Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for October 22nd, 2009

Boat Blog: Charity Cruise

Posted by indigodream on 22 October, 2009

Saturday 17th October

Paddington Basin to City Road (and back again)

Paddington Basin by night.....

Paddington Basin by night.....

We were excited to be having visitors today – 7 of the 8 charity places had been taken. It’s a modest contribution to Greyhoundhomer’s coffer’s but every little helps when you’re a small charity.

Note: apologies for the grainy photos, we forgot to adjust the camera setting from nighttime to daytime – d’oh!

The first to arrive was Greygal, and her husband Andy.  Greygal has been on board before so Indigo Dream’s like her narrowboat in the South; her own boat is moored up north at the moment. It was particularly great to meet Andy, known only as A on her blog. As her readers will know, Greygal and Andy have FIVE rescue greyhounds, though they left the pack at home today.

The next to arrive were Cheryl, Jan and Clive, three of Greyhoundhomer’s volunteer dog-walkers along with a horde of greyhound goodies just in case someone asked us for a calendar along the way.

Duke has made himself at home already...

Duke has made himself at home already...

Finally we were joined by Peter, Sue and their rescue greyhound Duke – a Spanish Galgo. We deliberately met a little way from the boat, Lou did her usual 1-minute bark then we migrated together back to the boat where Duke was allowed into the pack with no drama.

Now, our charity cruises are open to all comers, but by chance, we were all greyhounds lovers, and four of our party were experienced narrowboaters!

With our party complete, we set off from Paddington Basin with Greygal’s experienced hand on the helm while we made tea and coffee and hot danish pastries – lush.

With plenty of crew I had a very relaxing day. It couldn’t have been more of a contrast to yesterday, when I’d been on the helm by myself all day. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it’s much much better to have company, especially such good company…..

So instead of helming, I was able to relax indoors, chatting and making a fuss of Duke, who is absolutely adorable. He did eye up Lou’s sofa but wisely decided against it – he and Blue swapped between their three beds all day (two of Blue’s and Duke’s bed on deck).

Apart from a random run from Blue, then Lou, in the morning, the dogs were exceptionally well-behaved today. They rummaged around the locks, allowed themselves to be mascots for greyhound rehoming and still found time for a bit of loafing around. A narrowboat’s a confined space but the three of them got on really well – greyhounds are fantastic!

Our happy crew, well, almost, Clive and Richard are at the front taking the photos...

Our happy crew, well, almost, Clive and Richard are at the front taking the photos...

We had a good trip out to City Road lock passing the delights of Little Venice, Maida Vale Tunnel, Regent’s Park, Camden Locks, and the Islington Tunnel to name but a few. We noticed in passing that Camden Market has expanded since we were last here and now forms a lively and colourful backdrop to the top AND middle locks. We’d planned to go turn round in City Road Basin but the vote was to turn above the lock and spend the time loitering in the market on our way back.

But first we visited the London Canal Museum, where our guests had an extended rummage – it’s a fascinating place.  The three dogs stayed on board while our guests explored the museum – Duke was so good, once he’d worked out that his mummy was out for a while he just settled onto Blue’s bed, though he did keep one ear up. Our two were flat out on the sofa as usual. We had lunch on the fine museum moorings, just enjoying the ambience of Battlebridge Basin.

Amazingly, our crew outnumbered the gongoozlers at Camden top lock; that definitely wasn't the case on the way back!

Amazingly, our crew outnumbered the gongoozlers at Camden top lock; that definitely wasn't the case on the way back!

We said a reluctant goodbye to Greygal and Andy here – we were close to Kings Cross train station, the most convenient for them, and they had five hungry hounds waiting for them at home……

The rest of us set off towards Camden. The market was even busier on our way back – gongoozler’s everywhere. This gave the Greyhoundhomer team a great opportunity to talk to people about greyhounds and to raise awareness. They got some donations and sold a few Christmas Cards and a calendar. Blue and Lou were made even more famous as they were introduced as Mr and Mrs November!

Our guests had a wander around Camden Market with the three dogs while we found a mooring. We were pleasantly surprised. What used to be the lock moorings are now 4-hour ‘stop and shop’ moorings – brilliant! We moored up and went to join the others at the market. It’s an amazing place – foods from every corner of the globe, colour, sound and hundreds of shoppers. I was so proud of the dogs – they drew loads of attention, further raising the profile of retired greyhounds and they didn’t bat an eyelid at the crowds around them. They didn’t even steal any food, though some of the stalls were very tempting!

A true narrowboater's grin - of course, we all exist in this state of bliss....

A true narrowboater's grin - of course, we all exist in this state of bliss....

We did a round of the market then went back to the boat. We passed through London Zoo and as we were cruising past I spotted that the african hunting dogs were out. I hastily stopped the boat and reversed back so that everyone could have a view and take photos. Then we set off, but had another stop to look at the Warthogs!

By the time we’d stopped to photograph the animals, the light was starting to drain out of the day so we headed back to Paddington without further loitering. Luckily, we were able to moor at the same pontoon that we’d left just a scant 8 hours earlier. It was hard to say goodbye to our guests – we’d started out as strangers but by the end of the day they felt like old friends. The Greyhoundhomer crew had a long train trip through the weekend engineering works so they headed for home. We chatted to Sue and Peter for ages, they’re greyhound and boating enthusiasts; poor people – they must have wondered whether they’d ever escape 🙂

A well-deserved smile of achievement (or should that be relief?) after a neat single-gate lock entry

A well-deserved smile of achievement (or should that be relief?) after a neat single-gate lock entry

We were exhausted and elated by the end of the day – we’d been so anxious to make the cruise a success and the relief at having such a great day with our lovely guests was overwhelming.

We still had enough energy to explore Paddington Basin by night – it’s quite a place. It’s strangely empty during the evening, its pristine paving unsullied by the trampling of the hundreds of workers that inhabit it during the week. It gave us a chance to admire the sheer cleanliness of the place, the grand scale and the sculptures.  We found a superb lebanese restaurant – Massis in Sheldon Square (www.massis.co.uk) and had a truly scrumptious meal; more pricey than our usual but very special.

We’d left the dogs on board – they were exhausted after a thoroughly stimulating day. We had to force them off the boat for a final wee and they slept all night, almost all day on Sunday and most of the day on Monday. We managed to stay awake long enough to watch the end of Strictly then we were off to our (own) beds too – it’s been an exceptional day.

Photoblog:

With 9 experienced greyhound handlers on board it wasn't long before Lou found someone to rub her tummy....

With 9 experienced greyhound handlers on board it wasn't long before Lou found someone to rub her tummy....

Contentment.....

Contentment.....

Camdon Lock had really filled up by late afternoon; a perfect opportunity to talk to people about the merits of owning a greyhound.

Camdon Lock had really filled up by late afternoon; a perfect opportunity to talk to people about the merits of owning a greyhound.

The boys getting ready to visit Camden Market

The boys getting ready to visit Camden Market

The greyhounds coping very well with the crowds and the attention at Camden Market; they're very adaptable.

The greyhounds coping very well with the crowds and the attention at Camden Market; they're very adaptable.

Duke trying out Blue's bed - "it'll do" he said....

Duke trying out Blue's bed - "it'll do" he said....

One last photo of Duke - he really is adorable....

One last photo of Duke - he really is adorable....

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Boat Blog: Cowley to Paddington

Posted by indigodream on 22 October, 2009

Thursday 15th and Friday 16th October

Boat Blog: Cowley to Paddington Basin

Aha, the odyssey might be over but our cruising isn’t! We’re expecting to be on the move winter really but we’ll be mooching around London (from whatever winter base we eventually go for) rather than travelling with the great sense of purpose that we associate with the odyssey.

Thursday

As some of you will have noticed, we’re planning a charity cruise on Saturday and we’ve had 7 takers.

So, Indigo Dream was definitely due another deep clean. I’d already washed all of the dog beds but there was the usual accumulation of fluff on the floor so I resolved to have some time alone on the boat without the dogs underfoot.

I had a good journey up on the Thursday night – the roads were deserted and I found the perfect parking space by bridge 189. It wasn’t far to onload the heaps of dogs beds – we were being joined by a third greyhound and their comfort was obviously paramount!

It was so mild in Uxbridge compared to where we live in Surrey – I sat on deck for a while, just enjoying the peace of the mooring. But then the fluff beckoned – I got half the boat clean before giving up for the night, but I felt better for it. Although I was alone I had a peaceful night’s sleep – it’s a great mooring spot.

Friday

The plan was for me to set out early in order to get to Paddington by early afternoon. Ah well, you know me and early, it all started so well but Richard had been very thorough with the mooring and it took me half an hour to hammer the pins out of the ground and hack the chain out of the piling. Never mind, it was a mild dry morning and the canal was mine to enjoy, for a while anyway.

It was no effort to do this cruise single-handed – there are no locks and Indigo Dream knows the way, it’s her home turf. I meandered along, enjoying the morning and the familiarity of the waters. I was interested to pass by the aggregate wharf where a working narrowboat had just had her cargo of sand unloaded. She’d passed me earlier, fully laden and impossibly low in the water, now her prow was sticking up in the air! I wondered how she managed to move, and her owner told me that they’d dredged the centre of the canal hereabouts which made a big difference. I can well imagine.

Later on I caught up with a wide beam hire craft; it was being well driven and going at a nice speed so it wasn’t a bother to follow her. She turned onto the Paddington Arm at Bulls Bridge and I wondered whether to stop at Tesco’s and let her have a head start. But the moorings were pretty full so I pressed on; there were two canalside Sainsbury’s on my way so shopping wouldn’t be a problem.

I carried on down, musing about how sensational this canal is – sound, sight, smell and touch – all stimulated by the canalside bustle. At one point there was the clatter of a train going over a bridge, the shushing of car tyres over the nearby road bridge and the squealing roar of a plane coming in to land at Heathrow. In the meantime, the tiller felt silky smooth as Indigo Dream followed her familiar route into town. There are many canalside food factories, bathing the water with the sharp smell of curry and, later on, the unctuous perfume of sugary waffles. There’s plenty to see, the gleaming arch at Wembley, the grey traffic jam that is the North Circular and the soft green of the overgrown vegetation, slashed in places with the shocking scarlet of Virginia Creepers, hanging from derelict factory walls.

As I cruised along, Dylan Thomas’ famous words kept insinuating themselves into my thoughts – “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower”. Yes, that’s this canal, once full of the force that drove these industries, now dormant, dormant not dead – will it ever wake and be a driving force again?

Anyway, as I was drifting along the Paddington Arm I became aware of another more immediate impulse and bought Indigo Dream into a quick 1-pin mooring for a quick pit stop. A boat behind me asked if I was ok – that was kind of him; if I’d needed to get to the prop I’d have needed a longer arm to help me. As it happened I was fine!

Sadly, soon after my impromptu stop I caught up with a narrowboat taking a slow and erratic course along the canal. I caught up with her in neutral, actually, I caught up with her in reverse! But opportunities to overtake were few because of the lengths of online moorings. I was so pleased when they decided to turn around at Black Horse. If they’d gone into Paddington I’d still be cruising!

As always I enjoyed the scenery around Perivale – it’s one of my favourite spots along here.

I stopped off at Sainsbury’s in Alperton. There are plenty of mooring spaces here and I topped up with supplies for our cruise. They were selling off hot chickens cheap – now I knew that the greyhounds would be happy to come on board later. By the time I’d done the shopping I was well behind schedule, but I stayed here for lunch anyway – that hot chicken smelled too good to ignore!

I set off for the last leg of the trip and had the canal to myself. I didn’t write down the location, but I noticed that they’re putting in a new footbridge to serve a new housing development. It looked like a big project – they’ve put in a section of floating towpath to bypass the works. I was surprised by how fast the cyclists passed over the floating pontoons – I slowed down so as not to rock them off!

I found the section through Kensal Green to be a bit bleak – the graffiti vandals have been out in force and there wasn’t a flat surface that wasn’t covered in their scribblings. I found it to be particularly unappealing, especially when three youths decide to spit on the boat off a footbridge coming through Kensal Town. I could see they were planning something – I suppose I should be glad it was just spit, one of them looked like he was getting into position to wee on the boat! And all this was in broad daylight, off a busy footbridge with lots of other passersby. Only one bit of slobber hit the roof, I’m afraid I yelled at them, I was so angry and upset. Ok, it’s not the harm done, it’s the attitude behind it. We’ve never had any trouble here before.

Anyway, I was soon approaching Little Venice and I was looking forward to mooring. I had a heavy heart after the gobbing incident and regular readers will know that I find it very hard to let go of these things.

Fortunately I was forced to let go of it, I was on a mission to find a mooring spot in Paddington Basin and I was arriving at 5.40pm, much later than I’d intended. I managed to drop the garbage off  then started looking for moorings in earnest. I went right down into the basin and was excited to see two potential moorings. I turned Indigo Dream around at the end of the basin and uhm’d and ah’d over which mooring to go for. I plumped for the one that I could drive into, only to get it completely wrong before realising that the space was three feet too short – what an idiot. I redeemed myself by reversing into the other, more tricky mooring spot, earning Richard’s praise when he turned up a little later with the dogs.

We stayed in for the evening, finishing our chores and making sure that the boat was ready for tomorrow’s visitors – we had a busy day ahead…..

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