I have always loved writing, and now that I am retired I thought I would be able to find time to write, but it seems that I still manage to fill my days with activities. I have however found that while I travel, I enjoy writing about some of the interesting things we do. I hope you enjoy reading of our adventures as much as I like writing about them.
Monday, September 14, 2015
A Day the Narrowboat Way
Our Home for Two Weeks
Although in many ways living on a
narrowboat for two weeks is similar to spending time in an RV, there are also
many differences. To give you some idea of what it is like I will describe what
a day could be like.
If we have a lot of locks to work our way
through, we will usually sit and have breakfast together. The boat has an
apartment sized fridge working on LPG, so we have cold milk for cereal, butter
margarine and jam for toast, or eggs and delicious English bacon. As well, a
nice cup of coffee is needed to start our day even on the boat. If we do not
have locks to navigate, Bill likes to get underway right away, so he or I go
check the engine, start it up and we push off. Whoever is piloting the boat,
expects his or her breakfast (or at least a hot cup of coffee) is delivered out
to the back of the ship where the tiller is. The other option is to get the
boat under way and then eat in shifts so the pilot can take a break to have
If we do not have locks to go through, the
person piloting the boat is the only one who
Ok, I think the pub is just up here . .
actually has to do much, and they
have to be constantly alert; a momentary laps to watch the cows in the field
next to the canal can result in running ashore. The canal is often barely two
boat widths wide, and in places two boats cannot pass without running into
weeds, so it does not take much to be into the banks. It is not usually a
problem however and the boats all have a long pole to push you back off the
bank. You can zip along at the dizzying speed of 4 MPH at times but when you
are passing other boats, even moored ones, or houses, you are expected to slow
down to 2 MPH, so people walking on the paths beside the locks often pass you. Although
the pilot stands and steers the boat with the tiller, and occasionally adjusts
the speed, they have to be constantly alert, and it is actually quite tiring if
you have to do it for a long time. Normally we take turns so no one has to be
at the tiller all day. The people not piloting the boat can sit and watch the
countryside slide by, or they can read, play games or even write
Watch out for Wildlife
blog posts on
the computer . . .
A day with locks is completely different.
Every time you need to go through a lock, someone has to get out of the boat to
operate the locks. They take a special crank or windless to open and close the
paddles which allow the water into the locks or drain it out. One person can
operate the locks, but it is easier with two because you need someone on each
side of the canal. If it is just one lock the person piloting the boat lets the
lock workers off before the lock and picks them up after the lock. However if
there are a series of locks in a row as often happens, the lock workers may as
well stay out and walk to the next lock. On the days when we had to do 18
locks, you spent most of the day off the boat working the locks or walking to
the next lock. If the locks are close together it is useful to have more than
one person, because one person can go ahead to prepare the next lock. You spend
a lot of time standing around waiting for the lock to fill or empty so you can
open the gates to let the boat in.
Keep to the Canal
Sometime during the day we just decide to
take a break and pull over and make a cup of tea. Bill has discovered that the
blackberries are ripe along the canal and there are buckets of them. Sometimes
when we stopped he would disappear to go pick blackberries and we had no idea
where he was.
Usually around 3:00 we will find someplace
to pull over to moor for the evening. Although there are designated “mooring”
areas in towns, you can normally stop almost anywhere along the canal. There is
a walking path beside the canal; these paths are called “tow-paths”, because
before engines powered the boats horses towed the boats along the paths. These
paths are right beside the boat, and all evening people out walking, biking or
exercising their dogs go by usually with a cheerful greeting. They are used to
finding someone new parked beside the canals close to where they walk. If you are in a
town, you might find an interesting pub to try for dinner but in the
countryside someone has to prepare an evening meal.
Tying up the Boat
Then, especially on days when we had a lot
of locks, everyone goes to bed early, to be rocked to sleep by the gentle
motion of the water. You sleep pretty well after a busy day on the canals.