Oh yes we did! We bought a narrowboat. After much toing and froing we bought a narrowboat. What follows is an account of our first 4 days and the things we have learned so far.
The boat was moored at North Kilworth Marina, quite some way from home. Just getting there with a car jammed full of essentials and a dog was an adventure. Our car is electric and does not have a huge range, so quite a few charge stops were required. After an almost 4 hour journey we arrived to load up our new home and sail? chug? motor? away.
Day 1 – Friday 12th November 2021 – Steering in the wind
On arrival Tim collected the keys and a bottle of fizz (thanks for the bubbles abnb) . After loading up we were ready to get moving. First problem, the engine did not start and it made a horrid noise. Tim nipped in to ask for advice. Give it some revs. This worked. Hurrah. We were off, even though it was just to the fuel point. I have to point out it was a really windy day so getting the boat into the narrow gap was a challenge, but get it in Tim did. Coal, kindling and diesel all paid for we were off! How exciting off on an adventure on OUR boat.
We set off later than was ideal, our first cruise was a lock free section of the Grand Union Canal -Leicester section. A total of 1.5 hours. This is where the fun began. We moored up and settled ourselves and the dog. Tim now had to cycle back to the Marina and move it close to the boat. This soon made us realise we do not want a car once we are on the boat full time. We’d think about keeping one if we were in a marina full time.
A short time later he reappeared with matches… Hurrah! I can have a brew. But no, the gas is off. We did not want to fiddle with it in the dark so wine was drunk and crisps eaten. Nowt but the finest for us. It was getting chilly so we lit a fire. Only it belched smoke into the saloon. Windows were opened. Bad words may have been said. Do you know how cold a boat is with no fire. Sleep soon came, but was then interrupted as the dog wanted to go toilet at 2am.
Day 2 – Saturday 13th November 2021 – getting the gas working
Waking up to greenery all around and birds singing. The reality kicking in that we bought a narrowboat! Another move the car day, this time to the village of Yelvertoft. Cycle back and set off for a 4 hour cruise, the less said about this cycle back the better. The tow path is in a bit of a muddy and leaf mulchy state. this time we felt a bit more confident in our abilities. We made it as far as bridge 16 and moored up for the night. Next lesson was now learned. How to put the gas on, turn it on fully or it might smell a bit. Got this advice from a boat forum and yes, after turning it on properly there was no smell and believe me, my nose rivals a sniffer dog.
Gas! means hot tea – at last. It was simple. Omelette and salad. Felt good to have achieved this. Aside from being woken by the dog and then some random person yelling “Argh” we had a quiet night.
Day 3 – Sunday 14th November 2021 – the first tunnel
This was an important day for us, we needed to clear the next section of canal today as they were closing it for repairs the very next day. We made it. Next challenge the Crick Tunnel. Our first ever tunnel. We were racking up a lot of firsts and it was only day 3. The tunnel proved uneventful. We did briefly spot another boats lamp appear. They decided to wait for us to come out as like us they were newbie boaters. I sadly have no pictures as the tunnel is rather drippy and I did not want to ruin the camera.
After the tunnel our next major learning curve was the Watford Staircase Locks. I was very glad these are manned by a lockkeeper. We would have had not much of a clue to use the red paddles first and then the white ones. It certainly gives you a work out, some of them were a bit stiff. These passed we headed towards Welton Wharf Bridge. We moored here for the night as we wanted to be into the Braunston tunnel early the next day. I was a bit worried it might be noisy as the canal path was very busy with walkers and runners, but as dusk fell it was oh so quiet. We could hear owls hooting which was quite lovely.
Day 4 – Monday 15th November 2021 – lock flights
Off we set, ready to do another tunnel. This one longer than the last. I was glad to get out as it did seem to go on and on.
Not far after the tunnel is the Braunston Flight. We did the first couple alone, but then spotted a boat behind us, so decided to wait and share the locks. Sharing is good as it means half the work and you are saving water.
Another first next, the fuel boat was already tied to the chandlery wharf. Thankfully they were friendly and helped us tie up onto them, so we could hop over onto land and buy the bits and bobs we needed. A barge pole, parts for the fire and some extra bolts for the doors.
After our stop we turned onto the Oxford Canal. After 5.5 hours of cruising we made it to the Hillmorton visitor moorings. A taxi back to Yelvertoft to get the car. A charge at Morrisons and a wee shop. Then treated ourselves to a chippy tea. Sadly it was a bit rubbish. Chips were ok, but the fish was thickly battered and over cooked, some much of it was mushy.
Day 5 – 16th November 2021 – stopover day
Our plan is to stay here until Saturday morning. Tim has to do a couple of days of work (remote) We have a few boat tasks to do and we are hoping we can get a new toilet. Fingers crossed on that one.
Some might see it as crazy, but yes we bought a narrowboat. So far I am loving it. Yes it is cold. It is hit and miss if you pick a good mooring spot. But the sense of freedom, the peace, being able to see and hear nature all around. All of that make it worth while. Leaving it there as I have a fire to fix.
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