Canal Progress

4 May

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It has to be said that after the first 24 hours on a canal boat I was thinking we’d made a mistake. It is not as relaxing as you might think. In fact my neck hasn’t been so painful with tension since the Meltemi in the Aegean.

Sure, you’re tootling along at a couple of miles an hour but then “stuff” gets in the way – tunnels, road bridges that you have to stop the traffic to lift (complete with an obnoxious cyclist) and ruddy great lumps of tree that get stuck on the bow of the boat to name but three. Then, of course, there are other boats that moor along the banks, sometimes two abreast, drastically narrowing the available space and there’s always another boat coming the other way at this point.

More than all this, though, is the fact that if you’re at the helm you can’t relax for a second. Let your attention wander and your nose is into the bank before you know it. Canals are not very wide, they are shallow at the sides and they don’t go in straight lines. After five hours of this we’d both had more than enough. We moored up and headed off down the tow path on foot.

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Things seemed to turn around after this. We checked out the next couple of lift bridges and what would be our first lock. Here we met Jeremy who works as a volunteer on the canal helping out on the locks outside his lovely old cottage. His help and enthusiasm made all the difference. And, to be honest, so did the glass of chilled white he gave us when he invited us to join him by his fireside.

Today has left a totally different impression. Some 30 locks later we’re enjoying ourselves again. Jeremy was there to help us through our first couple of locks and it was all pretty straightforward from there. Going at little more than impulse power was far less stressful for me at the tiller and I actually took pleasure in being in sole control of the boat. Neil says he enjoyed the physical exercise involved in opening and closing locks along with the walk between each one. He’s expecting aches and pains tomorrow though!

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It also meant we had chance to look around, appreciate the scenery and the wildlife while chatting to other crews also going through the locks. You forget how friendly boaty types tend to be.

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With the weather forecast not looking promising from tomorrow onwards our opinion of this canal holidays could all change again. But for the moment we’re chilling.

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