Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Five and Six October 17, 2017
Narrowboat Adventures (and Beyond!): Weeks Three and Four September 28, 2017
The time is flying by and suddenly, Week 3 has morphed into Week 4 and I am back in North America!
I won’t be on this continent for long, though. I’m spending the week with my Adventure Knitters in beautiful Nelson, British Columbia. More on that later…
Into our 3rd week, we were settling into a slightly more leisurely pace.Leaves were beginning to fall from some trees. On one lovely evening, we tied up under an oak tree and spent the night listening to the staccato machine-gun style rattle of acorns with every gust of wind. Our lesson: on nights when there are strong winds forecast, we won’t plan to moor under any type of tree in case of larger things than acorns breaking loose!For the last two weeks on the boat we’d been setting our sights on reaching Ellesmere Port or Chester on September 20th – not a tall order by car, but on a narrowboat (traveling at walking pace) you have to allow time for lock delays or other unexpected happenings and you can’t just hurry up.
I had a train to catch that Wednesday to get to Heathrow – hard to take a break from your journey, but needs must! John’s plan was to visit his mum and clean and do laundry. We also planned to offload any summer or unwanted gear – anything for space.We had gradually been learning how long we can go without taking on potable water, fuel, and how to judge the holding tank gauge for just-in-time pumpouts! Finding garbage drop offs can prove challenging, the Canals and River Trust have been removing skips from some of the watering points …. there is a quite a bit of fly tipping in evidence under the railway bridges.We’d taken Queen Bee to Ellesmere Port National Waterways Museum, to moor up whilst I’m away. The museum is situated on a basin accessed by a couple of locks and offers a snug protected berth. In fact, we’ve become part of the exhibit! Gongoozlers were busy taking pics as we came through the locks. We offloaded bin bags full of laundry and excess gear. John is taking the opportunity to stock up with dry goods and tonic water, which we constantly run out of!I was prepared with clothing and a small carry on case to be able to leave the boat as we passed through Chester and walk to the railway station.
As it happened we had a day in hand and decided to moor up Queen Bee and rent a car (had to walk to get that), and visit my mother in law for a night before my departure.
Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Nelson.I was dropped at Chester station and caught a train to London. This was a little like narrowboating in reverse, as the train line frequently criss crossed the canal that I had spent the previous 2 weeks on – it looked very tranquil on the cut.This felt cruel, having chugged alongside train tracks on many occasions over the previous couple of weeks. Now I found myself on a train, catching glimpses of the canal. It all looked so peaceful, rather like looking at a model scene. I saw the locks we’d recently been through and several boats on the move. I couldn’t exactly identify them without a map and they look so different from inside a train.
I then caught the tube across London during rush hour to get to Heathrow.
Next I had to find the hotel that I had booked! Couldn’t locate the shuttle buses so took a taxi. In the morning I was successful in catching a bus back to LHR and flew to Vancouver.
Here I was picked up by Judy, my Adventure Knitting co-conspirator, and conveyed to a very welcome bed and hot shower. We set off early the next morning on the 10 hour up-and-down car journey to Nelson, crossing several mountain ranges. The huge trees and craggy mountains were quite a contrast to the flatness of canal travel.
And now that I am here, let the Adventure Knitting begin!
My Almost Saintly Socks is our half-price pattern of the week!
An entertaining project for the ardent sock knitter, for those in search of an interesting foot-suntan pattern, or those with naturally hot feet! The scallop holes stitch pattern sets off hand-painted yarns beautifully.
The Almost Saintly Socks pattern is half-price ($4.50) until October 3!
Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks One and Two September 16, 2017
We had an interesting and busy few days after reaching the UK: pre-boat shopping and provisioning whilst we still had a car.
I knit quite a few rounds on the Ice Dragon blanket between Heathrow, Somerset, Merseyside and Oxford. And not a stitch for a whole week after having embarked on the Queen Bee!
We arrived on QB with all our provisions and worldly goods in garbage bags (no room for suitcases on a narrowboat). Steve, Queen Bee’s owner, met us for a handover and we moved in. This felt roughly like getting a quart into a pint pot. The boat has plenty of equipment and every locker had something in it.
We sorted ourselves out bit by bit whilst heading to Oxford. The canal and homes alongside were beautiful, but without tying up and going into the city, you really couldn’t see much of the Oxford of dreaming spires, etc. We did get one brief glimpse of Jericho – familiar from Inspector Morse! Next, we started heading north, with one of our first stops just north of Banbury.
After only 4 days, it felt like we’d dropped off the planet.
Internet is tricky and I’m trying to conserve! I’m not getting much time to knit a stitch, but the journey has been nothing but enjoyable so far.
You will laugh, but never have I felt the urge to be so tidy! During the whole first week, in between steering, locks, taking on water, finding fuel and pump-out facilities, shopping for additional gear (bath mat, a few extra towels) and groceries, we sorted cupboards and lockers so that we could fit everything in (and find it again). There is plenty of equipment on the boat: 3 dustpans and their accompanying brushes are handy, but the duplicates and other things we don’t need can be stowed deep in the most convoluted of the available spaces. Tidying up reminds me of the game with 15 squares in a 16 square grid: you have to move one thing to get to another.
J has been entertaining himself by gradually puzzling all the systems out and making fixes – all four burners on the stove now work (and the radio). I’m getting unnatural urges regarding Brasso and polishing.
Having fun on the cut.
I find myself juggling taking photos on my phone while trying not to use too much data. It’s bit tricky to get lock photos and action shots with just the two of us – we are both kept pretty busy.
After an intermittently rainy morning with a bunch of locks, which run through several appealing historic villages, we entered Warwickshire. Here the canal meanders along a contour line in an apparently aimless fashion. With many 180 degree bends, it takes 11 miles to achieve 4 as the crow flies. The scenery was magnificent – too expansive for an iPhone. Next, we had a full day with many locks ahead to get through Napton.
The hedgerows are brimming with wild fruit The wild fruits are stunning: hawthorn berries, hops, rosehips, elderberries, sloes, curranty-looking springs, to name only the ones I can name or describe. One morning, I picked a basin of blackberries – they are everywhere along the canal but not often convenient to pick. There are apples, plums and pears in profusion, in canal side gardens and many gone feral. The fields all look very smart and stripey in their recently harvested condition. The smells and scents of the countryside are delightful. The Oxford canal meanders along the contour lines, so not many locks. It’s such a pleasure to get away from the drone of motorways, hooting of trains, it’s just sad to know that the new planning white-elephant high-speed train will soon be cut through this extraordinary landscape – all to save a mere 20 minutes travel time.
On September 11, I finally knit one round on my Ice Dragon DK Blanket. I’ve either been too busy, late with dinner, or the evening light on the boat hasn’t permitted knitting or any fine work. We’ve found a solution, though. There is a small rocking chair on board and, if carefully angled (in the minute available space) so that I can put my feet up, I can then knit by the light of J’s headlamp. It’s very focussed but works. I’ve got 2 x 40” needles in the work now and a third one to knit with. J has got the radio and DVD player working and the boat has an eclectic supply of discs aboard.
Of course as soon as I picked up the blanket I discovered a FTRC (failure-to-read-chart) mistake from the road travel knitting, and had to change the colour of the centre line increases from 5 rounds back in eight places on both sides. Grr. Once I had that fixed I was able to proceed. One afternoon we had enough sun, and no locks so that I was able to sit on the stern deck and make my fixes as we transited Nuneaton. However I was exceedingly careful with my short fixing needles and crochet hook not to lose them overboard.
On we go… we have found a good rhythm and are enjoying every moment!
Lost at sea? April 20, 2016
In a just a few weeks time we’ll be making our annual escape to the UK canal system. This cleverly combines water travel, scenery, activity and visiting the relatives, all in one long thin boat-shaped package. The best!
Making canal trip plans has reminded me of one of the memorable adventures from last year’s trip (that I somehow forgot to post). It concerns one of our crew members managing to get herself picked up by the police!
We had developed a nice little routine for opening the lock gates and mooring up, and also for tunnels. Our friend Karen doesn’t care much for transiting long dark tunnels (not much to see, and icky cold drips down the back of your neck), and prefers to hop off the boat before we enter the darkness, and to follow the tow path (originally used by the tow horses) to the other end of the tunnel .*
As the boat only travels at a steady walking pace (or somewhat less) in a tunnel, she would rejoin the boat at the other end. It’s not an ‘official’ disembarkation requiring preparation. So, this time Karen hopped off the boat, armed only with a sunhat (no phone, ID or money), nor any detailed idea of whereabouts we were (doodling along the canal will do that to you).
On this occasion, as our boat emerged back into the light, I spotted not only Karen on the bank, but also a policeman. The policeman leaned out of his panda car and hailed me with: “Is this your friend?” I responded in the affirmative, knowing nothing of what had gone on. I would soon find out!
Meanwhile, on dry land.. Karen’s story
” I am walking, of course, following the towpath along the top of a tunnel. I am walking along, admiring the wildflowers, identifying the occasional bird, all the while the tow path seems to veer further and further from where I imagine the canal to be . . . Hmm . . . Well, I can hardly go back, as the boat is moving on–the only option, really, for a narrowboat on a canal . . . So I keep going . . Soon I am in the middle of the village, a very lovely village, but with no sign of the canal. What to do? I turn a corner. More village, as far as the eye can see. Not good. Hmmmm, I see two police officers on foot, coming towards me . . .
Me: Are you on a mission?
They: No, why? Can we help you?
Me: Yes, I seem to have lost my boat.
They: It is probably in the canal.
Me: I seem to have lost that, too.
They: Well, now, Where are you from? Not around here?
Me: No, Canada. I pay taxes to the Queen, too.
They: Well, good then. Jump in the car and I will drive you down to the canal.
And he does. The officer winds through the little village, pointing out small misdemeanors as he goes: There is Alice (name changed to protect the innocent)– why isn’t she wearing her seat belt? Finally he pulls into a little parking lot, about 50m from the canalside, the canal just passing under a small bridge to the left.
I thank him, get out of the squad car and walk down towards the canal.
He: Where will they be?
Me: Either this way or that . . .
So I get to the canalside and look up the canal, where I am sure my friends must be by now. There are three narrowboats, moored along the bank. One is from the same hire company as ours . . . Could I be so lucky? I start to lean out to see if I can see the name of the boat. As I start to lean over, I look to the left as well. There is a bridge, and a boat coming through underneath. Guess who? Lucy, in all her hot pink, orange and turquoise glory, is at the front of a canal boat, looking at me. I guess I looked pretty surprised. What were the chances?
He: Are these your friends?
And I jump on board. Sigh . . . Never a dull moment.”
Such are the small adventures that make up a day on the canal (not usually involving the police, though)!
*Often there was no tow path within the tunnel, and the horse would be led over the top. The boat would be propelled by the crew laying on a plank across the boat, and using their feet on the tunnel sides to ‘leg’ the boat through.
Don’t forget our DVD special this month is Finesse Your Knitting 1 – receive the disc and virtual version for $19.99 (+tax and shipping), normally $49.98! (This is one of my favorite discs – including the elegant Magic Buttonhole technique.