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Boat Blog: A quick shuffle…

Posted by indigodream on 5 November, 2009

Thursday 5th November

Little Venice to Perivale

I’ve had a nice solo cruise today, enjoying a dry November day. It cheered me up considerably – I’m can’t accept the coming of Christmas yet, despite what the retailers are telling me! I know I’m in denial but I’m just not ready to sink into winter.

Although we weren’t at the 14-day limit for the moorings at Little Venice, we decided to move her out today rather than overstaying our welcome (the only other feasible option as we’re in Wales for the rugby this weekend).

I’d decided to travel up to Paddington with the commuters this morning, on the basis that if I stayed overnight on the boat I’d just snuggle up in bed and wouldn’t get away until 10am. D’oh – what was I thinking! ‘Tis the season of leaves on the line and other inexplicable delays – I got away from the moorings at my usual 10.15am but having got up at 6.30am!

Indigo Dream had been fine on the moorings. The fact that we were in a long line of unmolested boats suggested that she would be. But I’d chatted with a BW worker busily (and possibly futilely) sweeping leaves from the towpath who told me that they’d had problems with youths throwing fireworks at passing boats. Scary…..

As I stepped on board I did wonder wryly whether a firework would have usefully burnt off the 3-inch mulch of fallen leaves lying on the back deck. 🙂

It was a fine morning, though the canal was quiet – widebeam Thamesis passed me on the mooring and she was the only boat I saw on the move until Alperton. I had a quick chat with the owner of the boat behind me – I was curious to know whether he was on a winter mooring – I wasn’t sure where they are and didn’t want to transgress. He assured me it was a winter mooring, well sort of, well not a real winter mooring but where he was mooring for winter etc etc. Oh dear, the rest of the conversation was a bit stilted as he tried to justify continuous mooring and I tried not to be too judgemental……

Of course, we’re not breaking the rules, what we’re doing is completely different, we’re just exploring the breadth of the London canals,  necessitating multiple stops at some of the more fascinating moorings until our hoped for winter mooring finally materialises.

I stocked the back deck with everything I might need and got underway. It was a fine day but I soon had to put on the ‘emergency’ layers that I’d draped on the back door (within easy reach of the tiller). I was barely past Kensal Green when I had to bring the boat into the bank so that I could run inside and grab a few more layers. Luckily there was no-one around – I didn’t tie her to the bank and in the brief minutes that I was inside the breeze had disobligingly drifted her out, like a miniature Marie Celeste – engine running, half-empty can of coke on the back deck, nibbled muffin and no crew……

Now this is a familiar bit of water, but there’s always something new to see, so what did I notice today….

Firstly there was the depressing sight of the graffiti under the already gloomy M40 flyover – I swear that there’s more now than there was a few weeks ago. Incongruously though, it looks as if someone is trying to put in some flowerbeds along the towpath right below the flyover; there are two little plots marked out with stones and filled with soil (though no plants as yet). It’s a nice thought but I have no idea what will grow in such a shady spot and I can’t believe that flowerbeds won’t be vandalised out of existence here. I do hope that I’m wrong – this spot would definitely benefit from some brightening.

I saw an unfamiliar boat at the Kensal Green Visitor Moorings – if only I’d written down her name – nb Sea ……something! Anyway, what caught my eye was that this boat’s business was “Costumier” – showing, yet again, that there’s no limit to people’s inventiveness when it comes to what you can do on a narrowboat! The boat was also striking for having a beautifully carved and painted horse’s head mounted on her prow.

The stretch through Kensal Green had a real Halloween atmosphere – the jumbled mass of gravestones in the vast cemetery seemed to loom large, rising up haphazardly, pushed by who knows what force. But don’t worry, all hallow’s eve has passed and it’s not the unquiet dead on the move, but the gradual lowering of the long grass and the fall of the trees’ leafy curtain. In a landscape slowly being robbed of its colour by the encroaching winter, the bright flashes of flowers, wreaths and balloons adorning the more recent graves seemed startling and poignant.

When I last cruised this way, it was at the end of a long-ish day and I was lacking a bit of my usual sparkle. I didn’t find it so gloomy today – maybe it was the welcome skylights of blue in the thick cloud and the continuing absence of rain!

Even the bit that flanks the borders of Wormwood Scrubs didn’t seem so bad. The view was enlivened by the orange fortress of an old lifeboat moored offside – if looked impregnable enough to use as a submarine! The notice on the side said it could hold 60 people – I can’t imagine what a claustrophobic squash that would be, but I guess that if the alternative’s the space of the open sea then you wouldn’t complain.

There were a lot of runners on the towpath today. I was very impressed by one (male) runner doing triceps dips on a canalside bench – I told him I was impressed and he told me it was hard work and he’d rather be on the helm. I had to agree with him, that’s where I’d rather be too! But most of the runners (mainly female) were training too intensely for talk, the corded muscles of their arms as impervious to the cold as the gnarled trunks of the towpath trees. Not being a runner, I couldn’t believe that they weren’t cold; I got some insight later as I vigorously banged in five pins to hold the boat – even I had to remove a layer (just the one, can’t get too carried away!).

I had a particularly fine view of Wembley Stadium from the North Circular Aqueduct today – the stadium was in full view because of a combination of some local demolition, the loss of the obscuring leaves and the shimmering halo of the famous white arch.

I stopped off at Sainsbury’s in Alperton for lunch – the bollards make for an easy single-handed mooring. I was surprised to find that the store moorings were deserted; I was also surprised to see that they were 7-day moorings though I’m not sure that I’d leave the boat unattended here – there’s a wide variety of characters on the towpath (all benign today) but the canalside bins were overflowing, mainly with empty lager cans. Now there’s a philosophical question – are overflowing bins a bad sign, given that really wicked people wouldn’t bother using a bin in the first place!

I met the second boat of the day while I was mooring up here – they were looking bewildered because their Nicholson’s (and ours) has a water point marked here. They couldn’t find it and I couldn’t recall it. It may have been obscured by the overflowing bins and the attendant plague of pigeons and herring gulls. I know that both birds are a dirty nuisance but you have to admire their tenacious ability to adapt and survive.

I had a half-hour break here – I was thoroughly revived by some food and warmth. It’s one of the things I have to watch out for when I’m solo – I tend to cruise along in a world of my own and it’s easy to forget the essentials until cold and hunger make me grumpy and careless. With two canalside Sainsbury’s on this stretch there was no chance of that happening today.

I set off from Alperton in good spirits – there wasn’t that far to go and the stretch from Alperton to Black Horse is very attractive, with views over Horsenden Hill on the one side and a few food factories wafting delicious smells on the other.

The towpath moorings at Perivale were empty, but I carried on to the winding hole at Black Horse – partly so that I could investigate the moorings there and partly so that I’d be set the right way for my trip back next week.

Surprisingly, there was one mooring spot available at Black Horse, though I’m not too sure whether these are now winter permit moorings. I winded the boat while musing on my options and decided to go back to Perivale – I like it there.

There’s some sort of industrial bakery by Black Horse bridge – there was a large ‘Hovis’ tanker unloading something there – it revived some fond memories of our cruising up north, where you can’t travel a mile without someone telling you that ‘Hovis’ is short for ‘Hominis Vit’, which apparently means ‘strength of man’.

“What strength?” I asked myself as I mused on the frozen state of some of my more unmentionable extremities. As I cruised past the bakery the canal was flooded by the smell of toasted teacakes, prompting an overwhelming longing for hot buns…….

The trip back to Perivale seemed to take no time at all and I moored up in one of my favourite spots opposite the site of Willowtree Cruisers (though I didn’t see their trip boat today).

Earlier in the day, I had been wondering why boaters aren’t more often targeted for towpath muggings. I got my answer this morning when towpath walkers were treated to the menacing sight of a woman boater wielding a small hatchet and me busy at the (pointed) pins with a heavy mallet. I was quite worried about the hatchet-wielder – she seemed a little random and I thought that her toes were in danger (if she had any left, that is!). With all this going on in my head, it’s small wonder that I managed to hit my own leg with the mallet when I was mooring up. 🙂

Oh, no harm done apart from the singeing of a few leaves by a few choice swearwords…….

Note to self: Allow 3 hours cruising time for the trip back!

2 Responses to “Boat Blog: A quick shuffle…”

  1. I love reading people’s accounts of cruising a patch I know well and yours was splendid. We too mused over the Alperton moorings. I might risk it overnight if I was aboard. However we’d never thought of mooring at Perivale. Are there any shops nearby, or perhaps a nice pub?

    Neil

  2. indigodream said

    I’d always assumed that the Alperton moorings were typical store 24-hour moorings; I’ve got vague memories of other boaters telling us that the moorings there were ok – like you say, maybe not unattended.

    I haven’t noticed any pubs around Perivale – every time we’ve stopped there we’ve stayed on board – usually enjoying the spoils of a raid to Tesco’s in Bulls Bridge! If we’ve had the car with us then we’ve just driven back to the Black Horse.

    I’m back there next wednesday for the cruise back to Paddington. I’m intending to go by public transport so I’ll have a look around for shops/pubs and let you know. Don’t hold your breath – I don’t think there’s much around there…..

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