I wrote a while ago about boats along the cut. It takes all kinds in any walk of life. Narrowboating is no exception. The straight and narrow and the weird and wonderful. There are four main kinds of boats on the canal system, narrowboats of varying lengths and configurations, widebeams from 9-12 feet in width, Dutch barges and plastic boats….a derogatory name given to those white outboard motor boats.
Boats are a personal thing to most boaters. Narrowboats especially. Considering the whole narrowboat enterprise goes back to the 18th century, we’ve had centuries to get attached to these 6-7 foot (2.1 metres) wide vehicles. Since diesel and petrol motors were introduced in the early 20th century, getting about on the canals is easier. A little smellier but easier. One horse power might have been enough years ago. Things happened at a slower pace back then. And then we demanded speed and freedom of movement. At 4mph, we tear up and down the cut. Some daredevils wind out their motors to 8-12 breathtaking mph, but that’s going against the grain. Still, we don’t have to feed a horse or stable it, so I guess engines have helped somewhat.
I like walking the towpath near our marina, looking at the boats moored along the sides of the canal and more recently at the Rickmansworth Canal Festival near by. Boat names fascinate me as well as how people decorate the outside of their crafts. The longer you’ve been a narrowboater, the more crazy it seems to get. Roofs (rooves) are the most decorated, or dumped on, part of the boat’s exterior. That makes sense when you consider it’s the largest part of the boat that can hold anything. Sometimes you get a glimpse inside a boat. I love the old boats. Traditional narrowboat stuff and all.
Boat names are personal. Some are inherited when you buy a used boat. They say it’s unlucky to change a name once the boat has been monikered, but people do it and no one has died….I think. Our boat is The Glad Victor. When we have the boat repainted in a few years, we may change it to just The Victor or simply Victor, my dad’s name and my middle name. Not sure where the ‘Glad’ came from. Never met the previous owner.
But names are sacred to some. My neighbour Eddie’s boat is ‘My Precious’. I’ve mentioned that before. Bet you’ll never guess what his favourite movie is. That and some other explanation that Eddie gave me that I forget. And I think it’s personal, so we’ll leave it at that. Other boats have the names of present or previous owners. Some are silly and others irreverent. There are clever names and not so clever, but all have meaning of some sort to the owner. Raggedy boats don’t usually display their name. By raggedy I mean narrowboats that probably haven’t seen a lick of paint in years. The owners don’t care. They are on the canals for many reasons, one not being for showing off their boats. Off-the-grid don’t you know.
I’m not one for a cluttered roof. But I imagine in years to come, more stuff will find its way onto the top of our boat. “Over my dead body,” says my best friend. We are planning on a solar panel or two. Very necessary in this land of infinite sunshine….although it is raining at the moment. Very unusual. I also like those painted kettles and watering cans on the roof. They are part of the more traditional past of narrowboating. The roses and castles theme intrigues me. A few pots on our roof would look great I think. “Over my dead body,” says my best friend. How about a flag? Same response. Strong-minded that one.
Now that boats are on the move, it’s fun to watch them speed by our marina at 4mph. It got boring during the winter seeing the same old boats moored along the towpath out on the cut, like ‘Bramble’ and ‘Ken’s Free’. Considering that continous cruisers are supposed to stay for no more than 14 days in any one place, these two boats, especially, have taken liberties and have been moored in place for months. So, being the dutiful and fair person that I am, I complained about it. Not to anyone that mattered mind you, just the warden of our marina, Dave. I call him the harbour master and he just shakes his head in total disbelief every time I say it, but warden sounds to me like we’re in prison.
So I says to Dave, “Dave, those two boaters have taken liberties being out there for months.” He says back, “And which two boats are you referring to Larry.” I retort, “You know, Dave, Bramble and Ken’s Free.” “Yes,” says Dave, “I know the ones. The owner of Bramble has been poorly (sick) for some time and is unable to move. The owner of Ken’s Free died on his boat some time ago and no one is sure what to do with his boat.”
Bramble don’t ramble and Ken’s free at last. And I suffer from foot-in-mouth.