They say it’s good for the soul….confession that is. Time to give it a go. For one whole year my best friend and I have been holed-up in a marina. The boat, the good ship (narrowboat) The Glad Victor, stayed moored in one place, never going anywhere. Continuous cruisers look away.
I took a helmsman course and drove….rather steered….the boat 60+ miles from Crick Marina to Apsley Marina last August (2015), over a period of 5 days, moored the boat along our jetty at Apsley, let our neighbour, Eddie, tie us to the jetty, shut off the engine, plugged into the marina’s electric power source and didn’t move for the entire year.
Serious narrowboaters tut at such nonsense. I was just glad to get there in one piece and relax. We had all the conveniences nearby, including a great pub….albeit expensive, great neighbours and boating community inside the marina with impromptu parties by the boats when the weather cooperates, incredible stories to tell about being out on the cut (the canal) and a parking space for the car.
Besides all that, I kind of lost my nerve after a few months in the marina. I began forgetting what to do when on the move. I stopped thinking about it and just enjoyed the sedentary lifestyle the marina offered. But every time I saw a boat going along the cut, I wanted to be out there….to go different places, see different things and basically do what you’re supposed to do when you own a narrowboat. I mean, having a floating RV is a dream.
Then one fine summer day, my neighbour Eddie says, “Let’s take the boats down to Limehouse Marina for a couple of weeks.” “Great idea Eddie,” says I, “That’s right by the River Thames isn’t it? Tidal and all that?” “Why, yes it is Larry. Is that a problem?” Of course not….not for me anyway. My best friend wasn’t as keen at first. Going out in the boat, naturally, but into the heart of the great city of London? Not so much. And tidal waters to her meant deeper and more unpredictable waters.
Anyway, the idea seemed to die out for a while. We set no dates and had no real plan. But every so often, Eddie would say, “Right, we’ve got to start planning for that trip to Limehouse.” And we’d all say ‘yes’ and that was it for the moment. Until one day in early August when Eddie came by the boat and said, “Right, let’s set some dates for this trip or we’ll never go.” And he was sticking to Limehouse as the destination.
We chose dates, the last week of August and the first week of September and began checking the route. I went into instant panic mode. This meant I had to give the engine a thorough check and try to remember which way to turn the tiller when in reverse. And always take it slow and easy. Had to reread the rules of the cut and all that. There was likely to be a lot of water traffic down there and wouldn’t you know it, we picked the worst two weeks to go. Carnival was on in Notting Hill, right by the canal, and Angel was having a canal festival during our time in the big city. That meant even more water traffic.
If they weren’t deterrent enough, Camden Lock was being closed for major repairs. I think the lock in Camden is the most gongoozled (look it up) lock on the entire canal system. You’re an instant celebrity when you pass through Camden. And we were going to be denied? £200,000 was being spent to put in new lock gates and empty, clean out and repair the bricks inside the lock.
Not looking good but we were committed. So, we began to prepare. Lots of little things to remember, not least of which is how much food to take and how many bottles of brew and wine (read Prosecco) to carry along in the hold. Did I mention rum? What good is a sailor without his rum?
Weed hatch check. Oil….check, crank shaft oil….check, engine coolant….check. Taking down the back pram cover (that had me worried)….check. Making sure the water tank was full… check. Enough diesel? 3/4 full. Check. Untie and slip out of the marina without looking like a complete novice and total prat. Fortunately, it all came back….check. And we’re on our way at the amazing pace of 4mph (6.437376 km/hr).
The first two locks come up very quickly. My best friend and Miriam (she of the other boat) handled them with grace, poise and tons of sweat. It was a very hot day when we left the marina. Eddie and I drove the boats into the locks once the gates were opened, Eddie yelling “Paddles!!” to the ladies at every paddle opening oportunity (look up canal lock paddles if you really want to know). Then the way was wide open…except for the other locks that is. There would be 46 locks in all going and coming back.
I’m saving the rest of the trip for the next few Blogs. Tales of parades, weeds (and weed), drug dealers, a magician, tangled propellers, duckweed, big fish, a large turtle, 4 drowned motorcycles, nosey people, good food, SADS, ludicrous locks, a gorilla, a crocodile, Amy Whitehouse and so much more. You won’t want to miss any of it. I know I didn’t.