Sunday, 5 June 2016

Fat Bottomed Boats

Hello again 
There's not a lot of boating to report this week. The Lady Aberlour has been tucked up safe and sound in Blisworth Marina while Carl and I swapped tiller for steering wheel and whizzed home to collect prescriptions and post and to inspect the wilderness that is our garden. I swear our gardener has a crystal ball – we arrived home to find the front lawn wild and overgrown but as soon as Carl struck up the mower, Allan's van appeared, as if by magic. I think Carl was pleased to put our pathetic, orange, wimpy thing back in the shed and let Alan strike up the 'Beast' – it made short work of both lawns. After he'd gone, we went out to inspect the nicely shorn green patch at the front but somehow it just made the wild borders look worse – everything has gone mad. Someday we're going to have to devote some of our boating year to gardening, but now we're back on the boat and the sun is shining, I'm afraid it doesn't seem like a very attractive prospect.
There was some boating at the beginning of the week - when I last wrote, we were shivering at the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne flight wishing that the sun would come out. The weather hadn't improved much overnight as Tricky and I set off towards the first lock with Carl chugging along behind. There were two boats already moored on the lock landings, they were hanging around waiting for the lock-keepers to send some water down. A boat had gone up the flight late on Sunday evening and left the paddles open, draining the pound. As usual, I struck up a conversation with the crew of the two boats ahead of us and discovered that their boats were small enough to fit in the locks one behind each other, leaving room for us to come in alongside. Three boats in a lock equals three crew to do the work – now that's a result on a chilly Bank Holiday Monday! When we got the signal to say that the water shortage had been resolved, we raced up the 7 locks in double quick time and chugged through the bustling boating village looking for a place to moor to enjoy the festivities. Stoke Bruerne is a busy place on any day of the week but the bank holiday had attracted several boat traders selling there wares from converted working boats or from stands attached to their more modern boats. There was a good selection of crafts to choose from - paintings, jewellery, rag rugs and painted canalware. It was a real carnival atmosphere and the tow-path was busy with families and gongoozlers. Two trip boats were running, one from the Museum and the other from the pub, taking people to the tunnel and back and every now and then, a wide-beamed boat came along causing chaos through the narrow bit, which was where we had chosen to moor. I was amazed how close some boats could get without actually hitting us! The tourists on the tow-path were a constant stream all afternoon and in the end we had to hang the privacy scarf up as Carl got tired of people staring in to watch him reading his book! It's only a scarf pegged to the curtain rail but its very effective – I don't mind people looking in, as long as we're tidy but Carl says it puts him off and I must admit I'm always worried about dropping off in my chair and finding a crowd of people looking in and laughing at me dribbling and snoring.
As I walked Tricky later, I noticed a wide-beamed boat moored up by the tunnel entrance and I wondered if he was booked to go through first thing in the morning. The tunnel is wide enough for two narrow boats to pass but larger craft have to book with the tunnel keepers, who stop oncoming traffic to prevent a collision. Tricky and I really hate meeting boats in a tunnel so we thought we would get up early in the morning and try to tag on behind him. We were up with the larks and went chugging off at just gone half past seven but we were just too late. The widebeam had gone and the tunnel keeper was flagging us down – we would have to wait for one each way, which would be at least an hour. 'Can you make good speed' said the tunnel keeper as he saw the disappointment on our faces. 'We'll give it full throttle' said Carl. And he waved us through – what a bit of luck. We could see the lights of the boat in front of us and we went full steam ahead to catch up with him. It was pretty cold and damp in the tunnel, I could see my breath when I ventured up top, I soon hunkered down under the hatch with Tricky when we got to the first wet bit – it was streaming down from the ventilation shaft like Niagara Falls. We came roaring out of the tunnel and waved our thanks to the fat bottomed boat that was waiting to waddle through – what a good start to the day.
Later that morning we turned into Blisworth Marina and I hopped off at the entrance to find out where to go. The marina manager and I walked round to the pontoon and I stood at the end so that Carl could see me and know where to head for. It was a grey, windy day and I felt a bit worried as I saw Carl steaming towards me at a fair pace and then heaving on the tiller to reverse the boat into our space. I was surprised as he normally goes in bows first, if given the choice. 'Have you got bow thrusters?' asked the marina man. 'Oh no' I replied and he frowned as if it might be a problem. Carl swung the tiller and the bows shot round and he lined the stern up to reverse into the space and very nearly made a perfect manoeuvre except for a gust of wind that swung the stern and rested our fender very gently under the pontoon, where it jammed. I took over on the tiller while Carl stepped off with the rope and after a bit of heaving, the stern slid backwards into the space – amazing! I gave Carl 9 out of 10 for attempting a reverse park on such a windy day and without a cross word we settled our 'Lady' for a well earned rest while we tootled off in the car. It was still in the hedge where I left it, a little dusty and covered in hawthorn blossom and for once, I was happy when it rained on the way home - it sluiced the worst of it off.
We're back on the boat now and we'd seen the forecast for wall-to-wall sunshine today – we moored in a pretty spot so that we could make the most of the heatwave. How disappointed were we to get up to grey skies yet again. It was gone 11 before the promised sunshine arrived but it was everything they said it would be and I've had the most glorious day. I was sitting out in my chair with book and hook watching the boats go by and chatting to walkers and boaters - now, did I hear someone say they were too hot? It's only a matter of time!
That's all for this week – more ramblings as usual next week
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers