Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Living On A Narrowbaot

Misty Morning On the Canal
There are distinct “classes” of people in boats on the canal. In many cases, those of us who are renting boats for a holiday are the bottom of the list, getting in the way of the “serious” boaters as we learn our way around their canals. Narrowboating has become very popular and judging by the cars in the parking lots of the fancy new marinas along the canals it is also very profitable.

There is however another group of people on the canals, those who actually live on their boats. To them, the boats are not a weekend recreation, they are their homes. As you motor along the canals, you will often see boats moored alongside the canals in areas away from the normal 24 hour or 48 hour spots. These boats do not always look as pristine as some on the canals, they look a bit worn, a bit faded, well actually what they look like is “Lived in” which is actually what they are. You will see stacks of wood on the roof, or bags of coal, and often bicycles or even baby strollers, and almost always plants, sometimes entire gardens decorate the roof and front and back areas.

At one stop where I was waiting for Bill to pull the boat up to get water, I could see another boat pulling into the water spot. This boat was piloted by a young woman and the boat looked a bit worn and “Lived In”. As it pulled up, two dogs stuck their heads out of the front, and a boy of about 12 – 14 jumped out of the back with the aft line in his hand. When I
asked if they would pull as far forward as possible, he jumped to untie and move his mooring spot. The young woman piloting the boat needed to give him no instructions, he knew exactly what to do, and when Bill maneuvered our boat in behind, he immediately jumped to help tie us up as well.  As his mother packed a cart with washing and recycling, she told him to fill the water tank.

As I waited for him to finish (He tried to hook our boat up as well as his, but it would not work), he and I chatted. He told me about his two dogs. He told me about trying to fix the broken water tank cap (“You know how much they want for one of these ? 18 quid . . . . ridiculous!”). He asked where we were from and I asked him about living on a boat. He knew how to do anything on the boat, and his mother obviously trusted him to do it, as on one of her trips back and forth, she told him to move the boat if someone needed the water spot.

Moored by the Bridge
While he was filling his tank and helping me fill mine, he took both dogs for a walk, rode is bike to get a circular saw from someone he knew that he thought he could fix, and kept me completely entertained while I was filling the water tank.

I am enjoying this narrowboat vacation, but this stop for water gave me a completely different perspective of life on the canals. I enjoyed my brief visit with Alfie, and I developed a great deal of respect for the life he leads. My time filling the water tank with him added a great deal to the trip. Thanks Alfie!

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