ME & MY BOATS

She’d done her re­search and bought a sec­ond-hand boat, now all she had to do was get it to the ma­rina. How hard could it be?

Canal Boat - - Contents - WORDS & PIC­TURES BY FIONA SIMS

A first trip out – how hard could it be...?

Iwas look­ing up ev­ery­thing about liv­ing on a nar­row­boat for my boss. He loves fish­ing and was think­ing about get­ting one, but he wanted to know all the down­sides first. While I was look­ing all this up, I thought: “I can cope with all this.” So then I started to look up prices and thought: “I can af­ford that”. So I started to look at sec­ond-hand boats. I knew a few things I was look­ing for; I wanted a semi-trad or tra­di­tional stern and I didn’t want to feel cramped inside. I looked for hours at in­ter­net ad­verts for boats for sale, I also went and walked along the canal and had a look in a few boats for sale.

Fi­nally, I found one that was ex­actly what I wanted. She was lovely and spa­cious for her size and had a more open lay­out than most boats I saw. She even had a lovely name, TheTu­dorRose, what a lovely Bri­tish, name. The seller was go­ing to ser­vice the en­gine be­fore I took her.

So, a cou­ple of weeks later, my mum, my boss and I went to pick her up and bring her to my new ma­rina, a jour­ney we were told would take a cou­ple of hours. Lit­tle did we know...

We started the jour­ney off hap­pily, the seller took us through the first lock, telling us how it all worked and go­ing over with us how the boat worked. And then he left us and we were on our own. Steer­ing the most ex­pen­sive thing I have ever bought. My new home.

Luckily, I had learned to sail when I was a teenager and my boss grew up by the sea, so he had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence with boats. My mum had been on a canal boat hol­i­day in her youth, so she had an idea of how the locks worked. Off we went.

At first all was go­ing great. We re­mem­bered to pass boats on the right, didn’t get stuck in the locks, kept the boat the right side of the cil marker. We also met a lovely cou­ple tak­ing their boat back to Birm­ing­ham who went through five locks with us, then we went on alone.

We were do­ing all right, me and my

boss tak­ing turns on the tiller and the other do­ing the locks with my mum help­ing and then, on a long straight bit, we let my mum have a go on the tiller. She steered us straight in to a tree! One with prickly branches that hung over the canal. We had to re­verse and try to push off with sticks to get the boat into the main drag again. Need­less to say, we did not let my mum take the tiller again. The jour­ney con­tin­ued on. A cou­ple of hours passed, and then an­other hour, and con­sult­ing the guide­book, we found we were only half­way there. We tried to pick up the pace a bit, but when we did that, the en­gine started over­heat­ing. So we had to pull over and wait un­til it cooled.

We chugged along hap­pily for a while and then we came to an­other lock, we went through fine, but on com­ing out and to save my boss walk­ing over the lock gates again, I pulled in to the non-tow­path side of the canal, a very bad call it turned out. On that side there was an­other chan­nel branch­ing off the canal and it had a very strong cur­rent.

My boat was trapped in the cur­rent and we could not get it away. There was a float­ing bar­rier across it so we did not get swept down the chan­nel side­ways (thank­fully). But we could not turn the boat to start go­ing along the canal again as we were in the cur­rent and jammed against the bar­rier.

We had no boat poles and the en­gine was over­heat­ing. We tried pulling it back­wards with a rope, we even had some passers-by pulling the rope, too, but all in vain.

After about half an hour, some men from the canal­side pub or so­cial club ap­peared. We ex­plained our predica­ment and they started climb­ing down the wall (about 10ft) and on to the moored boats be­low. Then they said to throw them our bow rope, and they pulled us for­wards by walk­ing along the moored boats,

un­til we were in a more or less straight line. Then we could en­gage our en­gine and pull away. As we started to pull away, they threw us our rope back and we called back our thanks.

After that we con­tin­ued with­out in­ci­dent, apart from the en­gine over­heat­ing ev­ery 20 min­utes. Very frus­trat­ing. We spent al­most more time pulled in wait­ing for the en­gine to cool down than we did mak­ing progress. We car­ried on and ar­rived at the ma­rina well past its clos­ing time.

We only knew roughly where we should be so we went around there and tied up to the pon­toon. The boat was safe, but we still had to get out of the ma­rina to where our car was parked. The gates were locked and we didn’t have a key. It was three hours after clos­ing time, so we wandered around the ma­rina un­til we saw a boat with lights on and ex­plained our prob­lem to them and they kindly let us out. Then we drove home happy but tired. Boaters are nice peo­ple.

Our jour­ney took seven hours rather than the ex­pected two and we had some ad­ven­tures on the way, but we got the boat back safe and sound.

The boat en­gine kept over­heat­ing be­cause, when it was be­ing ser­viced, the en­gi­neer left a valve open so once the water heated up, it leaked out and we had no water in our water cool­ing sys­tem for the en­gine. The moral of the story is: ex­pect the un­ex­pected with boats.

TheTu­dorRose – fit­ted the bill per­fectly

Lovelyand­cosy­on­board

Wildlife­justout­side­thewin­dow

Warmth­for chilly nights

Roses and now straw­ber­ries? Very English

Most­locks­didn’tproveaprob­lem

On the Grand Union near Uxbridge

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