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 breakfast.

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.

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