Saturday 31st January
Stunning saturday sunrise
By Saturday morning we were free of our domestic encumberances so was it was time for boating! We drove up to Limehouse – much easier with the
Garbage - arrgh!!!!
hounds and we needed to stop off at Sainsbury’s on the way to stock up with water and chocolate (both in perilously short supply) as well as a warming lunch for five and two Starbucks latte’s. Whoever thought of putting Starbucks in supermarkets should get an award; if only Sainsbury’s had managed to get the Crispy Creme franchise as well.
We got to the boat shortly before our friends, Neil, Jenny, Hannah and their two spaniels Max and Hugo. They’re old hands at this boating lark, having been on many trips with us, including an epic locking session along the Huddersfield Narrow on our old boat, Dragonfly.
Neil, Jenny and Hannah haven’t done the Regent’s canal before so the plan was to do a full day’s cruise up to Paddington Basin and see the sights on the way.
<Rant mode on>
Sadly, a major sight was GARBAGE, lots of garbage. We’d been spared it on the way down because it was invisibly
An offering turned to litter....
trapped in the ice but we got the full force of it today. The canal from Limehouse to Victoria Park was absolutely filthy. Along with the usual detritus of towpath civilisation we were treated to a lock full of polystyrene boxes carrying wilting flowers and rotten oranges. I’m sure the produce was fresh when it went in the canal – I think this another one of those offerings to the Ganges. But polystyrene’s not biodegradeable and a canal won’t carry it to the sea so pretty soon a heartfelt offering becomes horrible litter. Is this a conversation that needs to happen between BW and local community/religious leaders?
Oh, we picked up two coal bags today – in our prop! “Taybrite, heats your boat, fouls your prop” – how’s that for a catchy marketing logo….
<rant mode off>
This copper clad building has turned to vivid verdigris. Award winning apparently.
Once I’d reconciled myself to the garbage I started to look around for all the landmarks that Adam’s been posting. We’ve cruised this way many times but there’s always something new to notice. Of course, our guests hadn’t been this way before, so they were very appreciative of just how different London is from the canal.
Hannah has become very keen on watersports and one of her hobbies is sailing. She’s been at the helm of Indigo Dream since she was tall enough to see over the roof but today she came into her own. With only the minimum of supervision she managed several competent lock entries and exits which freed up Neil and Richard for the hard work onshore. Jenny, who’s Australian, was largely exempt from outdoor work – you really need a lifetime’s acclimatisation for a British January. It was a lovely day though, sunny and cold but without that bitter edge that was to come on Sunday.
We stopped for lunch at Victoria Park. I was surprised, Richard, never wants to stop for lunch, must have been a special concession for our guests. He’d also spotted nb Fair-fa
Fair fa at the popular Victoria Park moorings
moored in the usual melee here. We were keen to hear how they’d got on, as the last time we saw them they were marooned in the Royal Docks with a defunct engine. They had a tale to tell. No sooner had they fixed their engine (it had succumbed to diesel bug) and escaped from the Royal Dock, than one of their gorgeous dogs became ill, stranding them at Victoria Park until she recovered (which she now has done, thankfully). I don’t think their 2008 was too rosy and now what a start to 2009. Hopefully it will all be good from now on.
We were all very warm and comfortable after lunch. I’d filled everyone up on hot soup, swiss cheese toasties and chocolate bread ‘n butter pudding with custard (all shop bought I’m afraid – if you want real cooking come to the house!). My idea was that we’d need warming up after a bracing morning on the helm. Well, yes, that’s the thing with warm people full of food – they don’t want to move, especially back out into the cold! We made a slow and unenthusiastic start but the prospect of a cleaner canal and some interesting sights to come soon lifted our spirits.
Hannah doing a great job at the helm
For the first time ever we saw, and waved at, a Eurostar train coming into St Pancras. We’ve only previously seen domestic trains on the line. I hope that any curious people looking out of the train appreciated the sight of the third most iconic british image pottering down the canal!
What we know as the three Camden locks marked the end of the day’s hard work. The bottom locks are characterised by crowds of usually drunk/drugged locals – all perfectly benign and no trouble at all (apart from occasionally having to sweep flocks of young goths off the lock beams). The top lock has its own character – it’s absolutely buzzing here with hordes of onlookers on the towpath, peering over the bridges and saluting us with full glasses from the adjacent bars and restaurants. It’s unique and a little scary – Hannah hid from the limelight; in my eccentric mix of clothing topped off with a balaclava and dark glasses I felt able to share the iconic status of my boat and ignored the many cameras pointing my way. Of course, if you think it’s scary on a cold Saturday afternoon in January then try it in the Summer when you’re performing your lock entries to an audience of thousands.
Hannah and Max enjoying a rest after their hard work
The next bit of canal is one of my all-time favourites – Regent’s Park. It’s fascinating to go through to the zoo, though the african animals were sensibly tucked up in their dens. It’s also great to slobber over the row of £25 million pound houses and discard each in turn – we wouldn’t live there even if we did have the money, of course we wouldn’t. Mind you, neither does anyone else by the looks of it. Neil pointed out there there were no signs of life there, no lights, no people, just lovely houses standing apparently empty under the watchful gaze of their CCTV security systems. How sad – they are beautiful properties.
By now it was moving towards twilight and the crew gradually disappeared. In the early part of the day I’d taken advantage of our fully crewed-up status to stay indoors and gossip with Jenny. But as the day drained away everyone gradually moved indoors cunningly leaving me on the helm. Every now and then I’d shout through the hatch as we passed noteworthy sights. They were carefully perused through the windows! The only thing that made our guests poke their heads over the hatch was the tranquil view of Little Venice basin gently lit by the soft street lamps and fading daylight.
Blue was also tired after his day's labours
We turned for Paddington basin and moored up about two-thirds of the way down just before the first of the floating offices/classrooms. The mooring spot that we chose has good foot access to a nearby street (good for picking up crew in the car), is near to the path to Paddington Station, a short walk from the restaurants but far enough from the A40 to avoid the traffic noise. But there’s a fine choice of moorings with rings more or less all along the basin. The pontoons right at the end are quiet, have good access to Edgeware Road but it’s a real wind tunnel down there and quite a walk back to Little Venice. The moorings further up the basin are very convenient to the restaurants (and some are even adjacent to a small enclosed patch of grass for the dogs) but they suffer from traffic noise. Take your pick – they’re all very safe with security people patrolling regularly through the night.
We headed off to Zizzi’s (canalside back towards Little Venice) and scoffed a large meal which tasted all the better for being on a half-price deal. Neil gallantly went back to get the car while the rest of us relaxed on the Indigo Dream, barely awake after another great day on the water.
When we got back to the boat in the evening we got a real flavour of what it means to own two spaniels. We’d left all four dogs, happily without incident, on board while we were out. Now they’ve all had a busy day, cruising, exploring every lock, barking at other dogs on the towpath (from the safety of the boat naturally), and, of course, following each other around weeing and sniffing. Now our two were exhausted after this activity, but the spaniels are such busy little beasts. When they weren’t looking over the side they were parading up and down the cabin checking out every corner – this continued right up until past 9pm. By now our two just wanted to sleep – Lou got very grumpy indeed as she stared at them from her perch on the sofa. Hugo and Max were oblivious and cheerfully carried on roaming around as she glared down at them and wished them ill (without taking any action in that direction!).
The Webasto gave me quite a fright in the afternoon when it was showing an ‘ON’ light on the timer but all the radiators were cold. I groaned, all that money spent and still no working system. I tried the magic cure of turning it off and on again and thankfully it worked continuously and flawlesly for the rest of the day, the night and the whole of the next day – phew!
This young couple (entwined) were having a lockside photo-shoot to celebrate their engagement
Just as well we got through - the canal's closed here next week while they work on the bridge
Wonder how long it will take for this copper clad building to turn as green as its neighbour?