The ying and yang of boating
- Credit: Archant
For every positive event, is there a negative one waiting to happen? The Surridge’s thought so on their eventful journey from Skipton to Bristol...
Confucius he say: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction” –or was it Einstein? I’m not sure… However, it just seems that way whenever we set out in Halcyon for our summer exploration of the canals. Our excursions always seem to be a mixture of good and bad – a sort of ying and yang on the water.
Take the year of the spring drought when the Kennet & Avon was virtually closed for narrowboats. We had meticulously planned our route from Skipton to Bristol during the dark winter months – bad move in view of the fact that we might get stuck somewhere along the line – and it’s a long trek home to Skipton with two dogs and all the dirty washing.
So we decided to spend the first part of the summer travelling to York – good move? Not so! The moment we set off the rains came and stayed with us. All the canals and rivers were soon open to traffic; all, that is, except the Ouse towards York where the river level rose to red alert and the locks at Selby stayed well and truly shut to boats.
“Never mind,” said John optimistically, “we’ll have a few days at Selby.” Bad move. When we reached Leeds the river lock lights were firmly at red where they stayed during the whole of our visit. However, there were moorings aplenty at Granary wharf – good news. The bad news was that the one to which we were allocated had power points but no current running through.
It hadn’t been the most uneventful journey from our Skipton mooring either. We set off in high spirits – the rain hadn’t yet drenched us – and I decided to make some bread. Our bread-maker is worth its weight in ..er.. bread mix probably. However, ten minutes later the inverter stopped working – as did the bread-maker. The good news was that the local boatyard managed to fix the inverter and we were soon on our way. It seemed a good time to switch on the bread-maker again. Bad move... shortly afterwards there was an ominous whiff of burnt toast and flames were sidling up the sides of the machine, alongside a constant stream of soggy grey uncooked bread.In the event, all was well and after spending the greater part of the evening delicately removing copious black bits from the element, the bread machine was deemed safe and I could use it with confidence again.
We have acquired a washer – not the one I had my eye on, a twin tub which does everything by electricity, but a plastic tub which closely resembles a butter churn. To activate the washing, the tub is filled with two litres of water, clothes inserted but only a few at a time, the top screwed on and a plastic handle attached to turn the drum. Good exercise for the arm muscles as the tub needs rotating 120 times for each wash. Bad news when I came to empty the tub over the sink. The clothes duly fell out of the upturned opening but so did the water – all over the floor!
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We were taking our four-month-old rescue pup on the boat for his first trip and he loved the experience. Good news. But he didn’t settle at all the first night and spent all night on our pillows. Bad news. We had named him Calum, short for Calamity, an appropriate name we thought. The following night he was much quieter and we found the reason why in the morning – he had spent the night chewing up the freshly cut logs by the stove. Bad news, but the good news was we were able to light the fire with the kindling he had created.
Both he and Laddie, our large six-yearold collie/husky cross, are afraid of bangs in the night, and during one very windy night they both ended up underneath our duvet and slept soundly until morning. Needless to say, we did not. Calum was not accustomed to the locks so we shut him firmly inside the boat – or so we thought. As we entered one lock he decided that being on deck was a better bet and managed to open the doors. On seeing John ashore it seemed a good idea to join him and he gave an almighty jump – in the wrong direction. I let go of the tiller to grab him – as you would – the boat continued gently into the lock, the tiller swung sideways and caught firmly against the stonework. Result, one broken wooden tiller end. But Calum was safe.
It was difficult to steer the boat without the wooden bit and we stopped to assess the situation. The good news was that John had chopped copious amounts of firewood and he fashioned a new tiller end from a suitably sized log. During all the season’s rain, the lockies were kept busy letting water down the system to the river to avoid overflowing, and we were told we had to stay put in Leeds for a further few days.
After four days we were allowed back up the canal and had a keeper escort through the two and three-rise locks which was a godsend. All was once again going our way –until we began the ascent up the Bingley three- and five-rise locks. The water was still coming down in torrents and a lot of the gates leaked very badly. Bad news, especially as we looked down into the saloon and found it 6in underwater. It turned out that the water had cascaded through the cratch ventilation grid, and saturated the whole boat. Extremely bad news.
Not entirely though, as the couple who had accompanied us up the Bingley locks stopped to offer us dry towels to mop up, and any other assistance we needed, including a bed for the night if we wanted. Lovely people, we are still in touch with them and friends like that are to be treasured. Thank you Tony and Jen.We called at Pennine Cruisers the following morning to see what the damage was. The good news was that nothing was permanently destroyed and it would be a simple job to pump out from under the floor. A good job done and we returned to base with all well – apart from the lingering smell…
Aren’t boating people wonderful? No sooner had we moored up than we had offers of dry bedding, humidifiers, help with drying out from all our neighbours. That to us is what life afloat is all about. That’s the best news of all.
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