A Canadian Turtle on the Oxford Canal
(a Meandering, Catching Up sort of post)
That's not exactly The Turtle in the photograph. It's the Prince of Caversham, the narrowboat we rented from Caversham Boat Rentals near Reading. We have been on board for two weeks, and we haven't had access to wi-fi since the first day. Not only that, but the trip has been fraught with Perils and Frustrations and Adventures -- also Joy and Happiness and the Pain of Parting.
I had neither time nor energy to write until the night before last, when I decided I had better start writing things down before they all got jumbled in my head (too late! too late!) Never mind. I'll copy down what I've written over the last couple of days, and later on, I'll fill in the huge gap in my narrative that is the last two weeks.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
We spent last night at Braunston (on the Grand Union Canal), having been delayed there by a lock malfunction. There were two boats (ahead of us) stuck in one of Braunston's seven locks. A paddle had come loose from its track, so it was impossible to empty the lock.
By the time British Waterways arrived and repaired the lock, it was really too late to go anywhere. Meanwhile, Erin and I walked into town - - straight uphill, as I recall -- bought about forty pounds of groceries, and lugged them home to the boat in our backpacks. We arrived at the canal just in time to see Robin (and our boat!) leaving in search of a mooring place. We flagged Robin down, climbed aboard, and collapsed. It was all we could do, any of us, to stay up until bedtime, and bedtime is remarkably early on this trip. Nine o'clock seems to be the witching hour, and nobody gets up until just before seven in the morning, when I roll out of bed and make the first pot of coffee.
First thing this morning, we left Braunston and headed for the Oxford Canal. We had been warned to stock up on supplies and make sure we had plenty of water, diesel, and calor gas (propane), because such niceties would be hard to come by on the Oxford -- so shortly after turning onto the Oxford, we stopped for diesel, water, and calor gas at Napton Marina in Stockton.
We drove into a berth at the marina. Nobody appeared to help us. I walked up to the office and interrupted the lady who was sitting at a desk, chatting on the phone. I asked about buying diesel, and she said "The men are on tea break, but they'll be back in about ten minutes." I thanked her. She went back to her conversation. We waited. By the time we left the marina, we had bought four tea towels (Canal shops sell the best tea towels in the world!), diesel, and calor gas. We had filled the water tank and pumped out the unmentionable. A friendly but unsmiling gentleman did that last job for us, and in the process he noticed that the clip holding our centre line onto the roof was ready to snap, so he replaced it. Already, we have had reason to be grateful for his powers of observation.
On the way out, we picked up a couple of leaflets advertising the narrowboats that we could rent from Napton Marina -- elegant vessels, all. As far as I know, the lady in the office was still chatting on the telephone.
We got as far as Napton, where we discovered that we wouldn't be able to go past Lock 15 that night because its hours of operation were restricted to four hours a day -- 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. -- and by the time we got there it would be too late. The restrictions were due to water shortages in this part of the country. We were at Lock 8. Our informant told us that we could moor in the pound just before Lock 15, but we would be in the middle of nowhere -- so we moored just after Lock 8 and walked into the village for provisions and just to have a look around.
Oh, but wait! I nearly forgot to tell about our third adventure -- the one that came between the two walks. Erin and I were making soup. Robin had gone back to the pub. We were working, chatting, having a cup of tea -- and something didn't feel right. Then I heard a strange noise. I went to the stern and opened the door. A man who was walking along the towpath said "I believe you are adrift." I turned and saw that our bow line had come loose. The bow was over on the other side of the canal. I called to Erin, who came out the bow door to find herself in a tree. The gentleman on the path took the centre line that I threw him (the one that had been ready to snap) and pulled us back to shore. The bow pin had come out of the soggy ground. Fortunately, we had tied up by threading the line through the pin's eye and bringing the line back to the boat, so the pin was still attached to the line. I got out the hammer, disengaged the pin, hammered it back into the ground, and tied it again. Meanwhile, Erin had come out and taken over the centre line so that our rescuer could go in his way. As I finished, reattaching the bown line, Erin told me I had better go deal with the stern line, because it was about to come out of the ground -- so I performed the same operation at the stern. All of this was made difficult by the fact that the head flew off the hammer every four or five strokes.
Never mind. By the time Robin got home, all was in order, and I was thinking very kind thoughts about that unsmiling man back at Napton Marine. If not for him, our adventure might not have had a happy ending.
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