blogger, canal, canallife

Day One… and we are off…

Well, this is it. We have filled the boat with water, filled the fridge with vegetables as well as booze. Charged the walkie-talkies and after a call to lock keeper ((It’s always good to call ahead and let the lockie know where you are etc. It helps them to make sure they are not filling and emptying the lock unnecessarily if boats can share the lock.)) Have you been doing your research, Brackets? ((Yes, what else was I going to whilst you were busy for 3 months?))

We arrive into Newark Town Lock and have a chat with the lockie – they are all so lovely and helpful. We will be regulars through Newark Town Lock so it’s good to get to know them all. All goes well and we cruise out and continue on the mighty River Trent. Luckily this part isn’t tidal, although we are used to the river now after bringing our boat back home to Newark from Mercia Marina at the end of May and a little weekend cruise to Hazelford Lock.

Our plan today is stop for lunch at Hazelford Lock and then ‘carry-on cruising’. I think typically we will end up arriving in Nottingham on Saturday afternoon – just when I don’t want to arrive! I find the lock a little difficult there and it can be quite daunting with everyone watching from canal side – I suppose this is something to get used to.

I’m going to write this blog as we go along on our journey so it might be a bit of what’s happening now, what we plan to do, a reflection on the day etc depending on when I get chance to write it. I’m not going to be over fussy with the editing either as I have other writing projects to work on, so I hope you forgive any mistakes! It’s so lovely sitting at the dinette ((This is a fixed table and chairs on the boat which converts into a double bed)) I really wanted a boat with a dinette as it gives you such a lot of extra space and as you would expect, this is at a premium on a boat. This now functions as our place to eat, writing desk, jigsaws and gaming table and everything else– very useful.

Our plan for this cruise is to get as far as we can in 2 weeks and then turn back. We don’t really have a destination in mind other than to enjoy the cruise, have time for walking and for me, some writing and reading. This is about taking time out and just enjoying this massive life change as well as getting used to the boat properly and finding how we live in the space and of course, much faffing.

It’s 8.30pm and we are moored up just outside Stoke Bardolph lock. It been a lovely day but after setting off at 9am with a stop outside Hazelford lock for lunch, we are ready for a rest. It was one of those cruising days where the lockies ask you where you’re going and how far and we didn’t really know. We wanted to just cruise until we’d had enough, possibly go as far as Holme Lock but in the end we decided to stop at Stoke Bardolph as the lockie said it was a nice quiet mooring. He said he’d let the lockie know and the gates would be open ready for us. ((Lockies are usually on from 9-5 on the main locks we think!)) Sure enough, we turned up and then the realisation dawned that we would have operate the lock ourselves. We’ve done plenty of locks using brute strength, ignorance and a windlass but not a key operated one. Oh the pressure.

The other half dropped me off at the landing lock as he is better with the boat than me. So off I trot to operate the very, very, very large lock. I found the controls and set about sticking my key in like I knew what I was doing as people were walking past. Pretending confidence and blind ignorance is a mantra for life. I read the instructions, very important, checked the paddles were closed and after The Plot had been maneuvered into place, I closed the gates at the push of a button – ohhh the power. So much easier than using a windlass, just a simple press of the button and the hydraulics do all the work.

I quickly figured out ((Was that because you read the instructions properly on a second look?!)) that if you press one button it opens one sluice ((A sluice is an opening in the gates which lets the water in/out to fill/empty a lock.))  if you press them simultaneously then it opens two sluices on each gate. I’m glad I went with one with the Captain looking after the boat on his own, it was a nice gentle fill and it was soon time to lower the paddles and open the gate. It was so simple and another canal/river first for me. I find it’s all about taking your time, we are not here to rush and it might look a nice sedate way of life and usually it is but you can get in trouble in a second, so I would rather be careful and be safe. Stories of boats overturning is enough to make anyone careful, we don’t have another home.

After a nice meal of Quiche, new potatoes and salad we went for a little wander. One of the reasons we made this move onto a boat was to change our lifestyle. We had a routine of coming home from work and just sitting, you don’t get much chance to do that with a boat as there is always something to do, maybe because we are newish to boating, the ropes need constant retying and faffing in general – we have got better at this and have now experts at mooring – until you’re not. Just when you feel you have mastered it all goes wrong, usually when someone is watching. Our walk took us around Stoke Woods which is now managed to make sure the native trees thrive and there is a lovely path running through it. We stumbled across some farmers fields and despite being so close to civilisation you feel a millions miles away from anyone.

Anyway, that’s day one done. A glass of fizz is required and then an early night. This boating makes you tired!

P.S. Just remembered when we were in a lock, the lockie was asking for our number ((You need a canal and river trust licence to use the rivers/canals in the UK)) I’m ashamed to say I don’t know it off by heart yet. Anyway, there were plenty of Gongoozlers ((This is what they call people who watch boats!)) on the side and they all started shouting the number to the lockie! HA, hilarious. Thanks Gongoozlers!

P.P.S – if I had pound for every person who commented on the name of our boat i would be able to give up work! lol. It’s lovely though, the community surrounding and on the canals/river is so welcoming.

A few pics from the journey. I keep forgetting to take pics because i’m too busy looking at the scenery or writing!

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