After sampling the delights of Bath, and meeting some really extrordinary people, I’m heading back toward Reading, with plans to either visit Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Palace, or head straight up the Thames to Oxford. I’ll decide on the way. There likely won’t be too many photos for this stretch since I’ve covered it already. If I see anything new, I’ll be sure to document it. It’s back up the Caen Hill Flight!
I thought this would be a good time to put down some of my thoughts and impressions of the whole adventure. I’ve already covered (ad nauseum) how much fun it is so I won’t go into that. But there are some things that have come out of it that are quite interesting (to me, at least).
I had done a lot of reading and YouTubing before coming over here so I thought I was at least somewhat prepared. There is lots said and written about the ‘bad’ side of the canals and canal life. I guess because it’s seen as an inexpensive way to live, it attracts a certain segment of the population. Like much of England, and the West in general, there’s a large, obvious disparity in how much has been spent on boats, let’s just say. There are many, many rather run-down looking narrowboats and various other types scattered along the canal. Due to the licensing system, they have to move at least every 14 days, a minimum of 5 miles (and can’t just ping-pong between the same two points). So they tend to move a few miles and moor up, doing this a few times before returning. The rules aren’t very clear and there’s lots of controversy. I was a little concerned about this whole thing, and what ‘sort’ of people I’d run into. Well, I can say, they are awesome. Down-to-earth and friendly to a person. As an example, I was working on the boat the other morning and a tattoed and pretty rough-looking chap walked by with a big tray of fresh eggs. I asked him where he got them, thinking I could go and get some too. He pointed back toward the road, said just a couple of doors down, then handed me the tray and asked if I wanted some! Amazing, a total stranger and just offered me some of his food. I might have been cautious to even talk to him before coming here.
There’s been other things that I’ve learned:
-narrowboats are heavy. And momentum is a thing. It’s almost impossible to get them to do anything gently, it’s pretty much full power and full tiller until things start moving (which might take a while). Just cruising along straight requires a fairly subtle touch but if it requires a real turn, push the tiller AND the throttle all the way! Just be ready to switch back the other way as quickly to counteract.
-going astern for any distance is not impossible, but isn’t any fun at all. But I might have discovered the secret, I’ll have to do more experimenting. I think what it is, the ‘prop walk’ (boaters will know) is greater than the effect the rudder can have so if you try to go faster, it’s worse. Damn thing snakes all over the place. But if you just get it moving slowly and gently, you end up with some steering (sort of the opposite of going forward!).
-pub food is awesome. One meal a day is often enough. I don’t know if that’s the food or the libations that come with it, but I’m a fan.
-hire boaters aren’t all idiots, and boat owners don’t all know that they’re doing. I’ve stopped judging until they run into something (hopefully not me).
-locks are a nice change from standing and steering. If they’re far enough apart, that is. The Caen Hill Flight (which I’ve moaned about previously) is a pretty long day of 29 locks without a break. Best done with another boat, preferably one with a large crew; I can’t imagine doing it alone. I did the first few days of the trip entirely on my own, probably 6-7 locks each day, and was pretty much done in at the end of each day. Mind you, I was just starting out and made plenty of mistakes. I tended to miss steps and have to go back, or just take the long way around. I’m must more efficient now, I can probably do a lock in half the time and a quarter of the energy expenditure! But actually they’re interesting and fun. Swing bridges too. Except the ones that a singlehanded cruiser CAN’T do (yes, they exist). The landing is on the wrong side, you have to sort of back in and tie your stern to the bridge…it’s messy.
-my hot water stays hot enough for a shower for at least 24 hours without having to run the engine or furnace.
-my favorite cider is Thatchers Haze (because that’s what’s within reach at this moment)
-never miss the opporunity to say hello to the person walking by. You never know what you’ll learn.
-check your oil and filters regularly.
-don’t mess with a parent swan. Or any swan. Geese are friendly by comparison.
-wave to kids. Even if they don’t wave back, their mother will.
Dorothy, chillin on my couch.
Anyone have any idea what the hell this is?
Don’t hit my boat, I just varnished it.
Even small village churches are cool.