Most of my blog posts this year have been about what I’m doing, who I’m with, and where I’m going. In reading over some of the posts from last year, there seemed to have been more “I’m so glad I’m doing this” and “this is contentment” sort of writing. Perhaps this year I’m more used to the life and the newness has worn off. Perhaps it’s simply not as much fun as last year (just kidding).
So here is my take on the second season on a narrowboat.
I’m no longer having to learn new things on a daily basis, which makes it a bit more relaxing even if a bit less exciting. The sights I’m seeing are new since I’m on canals I’ve never been on but in general it’s all quite familiar. I’m loving having the freedom to pick and choose destinations, I wasn’t able to do that as much last year. When I was on the Kennet & Avon navigation, from where I bought the boat, there was really only one way to go as it is basically a dead-end canal. Once I returned to Reading and headed up the Thames on to the main part of the system, I had many more choices but that was not long before I went back to Canada. This year, I’m deep in the heart of the UK canal system and I have so many options to choose from.
I’ve already made one major change in the plan, not going up north to the Leeds and Liverpool canal this year. I’ve also made many other smaller choices and changes, almost on a daily basis. It’s very liberating in a small but important way. This is what I had dreamed retirement was all about. Freedom to make choices, to decide moment to moment what my next move will be, such as when to get up and when to go to bed, whether to turn left or right. Simple decisions but mine to make. There are, of course, other repercussions to retired life; I have to be more careful with money for instance. I’m very fortunate to have a great pension but it’s still a ‘fixed income’ so it limits the big choices. I have a fairly average boat, not nearly as fancy as many, and living simply on a it or in a condo in Canada will do just fine.
Another consequence of the freedom to cruise or not each day has been to sit and work on the boat more than last year. Part of this is due to the weather. Last summer was the hottest and driest England had experienced since 1976, perhaps ever. The boat really needed some paint on the outside, particularly the roof, but it was simply too hot every day. This isn’t just an excuse, although I also wasn’t keen on working too much on the boat instead of experiencing all the new adventures I saw before me. This year the weather is more ‘normal’. Cool and a bit rainy, generally pretty crappy. I’m okay with it though, in fact it’s quite like home in the spring. I’ve been using the wood stove a bit, and now that I have solar panels I can make more use of the radiators without running the engine (they take a bit of power to light up and run the pump). Also, it’s been cool enough to get the roof painted! I even got the aft deck ground back to metal, primed, and undercoated. Once it’s dry enough again I’ll get a coat of non-skid on it too.
I’ve really enjoyed getting a bunch of little jobs done too, things that have been annoying me. The sinks had started not draining properly so I got the pipes removed and cleaned out, loose tiles around the stove repaired, the stove itself painted, and I managed to get some of the electrics and wiring tidier and more efficient. Inside jobs have had a bit of a priority simply because of the weather. I think it has rained, on average, at least every other day since the beginning of June. Not always heavy rain, but enough each day to make outside work pretty chancy. I don’t want to have something taken apart or half painted, then have a sudden downpour.
More impressions of this year’s cruising; I’m glad I’m out of the Black Country and back into a rural landscape. There was lots to see going through places like Leicester and Stoke-on-Trent (to name just two) but there were very few secluded and quiet moorings. I’m just not a city person apparently. I have also noticed a larger number of hire boats this year, more than I remember seeing last year. It could be the area I’m in but I think in general the world has caught on to narrowboating. I chatted with a Norwegian family recently, apparently Prunella Scales and Timothy West’s famous television series “Great Canal Journeys” has been airing in prime time in the Scandinavian countries. This might explain the noticeably large numbers of Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, and Danish flags I’ve seen flying over hire boats on the Llangollen.
Lastly, here’s something a bit off the wall. I’ve got a new canal app, more of a Google Maps overlay, that plots my position and has lots of real-time information about stoppages and other relevant information. On the map, there’s all these random sets of three words, preceded by ‘///’. I have finally found out what they are (all you people that already knew, you’re just smarty-pants). It’s a new geopostitioning system called What3Words. Every single 3mx3m spot on the earth is identifiable by just three words (it’s actually a boon to rescue crews trying to find people, assuming they have service on their phones). So, in an effort to remain relevant in this modern age, I’ll be posting my position via What3Words in case anyone wants to know EXACTLY where I am. If I’m in the bathroom, it’ll be different than if I’m on the stern steering or on the bow sunbathing. Not that there’s ever enough sun for that… Actually, I haven’t figured out a way to put it on the blog in real time so I’ll just type it in whenever I think of it. And you’ll need the app to find the location on a map too. I just thought it was a cool change.