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Land Ahoy or is it Man Overboard??

sunny 24 °C

Hands up to those who have ever tried steering a long narrowboat (otherwise called a canal boat) down a creek? Bloody hell, it's not as easy as it looks! We had visions of getting on the boat, steering out into the calm still quiet canal and meandering along at a leisurely pace, sipping on a cold beer or perhaps on a polite French red, friendly nodding and waving to our passer-by comrades and continuing on our journey from Napton following the Hawkesbury canal.........
HELL NO! We arrived at our destination (an hour and a half train ride from London) to a place called Rugby, right on schedule, we were blessed in having a really hot summers day, no wind, temperature around the high 20's and facing a rent-a-crowd London Piccadilly Circus welcome - remembering it was August bank holiday weekend! There were people, (and dogs) everywhere at the departure marina, cars, taxis, luggage, people, boats, bedlam ......and queues .......

Don't be mislead however, remembering that we four, Paul and Rae Ewing, Noel and myself, were in no particular hurry, after all, we had no pressing engagement or regimented schedule we needed to follow, hell no, we had all the time in the world to check in and get started ....

Well "Hannah" our lovely boat was presented to us and she was parked about 4 deep, which meant we had to wait for 3 other boats to be processed and depart.....we were invited on board to unpack and famaliarise ourselves with the lovely lady. WOW! Again, the English do things so damn well, "Hannah" was beautiful inside and out....2 double beds (separate bedrooms), modern bathroom with shower glass-door and toilet and handbasin, a built in modern kitchen (room to swing a healthy kiwi cat in) but boasted full oven/grill, fridge (perfect for the beer and cheese), sink and bench, cupboards with all utensils provided, and a sitting room and dining table with tv and radio. French doors leading from the sitting room to a front deck (big enough for Rae and Elsie) and a rear deck for the captains. What more could 4 kiwis ask for ........?

We were the last to leave the marina, by now it was quite late in the afternoon so being the tired and thirsty kiwis that we are, our first question we asked the boat keeper was the location of the nearest pub....and we found it, thanks to Paul and Noel manoeuvering a 30 point turn right in front of it in full view of other boaties and locals sitting in the garden bar - but hey they did it, and we eventually moored and enjoyed a really well-deserved cold beer or two, then plucked up the courage then to continue on with the trip and after a peaceful chug-a-long the canal passing loads of traffic, overlooking cows and bulls, sheep, freshly mowen hayfields and spying loads of ducks, ducklings and little birds which resumbled our kiwi pukekos, low bridges, sleepy marinas and quaint picturesque church steeples and serene inlets, we moored securely and safely and opened the bubbles, hooters (you know the ones, Elsie enjoys the birthday hooters just for the fun of it!!) and the pirates hats!! Great fun enjoyed by us all. We really were the experienced canal boaties now, but hang on a minute, what about mastering the locks, of which there were only 3 in total ......

Rae and I were designated the responsibility of firstly, jumping off Hannah onto the 'toe path' and tying the middle rope which "held" the boat close to the bank, and then opening the gate in order for Noel and Paul to sail into the lock, and undoing the paddles (this lets out the water) and then closing the gate and paddles, and opening the otherside and doing the same thing, making sure that all is done methodically and without incident - Noel came over to help us and nearly got his hand ripped off because he hadn't secured the paddle with the "key"! Of course, Rae and I knew exactly what to do ......!!

What a lot of fun and excitement, it seemed that at every lock there was a whirl of activity, as the locals seem to come out and watch the world go by and enjoy seeing everyone attempt the process, honestly we saw dogs jumping off their boats with the owners screaming at them to get back on, kids casually leaving behind their lock keys and would have if we hadn't told them, a longboat which had to stay inside the lock as its rudder had popped, just loads of noise, buzz and non-stop action. We loved it!

We met up with an incredible lot of people, thanks to sweet Dave, Guy, Kevin and Frank from Air New Zealand, who introduced us to drinking pimms on board, and to their wayward antics - believe me they had us in stiches, they had 2 NZ flags flying high on their boat, but they managed to hit other boats, (or was it the other way round), got yelled at by other captains, lost their buoy overboard,Guy talked to every Tom Dick and Harry, and who knows what else, but they truly delighted us with their stories, and we hope we can meet up again soon. And to the lovely English family (the Martins) from Doncaster (and their smelly dog!) who were so friendly towards us kiwis and made us feel so welcome in their mother country.

What an experience, please, if you are intending to travel to the UK, make it a priority to sail on the canals, it truly is so much fun, both Noel and Paul mastered the art of steering, reversing, manoevering, parking, locking, and drinking and eating whilst achieving all that!! What a memory for us all, and it was rather sad having to return to London after our 3 night stint - we kiwis are born to sail!!

We are now back to our "Fool 'em Flat" in Fulham, Paul and Rae have set sail on their Baltic Sea Cruise, and we are expecting Dave and Wendy Timms from Howick to enjoy a week on our comfy sofa bed. No doubt there are more stories to tell ........Canal_Boating_012.jpgCanal_Boating_028.jpgCanal_Boating_039.jpg

Posted by houghts 11:11 Archived in United Kingdom

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Yeeaahh! Found my password! You certainly are making the most of the UK. You've seen and done more things than I have! Looking forward to seeing you for lunch at the Battle Axes on Sunday. How about a comment from Moundie! Too busy playing golf, eh?

by Maria Casa

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