TIME TO BREAK FREE
Ever wondered what it’s like to be a new liveaboard? Find out as our man David leaves the cosy marina for his new life on the cut
Don’t miss new liveaboard David Johns’s adventures as he finally sets off down the cut
Ithink I know how a baby bird must feel when fledging the nest. Five months after I moved on to a narrowboat and moored it in a marina for winter, the lines have been untied, the engine fired into life and the safety of the pontoon berth left behind.
Farewell, Yelvertoft! You served me well. Actually, better than well – I had a very pleasant start to my watery life there. Staff and fellow boaters as one were friendly and amazingly helpful, always happy to offer reams of advice notwithstanding that much of it contradicted what the others were suggesting. Such is the way of the canal, it seems; everyone has an opinion on how best to achieve a goal yet none of those opinions necessarily concur.
So what did I do to prep for departure? Solar panels for one – two lovely great slabs of black and aluminium ‘electrickery’, pivoted to catch the best rays and giving me 480 Watts of free energy (yet leaving enough space on the roof to walk down the side). They’re so good that I barely plugged into the shore mains from the end of February onwards.
With the water tank filled, fuel tank brimmed and batteries charged, it’s on to the cut. Departing on, perhaps foolishly, 1 April, I’ve not, at the time of writing, actually travelled that far but experiences have already come thick and fast.
Hardy boaters may chuckle but I consider getting through Crick tunnel solo while passing two other boats coming the other way, without hitting them or soiling my pants, as a significant triumph.
A lock at the Watford flight was also handled solo without cause for sending up distress flares though the staircase section was mercifully taken care of by the superbly friendly volunteer lockkeepers. They did everything bar mopping my fevered brow as the level was descended and I’m hugely grateful.
That reminds me – I must buy a lottery ticket this week. For what are the odds, on my first journey out, of bumping into the chap who painted my boat back in 2011? Pretty large I’d have thought yet that’s what happened, a bearded man leant his head over the lock side as I was lowered and shouted “I painted that!”. Chris Weston, his name is, from the Oxon Boat Painting Company and he was very jolly, too, with plenty of chat and suggestions for places to visit along the Oxford Canal.
A gentle amble onward followed the next day from Watford locks to Norton Junction where the weather was decent and the scenery splendid, prompting me to stay in situ for a while. I’ve no real timetable to speak of after all, and an engineering appointment awaited me in Braunston a few days later so I was in no hurry to arrive early.
If I thought Crick tunnel was unpleasant, can I just say how much I dislike the one at Braunston? Nasty twisty horrid thing, full of water and curves to catch the unwary. If you were the very polite man who I banged into after I let the front of the boat wander out while concentrating too hard on what the back was doing, then thank you for not shouting. Clearly Braunston has it in