if navigable inland waterways, 1,569 locks, 3,112 bridges, 53 tunnels (the longest, the Standedge being over 3 miles long), 370 aqueducts and 74 reservoirs. That pretty well carves up the country nicely. Our marina is on The Grand Union Canal, the longest in the UK at 137 miles from London to Birmingham. Birmingham has the distinction of having more canals than Venice, 100 miles of them in fact. It takes some 74 hours to do the trip from London to Birmingham on a narrow boat….and that would be if you didn’t stop. The speed limit along the canals is 4mph. Some rev it up when no one’s around. But at those breakneck speeds of up to 8 to 10mph, there is the risk of erosion to the natural banks from the wash of the boats wake. So, most of us, who give a damn about preserving our canals, go the speed limit. Anyway, you see more when you travel at 4mph.
Along the Grand Union are some 43 marinas. Ours has 65 berths for boats up to 74 feet. My boat is 58ft 4in. long. It fits easily into any lock along the route. We have electric plugins, water to fill our tanks, showers and toilets if needed, laundry facilities and other amenities. And there’s a great pub just outside the marina. My best friend has to work in the city, so we’re close enough (half hour by train with the station a 5 minute walk from here) and far enough to feel like we’re in the country. Best of both worlds. We have great neighbours and helpful as well. Best of all worlds. We lack for nothing and we’re mobile if we take the notion to see more of rural and urban Britain. Just takes us a little longer to get anywhere.
Living the dream. That’s what they say. They’re right in this instance. We have a residential mooring because we live on our boat. There are vessels in this marina that sit here for months without anyone going aboard. Other people come on weekends and one guy hasn’t been seen all year….and, no, he isn’t lying dead on his boat. All kinds of boats moor up outside of the marina. These are the continuous cruisers. They travel the canals of Britain, never staying anywhere long enough to collect barnacles. They have to move. At least every 2 weeks. And they have to go out of the district when they go. Rules of The Cut. Still, you get the ones who just stay put. One chap was trying to sell his boat and sat outside our marina for 9 months until finally moving on….about 300 yards along. Must know someone. But the Canal and River Trust (CRT) who manage the canals have been cracking down on offenders. They have to. Last year it was reported that over 30,000 craft were on British waterways. This year it’s much higher. We don’t need gridlock on the system….so, offenders beware. Boats have been confiscated and boaters heavily fined for breaking the rules….which are now actually laws I think.
Well, there you go. Life here is good. Better when the weather cooperates. The marinas in Britain are the best I have to say….more colourful at least. Boats of every size and paint job. Love the names too. ‘My Precious’ sits next to us. ‘Last Chance’ is down the way. Sounds more like a horse race. Come over some time to have a tour of the marina or a cup of tea on board our boat. Not all at once. We have a rating of 6 people maximum.