Thursday, 24 December 2009

canal to river

Having spent two weeks driving from our house to the boat at weekends waiting to get the engine fixed we encountered some interesting people.
The first was when we were moored near by to Princess Diana's old house.
Along the tow path came a set of neatly tailored confused looking toffs. The were really disorientated with a giant poodle in tow.
They took one look at my dog (handsome Brin) and said
'Oh look Fifi, isn't he flirty!' ....
The canal was situated next to an A road. And the toffs then asked me
'Are we near a road? Can we let the dog off the lead?'
You could hear the traffic roaring next to us. And I kindly pointed out the road next to us.
They look some interest in the boat and were amazed to see the washing machine near the open back door.

I couldn't face the journey down the flight of seventeen locks again. I really couldn't. And thankfully we got two shifts of friends and relatives to help us. In addition, I was away on a business trip that weekend. Great timing.

At the end of the locks were were off the canal system and onto the river. This was also unknown territory to me. It was wider, scarier and had huge locks with intimidating sliding metal guillotine structures that held back the frequently strong flow.

I joined the party at Northampton. Alex had done an exhausting twelve hours sailing without a break and was going full pelt in the old girl. I waited for them to arrive then saw a yellow streak of boat going faster than it ever had before using the current to make up time. I thought they would never stop.

The next part of the journey was the most fascinating for me. We sailed into the night shining our torches onto the large fish in the river. The river smelled like perfume for the entire length. Which I later found out was probably because of the beer/larger making factory that put the treated hops water into the river.

We saw for the first time, feral looking people living in communities or singly along the river. It seemed like the wild west . One lady was on the back deck with her ironing board doing her Sunday afternoon task of ironing.... with her electric generator on at an ear splitting rate, ironing her husbands 'PC World' work shirts. Some people had put up hammocks in the trees next to their boats, or kennels for their dogs.

Which reminds me of the day we first tried sailing our boat. Out of the marina, then onto the canal net work. There was a lady pushing a wheel barrow of wood along the tow path a mile or so to her boat. She was going faster than we were as Alex was afraid of hitting the bridges. So much has changed now.

Our engine had trouble us the entire way. It bilged out smoke and was unbearable to me for longer than half an hour. So he built a chimney to funnel it away from us. This was destroyed when we forgot about it when we went under the first bridge. Without any effort it was ripped away and we didn't bother making another. Instead I would go to the front of the boat, where I would also not hear the dreadful din of the old engine.

One evening, I woke for no good reason with a start. A boat was sailing by with lights off, and went through the guillotine lock near by. This spooked me out at the time. But more was to come. I looked up at our newly installed carbon monoxide detector. It was showing that we had a problem. I opened the window and down the indicator went. Closed it and up it went again. Our heating system was trying to kill us! I opened the windows and stayed awake until morning. The boat yard was supposed to have done a safety check on all this. We had the certificate to say so. But without the alarm we could have died that night. The boat yard sent some one to fix it without as much as an apology.

We were heading for Peterborough. The plan was for Alex to be able to live on the boat a few days a week and me to stay in the house and get together a few days a weeks. But as we headed towards Fotheringhay then engine failed and we cruised to a stop near the bridge. And stayed there for the next two years and more.

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