Apologies, signal is terrible here so there are no pictures in this entry yet. I’ll fix that as soon as I can. However, I think the words paint their own picture…
It was cold overnight, for some of us at least. It transpired that the Captain’s bed had a double-sized duvet cover but only a single duvet actually in it. The upshot of this is that I woke in the morning with various parts of me almost frozen.
Being cold had one advantage though, it helped make sure I was awake early enough for the bright eyed and bushy tailed start the crew had planned.
The SSO and I were taking our morning constitutional along the towpath before 6AM.
We found our way to the first lock of the day, making sure it was set and ready in time for the Ross’s Gull and her crew to arrive. We only just managed it, but we got there.
Our main delay was the fact that the SSO really wanted to get back on the boat, and often planted all four feet steadfastly in the ground, to make his point. So it proved something of a challenge to actually get anywhere.
After this first lock it was my turn to drive. The Captain, Elaine, Trevor, and the Ship’s Boy all worked very hard operating a series of swing bridges and locks, and on one occasion a lock with a swing-bridge in the middle of it!
It’s at this point I should probably mention the weather. Like most of the country, we were predicted to have torrential rain for most of the day. However, so far the morning had been bright, sunny, and dry. We kept a watchful eye on the clouds gathering above.
As we travelled the Captain phoned the hire boat base and sorted out the incorrectly sized duvet, and a few other bits and pieces (such as missing a grill pan, or baking trays). The base were very apologetic and quick to solve the issue.
The Captain arranged to meet the hire boat base worker at a nearby lock.
We arrived at the lock, only to find no one there. Just as we were thinking about moving on, and all the complications that created (should someone stay behind and wait, then try to catch the boat up?) a man with a van appeared and the problem was solved.
The rain arrived.
Actually it wasn’t too bad really. The breeze picked up as well, which added a little additional interest to driving the boat. Everyone slipped into their oilskins and we pressed on.
The sun came out.
This wasn’t too bad, either. Everyone slipped out of their oilskins and we pressed on.
This routine repeated for the majority of the day. In, out, in, out. Shake it all about.
The SSO, having worked hard all morning, decided the best cause of action was to curl up and sleep for the rest of the day. He did not want to take part in the oilskins game.
We were really in full swing by this stage, tearing through locks like a formula one pit crew. Many hands do indeed make light(ish) work.
And it certainly took many hands to rescue the Ship of Maidens. Though not all hands were available at first…
It all started when I was doing bosun stuff (I’m not really sure what a bosun does, but it’s better to say that than “I was on the toilet”), when I heard a call from the Captain, “Scott, get up here we need to rescue these ladies!”
I was quickly despatched to the bow, to unlock the front doors (we keep them locked whilst travelling so the SSO can roam the boat freely whilst everyone else is in the stern). When I got there, I was greeted by Elaine and the Ship’s Boy, who were slightly more clued in on the situation than me.
“There’s a boat full of woman stuck on the far bank!”
I dashed through the boat, past the snoozing SSO, who had clearly decided that this was a situation that didn’t need his attention.
When I arrived at the stern. I saw the true scale of what was going on.
There was indeed a narrowboat pinned to the bank on the far side of the canal, and her crew were completely out of ideas as to how to free themselves.
Out Captain reversed the Ross’s Gull so that our stern was inches from their bow, and was issuing orders to the crew of the Ship of Maidens.
“Throw us a line.” She said to their Captain, let’s call her Saucy Sue.
A rope landed in my face, and was quickly tied to our boat. Saucy Sue was clearly grateful for the assistance.
“You there!” Our Captain shouted down to the Ship of Maidens stern, where two crew mates – Bilgewater Bess and Panicking Paula – were bumbling around not quite knowing what to do. “Take the pole and push it against the shore.”
It took them a moment to work out where the pole was on the roof of the Ship of Maidens, but they got there. Though in the end it wasn’t required, as by the time they’d worked out how to use the pole (it was clearly something they weren’t familiar with) our Captain threw the Ross’s Gull into full steam ahead, and managed to pull the Ship of Maidens free from the treacherous shallows they’d been stuck in.
“We’ve been here for ages.” Saucy Sue confessed from one Captain to another. “However can we repay you?”
“Got any beer onboard?” Asked the Ship’s Boy. Strangely this fell on deaf ears.
“I could marry you.” Said Saucy Sue, to our Captain.
“It’s fine, just try not to get stuck again.” Said our Captain, though she spent the rest of the day both pleased and slightly confused to have received her first marriage proposal from one Captain to another.
Once they were free, I untied their bow line from our stern and released the Ship of Maidens.
For their part, Bilgewater Bess and Panicking Paula were still recovering from their ordeal. They seemed to have discovered the joys of hammering the throttle, with plenty of dirty water churning up behind them.
“Try not to give it too much of that,” Elaine said, “or you’ll just get stuck again.”
The two crew mates of the Ship of Maidens blushed, but did as they were told. Before long they were safely off on their journey, and we could continue on ours.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – no, not that! – where was Trevor in all this? Well, he was busy setting the next lock and wondering what was keeping us so long.
Nothing else quite so adventurous happened for the rest of the day, thankfully.
We passed through Lock 55, which is the highest point on the whole of the Kennet & Avon canal, and wended our way through the rain.
We stopped at the next water point and filled up the boat. I walked on ahead and, just as the day had started with me setting the first lock, it ended with me setting the last.
After this we cruised for a little while longer, the rain lashing down now, until we found a quiet mooring point next to a nature reserve.
Elaine fed us a delicious meal of chicken and champ, and the Ship’s Boy knocked out a superb Eton Mess.
We had just about enough energy for one game of Uno, before settling down and calling it a night. The Captain still thinking about that proposal.