The Other Lady

Hello, this is the Ship’s Boy reporting. All available crew are required at Brassknocker Basin, near Bath immediately.

That’s right, the Captain, Jerry the Ship Security Officer (SSO), First Mate Elaine, Chief of Engineering Trevor, and me the newly reinstated Ship’s Boy have all joined forces to set sail (well, to push throttle at least) on another nautical adventure.

We are joined by another lady on this trip, our boat the saucy Carol Ann. She’s a fine 52 foot barge with carpet halfway up the walls, a pair of comfy leather seats in the saloon and enough fuel to get us to our destination (hopefully).

We are charting a course from the outskirts of Bath, with its famous yellow-bricked buildings and Jane Austen vibe, to the heart of Bristol and back.

At least that’s the plan. It all rather depends on how fast we can travel.

We started well, Trevor used his charm on the boat hire people and got us onto the boat about an hour early.

Sadly this time was then eaten up by the “handover guy” who promised not to keep us long, and then proceeded to talk and talk… and talk, so that we actually left just about when we were originally supposed to.

They don’t let you drive yourself out of the basin here, because it’s very narrow and full of boats, and so “handover guy” became part of the crew for the first twenty minutes or so.

The SSO and I largely kept out of his way.

It really was busy though, with moored up boats lining the canal on both sides for a while, and then all along the towpath for miles after that.

Aside from a couple of easy swing bridges, the adventure really began when we came across our first set of locks – a flight of six, including Bath Deep Lock, which is the second deepest lock in the country!

For some reason they’ve designed this particularly deep lock so that you can only open the bottom gates by using your windlass (rather than the usual heave-push-pull method of every other lock gate we’ve come across, where you use all your might to either push or pull the gate open).

Using your windlass is not a good alternative. The amount of winding you have to do to move these heavy gates is tedious and tiring. But we did it.

Leaving this set of locks meant we transferred off the canal network, and so with an obligatory toot on the horn, we made our way onto the wide River Avon.

After a very smooth and skilful bit of manoeuvring by Trevor, an almost 360° turn just outside the last lock, we travelled up the Avon into Bath. It was just a short journey but we wanted to see the famous weir. If you’ve ever visited Bath, you’ll know the bit I mean, where the water cascades beautifully down a set of staggered steps. Well worth the slight detour.

Another quick turnaround (once again perfectly executed by Trevor) and we were off. With about an hour’s daylight left, our mission was to get as far down the river as possible, before mooring up.

The Captain / Cook / Videographer started to prepare our evening meal when she encountered something of a problem… no gas to fuel the cooker!

Now, for the record I was driving the boat at this point, so I did not witness what actually happened, but…

The Captain was joined by First Mate Elaine and still the gas wasn’t working. Though there was a bit of clanking and heaving, and the general sound of “stuff happening”.

Then the Captain and the First Mate were joined by the Chief of Engineering, and as if by magic the gas was working again.

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions as to who actually fixed the problem, but Trevor was definitely claiming all the glory.

It was around this point that we heard the unmistakable sound of ladies singing.

Like the sirens of ancient legend, their voices drew us in to the shore. Ok, so we didn’t crash on the rocks, or go mad at the sound of them – and I’m sure our sirens had a lot more cider inside them – but nevertheless we did moor up moments later to a slightly off key (but full of gusto) rendition of “we are saaaaailing”, which was nice, I suppose.

We threw the ropes around a couple of trees, pulled the boat in as close to the shore as possible and called it a night.