Sunday, September 24, 2017


Cows on a bridge
This is our third Narrowboat trip, My sister and her husband have done five, and our new friends have gone twice. As you pilot the Narrowboat through the UK’s canal system, bridges are a constant. There is a bridge every mile or so. Sometimes you have to actually pilot the boat across a bridge over a valley, but normally we are navigating the boat under the bridges. Now these bridges are very useful in navigating, because they are all numbered and you can track your progress and locate your position in the guide book by knowing which bridge you just went under. There are railway bridges, and motorway bridges, but the majority of the bridges crossing the canal are just bridges. They go nowhere; there is nothing on either end. Perhaps 100 years ago there was a cart road, but now there is just a field on either end of the bridge. We saw more cows on bridges than vehicles. And most of these bridges are old; crumbling brick structures arching across the canal no where near a road.

Now the boats are called “Narrowboats”, because the canals are narrow so the boats are only seven feet wide to allow two boats to pass in opposite direction on the canals. These bridges are even narrower, allowing only one boat to go under at a time. The canal under the bridges narrows to about nine feet, allowing only a foot at the most on either side. To compensate for being “narrow”, the boats are long, and with six people this year our boat is almost 70 feet long. For some reason, the bridges always seem to be positioned on a corner, so you are cruising along and you come around a corner to find a bridge in the middle of the corner. It is not easy to get a 70 foot long boat lined up to slip under a bridge that is only slightly wider than the boat. All the bridges sport scars from boats not being perfectly aligned and to see some of the scars, you have to wonder what the boats that made them look like. Sometimes you carefully get you boat all lined up to slip through and OOPS, there is another boat coming down who has the right-of-way and you have so quickly change course to let him through.
Two bridges in a row

But on our first day, we managed to successfully navigate three lift bridges, and under 45 regular bridges. We did run aground while trying to avoid a traffic jam at one bridge and we scared one of our crew who suddenly looked up to see the boat headed right into the side of a bridge (It was one that required a bit of a “tack” on a very sharp turn, and we actually made it through perfectly). Tomorrow we have two tunnels and two aqueducts to navigate, so there is always something to keep you entertained.

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