She might be get­ting old and a bit can­tan­ker­ous, but Brid­get's boat is still well loved. And even if Brid­get some­times won­ders why she leaves her mod-cons at home, she wouldn't want to miss out on the nat­u­ral world and the ca­ma­raderie of boaters

Canal Boat - - This Month - WORDS & PIC­TURES BY BRID­GET YATES

Yes, you can leave the mod-cons be­hind – you just have to buy a good set of el­bow guards


Iwonder some­times, why I would choose to stand in a bath­room, no big­ger than one of my wardrobes at home, el­bows crash­ing against the walls, towel fall­ing in the bath and plas­tic shower cur­tain at­tach­ing it­self to my back. One of the joys of boat­ing? I don’t think so. also won­der why I choose to kneel on the bath­room floor, Marigolds akimbo and at­tempt to laun­der ac­cu­mu­lated es­sen­tial items when I have a fully equipped util­ity area at home with au­to­matic washer and dryer.

And, af­ter my morn­ing shower kneel­ing down in the bath, when I am wan­der­ing around try­ing to dry my limp locks ‘nat­u­rally’, I may wist­fully think of my hairdryer and straight­en­ers lan­guish­ing un­der my dress­ing ta­ble at home. Ours is an el­derly boat with many years of faith­ful ser­vice to her credit. But, as with all of us, the years have taken their toll. Still warm and ami­able, she has oc­ca­sional spells of de­men­tia. Sys­tems may lapse into in­ex­pli­ca­ble in­ac­tiv­ity and some­times, just some­times, she will refuse to get up in the morn­ing and bobs lazily about at her moor­ing un­til coaxed into ac­tion. But we all love her as a ma­tri­arch. Sir­ius is a 50-foot tra­di­tional nar­row­boat built at Long­port Wharf in 1990. We did not have her from new; she was bought in 1995 from a couple who were mov­ing on to bet­ter things. But she was loved from the start. She was kit­ted out with the ba­sics and all that was needed was fur­ni­ture, crock­ery cut­lery etc – but we did not re­place the car­pet or cur­tains, a fact which was brought home to us this year when we were moored at Crick.

There came a tap­ping on the roof... ”Any­one at home?”. A lady stood there, who we even­tu­ally recog­nised as one half of the orig­i­nal own­ers (it had been 20 years!). We, of course, in­vited her on board for a drink and a chat. She was very com­pli­men­tary about the con­di­tion of the boat and what we had done over

‘Where else can I look through a kitchen win­dow into the eyes of a mother duck on her nest in a world of na­ture at eye level?’

the years. “Oh. I recog­nise those cur­tains!” she chor­tled, and the fam­ily have been re­mind­ing me of it ever since.

In 2015, we went up the Ashby Canal. We have been be­fore and find it quite idyl­lic. Over the years we have done the vast ma­jor­ity of the sys­tem, some­times stay­ing out for five or six weeks at a time and do­ing vast num­bers of locks in a day. But like our dear Sir­ius, we have to have re­gard for Anno Do­mini and we wanted a plea­sure cruise rather than a marathon.

Is it a good thing to some­times leave our power show­ers, our tumbly dry­ers, our ex­ten­sive dress­ing ta­bles kit­ted out like a branch of Boots – and, yes here it comes, the hack­neyed phrase – get back to ba­sics?

I can bathe any­where given soap and wa­ter (prefer­ably at least warm). I can give my hair the treat of nat­u­ral dry­ing for a change and I can give our clothes the treat of a gen­tle rins­ing to freshen them up rather than sub­merg­ing them in the chem­i­cal baths of the wash­ing ma­chine.

Per­haps I should won­der where else I can look through a kitchen win­dow into the eyes of a mother duck on her nest in a world of na­ture at eye level. I can see this­tles, clover, net­tles – and just what is that scur­ry­ing away in the hedgerow?

Where else can I pre­pare a meal as we travel along and glance ahead through a bridge and see a breath­tak­ing arch­way of flo­ral love­li­ness? Where else could we ap­pre­ci­ate the ca­ma­raderie of the boat­ing fra­ter­nity?

Where else can I sit on the back of the boat af­ter a still, clear, cool dawn and feel as if I am in charge of the world and all its trea­sures?

I think I'll buy some el­bow guards!

Brid­get's grand­son Matt work­ing a lock on the Nap­ton flight


Sir­ius on a well-earned rest


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