Take one transplanted Englishman landlubber, mix with an Aussie lassie who is sight challenged and add one narrowboat. Recipe for disaster? Not with this couple. The male in question, Keith, moved to Australia years ago where he met his fair lady, Linda. A tribute to romance and great teamwork. And, like all great couples, one is the creative dreamer, while the other is a practical mathematician. It just works.
One day, it was time for Sir Keith (not knighted as such, but a knight in shining armour anyway) to return to his native land with his fair maiden to visit relatives and old friends. It had to be a year stay to make it worthwhile, but how to live economically without being a burden on anyone? How about moveable housing?
To the internet they went and purchased, sight unseen, a 57 foot narrowboat. They arrived on England’s green and pleasant land during midsummer of 2015 taking residence on Midsummer the boat, moored at Rugby Boat sales, just south of where we were moored at the same time last year. They, like us, had never even been on a narrowboat before this. The stuff of madness some may think. Not so. Read on.
After leaving our first mooring at Crick where we bought our boat, we had moored up several miles down the cut just past a lock known as Buckby Top Lock, near Long Buckby. A pub called The New Inn lies beside the lock. Some beautiful homes are strung along one side of the canal with gardens to rival the ancient city of Babylon. We moored across from these homes in this idyllic setting.
We weren’t moored up long before another boat came along and parked just behind ours with the name Clark & Company, Retford No. 259 on the side. A lovely couple on board too. And just after that, Midsummer moored in front of us. Now the plot thickens. Turns out Midsummer had been owned by the couple behind us. Some coincidence that. We all had a good laugh and then headed for The New Inn for brewskis and a getting aquainted session. Nice thing about this little group? Everyone was interested in everyone else’s story. I like that. I’m not one for folks who only like to talk about themselves.
We all decided to stay an extra day, but only me, my best friend and Linda and Keith went for a long walk the next day along the towpath, the other way, to Whilton marina. Along the way, we stopped at a little cottage at the side of the towpath where they sold articles painted with the traditional canal art. All done by the proprietors. A family run business. The best of Britain. At the marina, we all bought useful things for our boats and Keith and I talked about all things to do with our new floating aquisitions. We were both novices finding our way.
The only difference between us is that Keith is very handy and I’m not. He told me about the things he was going to do while aboard. I was in awe. The four of us then sat outside at the marina’s cafe and had a coffee and a pastry and talked for ages. We got up to leave and as we walked away, one of the cafe staff ran after us. We had been so lost in conversation, we had forgotten to pay.
The next day we all headed out, us to our marina some 60 miles away and Keith and Linda to adventures galore to the north and east. They would be continuous travellers for the next year, cruising the canals of Britain, visiting historic sites, meeting fascinating people, avoiding dangerous situations, surviving wild storms, fixing broken boat bits, mooring along some of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere in the world, trying out a variety of pubs and fine dining places and generally living the bohemian lifestyle. Linda Blogged all the way along on a Facebook Special page, ‘Narrowboating with KJ in the UK’. Great photos, videos and Blogs.
They survived the winter, which for an Aussie lass who is used to the heat of her homeland is an ordeal in itself. Keith kept their fire burning bright and warm. The two visited us once in January. They love our boat. We did a lot of catching up and laughed at each others’ foibles. They said they were heading south in the Spring and would be up our way, in their boat, in June. I was envious of their adventures….but the best was yet to come.
Linda and Keith travelled south on rivers and canals until they reached the River Thames. Only the foolhardy take narrowboats along that waterway. The Thames water current moves swiftly and large power boats create substantial wakes. In a flat-bottomed boat, things can be tricky. Not for Keith. He glided along without a look of care on his face. “Easiest thing I’ve ever done. From the Limehouse Basin to Richmond. Nothing to it” he said. “You’re my hero” said I.
The intrepid couple made their way up the Grand Union, facing harsh winds and lashing rain and finally arrived to our marina. Here they stayed for a couple of days, moored opposite us, beside a wobbly, bird-poo spattered jetty. Keith replaced his boat batteries, made new holders for his fenders (rubber thingys that protect the paint work on the sides of boats), cooked us dinner and generally odd-jobbed about Midsummer. I sat at the end of my jetty watching him saw and drill. Fascinating. And in rather hot weather too. My best friend brought out the Pimms and we sat in great admiration, takng in the proceedings over the way.
Linda and Keith left a few days later. Work done. Keith wanted to stay another day, but Linda wanted to get back to the freedom on the cut. We wished them well and helped them through the first 2 locks near our marina. Linda, even with the challenged sight, works the locks. She is amazing to watch. They were heading north up The Grand Union. Adventures still to come. Sail on sailors.