Life in the Slow Lane

After yesterday’s chaotic journey, today was much more sedate and relaxing.

The Captain, the SSO, and I started the day with a pleasant walk along the towpath, from the moored up Ross’s Gull to the wooden swing bridge and back.

The first thing we noticed was that it wasn’t raining. Then we spotted the near cloudless sky. Could it be? We were going to get a day that didn’t require wrapping up in oilskins?!

For breakfast we had Elaine’s delicious bacon croissants, which were devoured in no time flat.

Then we set off for the day, continuing to head east. We passed through several swing bridges. I managed to close one a little too soon, and slammed the bridge into the boat. Fortunately no one was hurt, though there’s a little less green paint on the boat, and a little more on the bridge now.

We are heading back the way we came now, so we get a second chance to examine some of the more “colourful” boats we passed on our way out.

One such boat, with an enormous, old plastic water tank tied to its stern was on the move, and we got to talk to the owner.

“What’s the tank for?” We asked.

“It’s where I keep the alien.” He replied, before punting off, using a thin tree trunk as his pole. I think he was joking.

The canals are full of these interesting characters.

As we travelled along, the SSO piped up, demanding that it was time for a perimeter check.

There were no reasonable places to stop and get off, but Elaine spied the remains of an old bridge and we aimed for that. It was little more than a few grass covered bricks, but it would do.

I leapt off and the Captain threw me the SSO (the handle on his life jacket is very useful at times like this). She also nearly threw herself along with him! Fortunately Trevor was there to prevent any mishaps, and the Captain remained onboard.

The towpath was most thoroughly checked, all was secure. After the inspection, the SSO and I waited to be picked up at the next available bridge. Getting back on was a lot smoother than getting off.

It was around this time that Trevor went for a snooze. I thought it sounded like a good idea, so I did the same. Life in the slow lane has its advantages.

We woke to the smell of lunch: pasty and baked beans. Yum.

After hours of nothing much to do, we eventually arrived at a series of locks. The sunny weather had obviously inspired people to get out and about on the water, as there were boats pulling in and out of these locks in all directions.

We helped people through as promptly as possible, they were all grateful for the assistance.

For one stretch we were accompanied by a woman and her somewhat obedient, though mostly hyperactive dog, Ralph.

Ralph stayed on the towpath for the whole time, as we passed through lock after lock. He kept a close eye on his Mum’s boat, never wandering too far away.

I’m not sure if Ralph was off the boat because he’d spent all morning aboard and now needed to stretch his legs, or if he just simply wouldn’t get back on the boat.

I guess we’ll never know, as after a handful of locks Ralph and his Mum moored up and we carried on.

So it is, on the canal, you just get snippets of people’s life stories. Though one thing is for certain, people who live on the canal are always willing to tell you about themselves. Lock side chats are the equivalent of Facebook updates, tweets, Instagram posts, or whatever your choice of social media platform may be, for those on the inland waterways.

Earlier in the day the Ship’s Boy phoned up and booked a table at a pub. We were actually going to get off the boat, all of us, for the first time this trip. No cooking tonight, no washing up. Excellent.

To speed up the process of mooring up, at the final lock of the day the Captain gave me three mooring pins and two mallets, and sent me off to find a good spot “just over there.”

What the Captain hadn’t spotted was the shallow shelf of rock that prevented the boat from getting anywhere near the towpath.

I carried on walking, surely there was somewhere to tie up just ahead?

Nope, this shelf of rock just carried on going and going.

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried carrying three mooring pins and two mallets for any length of time, but I can tell you they’re not light.

Eventually, just under a mile later, and with burning biceps I found the good spot the Captain wanted, and we moored up.

In this current pandemic climate, carrying a face mask is mandatory. We all have one, and need to wear it when entering or exiting shops and pubs. It’s just the way things are.

The crew kept reminding each other throughout the day, to make sure we didn’t forget to bring one with us on our pub trip.

Now, as we arrived at the pub (after a 15 minute walk away from the boat), one of us realised that they’d left their face mask back on the boat.

Who do you think it was?

If you said “Ship’s Boy” give yourself a gold doubloon, as you’d be right.

He sprinted to the boat and back. There was an ale waiting for him upon his return.

The meal was delicious, and the whole crew returned to the boat very happy, very full, and very sleepy.

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