Saturday 25th September
Yesterday we divided our labours in order to get the boat ready for today’s cruise. Richard came up early to Cheshunt by train (without the hounds), leaving him a clear field for cleaning; I came up much later with a car-full of provisions and dogs. I was highly amused by Lynx – he now occupies what used to be Blue’s space on the back seat of the car with Lou while Ty takes the boot. However I was feeling guilty as part of the boot was occupied by two trays of Tesco shopping so I lined the remaining space with a freshly laundered duvet and two fluffy pillows so that Ty wouldn’t be uncomfortable against any hard edges. Ty never got to enjoy these luxuries – Lynx took one look at the bedding and hopped in the boot; I ousted him 3 times to try to get Ty in, but no way was Lynx relinquishing his duvet. So Ty has had to learn how to lie on the back seat (Lou has very exacting requirements) on a bed merely made up of a fleece and sheepskin! And before you say anything, of course I don’t spoil my dogs…..
Once dogs and shopping were loaded, our travel arrangements worked well, though I missed the Country Park car park, which now shuts at 7.30pm – we offloaded the essentials and left the heavy stuff for the morning. I parked overnight in the adjacent Youth Hostel car park, having obtained permission from reception. Indigo Dream had been fine on her moorings – we’ve left her here before (in previous years) so we were reasonably confident that she would be. However, a passing boater on Saturday warned us that there had been some boat vandalism in the area – interesting. Richard had done a good job of the cleaning – it’s so much easier to do the floor when there aren’t 3 galumphing greyhounds occupying the space.
It was Ty’s first overnight stay on the boat – he was absolutely fine but there was a bit of pacing overnight as Lynx and Ty negotiated the invisible 6ft exclusion zone that Lou had decided to impose around her sofa – very tricky in a boat which is only 5′ 10″ wide inside!
So we were all set to greet a boatful of dog-lovers on Saturday morning – Cheryl, Jan, Clive and their friend Vicky (most of whom are volunteer dog walkers at the Greyhoundhomer kennels) and Sue, Tony, daughter Ellie, neighbour Avril and greyhound Brennan, whom they adopted back in May. Like Ty, Brennan is a shy boy and they thought he might benefit from a day out experiencing something new in the company of other, mainly calm, greyhounds. Cheryl, Jan and Clive are old hands – they cruised with us through Camden last year and Cheryl cruised past the Olympic Park with us a few weeks ago – ah, her narrowboat addiction is gathering pace…..
We’d planned a ‘there ‘n back’ trip to make it easier for transport – we’d cruise up as far as the appropriate turning time then come back to Cheshunt for 5.30pm-ish to drop Cheryl and her crew off (unfortunately Jan and Clive needed to get home on time to look after their poorly cat). Then there was the option for the rest of the crew to have a little jaunt down to the winding hole above Waltham Town Lock to complete the day.
We left the moorings before 10.30am and cruised in perfect sunshine – sipping our lattes (and teas!) and scoffing warm danish pastries – what a way to spend a Saturday. Our guests had also brought a generous supply of cakes so we were assured a happy crew. As Jan commented, they’d loads of stuff to do at home, but then there’s always loads of stuff to do at home and how often do you get the opportunity to cruise. Couldn’t agree more 🙂
Yet again, I didn’t keep detailed notes, but we are cruising this way for several weekends so at some point I’ll do a more informative post describing the salient features. Today was about fine weather, good company, lovely views and supervising the hounds! Lou and Lynx are perfectly relaxed about everything; Brennan was a bit wary, but gained confidence from Lou and Lynx before cuddling up to fellow shy-boy Ty in the afternoon.
Ty continues to progress – he’s getting much bolder at home and is well-settled. On the boat his progress is not quite as we’d anticipated. Last week he just wanted to stay on board and every now and then had to be carried up the steps onto the back deck before stepping on shore; today he wanted to be off the boat and leapt up to the back deck every time the boat slowed down and would try to jump ship. I admired and appreciated the crew’s fast hands in catching the ballistic hound before he made a leap for the bank – they showed fielding skills worthy of the England cricket team! We did have one drama when Ty, held on a short lead by Clive, unexpectedly tried the leap anyway (he’s a strong dog though he doesn’t pull on the lead when we’re out for walks) and Ty ended up with his bum in the water before being hastily pulled back on deck. No harm done, though Ty looked very disgruntled, and even more so when he was securely confined inside for the rest of the trip (only allowed out under very close supervision).
That’s the only downside of the Lee and Stort from Indigo Dream’s perspective – most of the lock moorings are just a little too high for us to be able to swing the deck doors after we’ve pulled in, so they have to be opened just before we moor and closed just after we set off, giving adventurous hounds the perfect opportunity to leap.
I don’t know where the time went today – we had ample crew so the nicely spaced locks went by quickly; there were very few narrowboats on the move, making the navigation quiet and peaceful. By the time we reached the junction with the Stort there was very little ambient noise above the shushing of the arctic wind. It had been busier around Broxbourne, but mainly with skiffs and random little hire boats meandering around the water. We passed by a rowing eight coming downstream – the navigation was barely wide enough for us, the boats moored at the end of their gardens and the skiff’s outstretched oars.
Broxbourne is as ‘urban’ as it gets around here – we were very nosy – admiring the eclectic mix of housing styles (especially the balconies) and commenting on the neat waterside gardens with their range of interesting plants and statuary. For the most part the navigation is green and lovely, surrounded by lakes which sparkled in the sunshine and reminded us of summer. But Summer’s fading fast – Autumn is here, straddling the divide between the seasons with warm sunshine in our faces and icy siberian breezes at our backs.
We’d intended to fill up with water over lunch as our Nicholson’s shows the waterpoint above the Feidle’s Weir lock. We ascended the lock before realising that the water point and incongruous Elsan disposal is below the lock. We’d thought there was a rubbish point here but the words “no rubbish” crudely daubed on the fence suggested otherwise! Luckily we weren’t desperate for water so settled onto the useful visitor mooring bollards above the lock (NOT the lock moorings – honest!) for a ‘picnic’ on the side of the towpath.
Brennan’s favourite food is cheese sandwiches so he was delighted to see bread and cheese appearing on the picnic table! Lou, Lynx and Ty were sparked out on their various sofas and duvets and totally ignored the feast. The thing with inviting greyhound walkers on board is that they automatically walk greyhounds, any hounds. Our three have had a lot of walks today – the one before lunch just about finished them off for the day! And the thing about having other greyhound owners on board is that they invariably carry generous bags of dog treats which were enjoyed by all (the dogs, that is!). I was very grateful to our guests – they really looked after the collective pack of hounds – that made it easier for us to look after the pack of humans!
After lunch we had a choice of routes – following the Lee up towards Hertford or having a little wiggle up the Stort towards Bishops Stortford. The vote was for the Stort, so we turned right and were immediately transported back to an unspoilt rural idyll of wild green hedgerows, mellow red cascades of hawthorn berries and rolling fields, damply brown after the harvest. It is a truly beautiful river, its twists and turns delivering the abundant treasure of its views in small parcels so as not to overwhelm the eye. I had forgotten how lovely it is here.
Sadly we only had time to ‘poke our nose’ into the navigation – we were getting ready to ascend Brick Lock when we suddenly realised the time. Despite our early start, it was 3pm and we had to turn back. There’s a little ‘tributary’ below the lock which gave us plenty of room to wind. There are long-term moorings on the tributary – what a scenic, but remote spot, to occupy.
Quite a few of the crew had had a turn on the helm, but on the way back it was 16 year old Ellie’s turn. She did very well indeed and seemed to enjoy gaining a new skill. With the aid of the doggie company, of course, Ellie seemed to really enjoy her day on the boat, lamenting the fact that she hadn’t brought her pirate hat along! We never can tell with teenagers – they either love it, get involved and so have a good time or are conspicuously and loudly bored!
As the afternoon vanished, it became a bit chilly on deck so all of the dogs, and a fair few of the humans, retreated to the snug interior. Lou and Lynx took over the back cabin while Brennan cuddled up with Ty at the front. Sue did a great job of comforting the two shy boys – Ty says that she gives the best ear rubs – even better than mine (though I’m still his favourite for cuddles)! We’ve since found out that Brennan shares one grandfather (Top Honcho) with Lynx and his other grandfather (Larkhill Jo) with Ty, which makes them……related in some way, I can’t work it out. We’ve never found any of Lou’s relatives – she’s a real one-off!
Before we knew it we were back at Cheshunt. We said a regretful goodbye to Cheryl and her party – they are lovely people and so solicitous of the hounds – their help with Ty was invaluable. But it was only 5.45pm and it seemed a shame to stop so we took Sue and her party for a one-lock jaunt downstream towards Waltham Abbey. Ellie seemed to enjoy the extra time on the helm though by now she was wrapped up in my giant winter fleece and had the handwarmers on the tiller.
We arrived back at Cheshunt just before 7pm and I hastened to move the car out of the car park before they locked the gate for the night. We said another reluctant goodbye to the last of our guests – we’ve really enjoyed their company and Brennan has been lovely. He’d surprised us all by really settling down to boating and relaxing in the company of the other hounds – apparently he’s normally very scared and trembling in new places. Sue generously puts this down to Lou and Lynx’s calming influence – I agree, they really are good role models!
When we set off this morning, the sun was blazing over the east bank; when we moored up it was just a soft glow on the west bank – it had been a full day’s experience, and judging by the smiles on people’s faces, one they’ll be happy to repeat!
We’d decided to go back to the house so we did a quick boat-clearance before heading for home. It didn’t take long but it was just as well we’d moved the car – the car park gate was promptly locked at 7.30pm. Of course, if we’d been locked in, we’d have just gone back to the boat and enjoyed a comfortable night on board. The courting couple who got trapped didn’t have that luxury – they parked their little SMART car in front of the locked gate and started at it despairingly for some time before eventually finding a phone number for the park wardens. They turned up just as we were leaving and, judging by the warden’s expression, the courting couple were in for a large dose of sarcasm unleavened by even the slightest dash of sympathy.
We had a good trip back – Cheshunt is near to the M25 and so is home – it’s just a question of driving the half-circle of motorway in-between, which at this time of night was easy. Ty was ecstatic to be home – he strutted round the garden with his tail up – what a difference to the boy that we had to coax outside on a lead just a brief fortnight ago…..
The tale of the tillers…..
One of my ambitions is to turn Indigo Dream into a brass-free zone – we’ve got chrome mushroom vents and silver aluminised window frames but we did have a brass tiller handle. Now, we’ve had to replace the timber part of our tiller handle as it started to fall apart over winter and finally broke a few months ago – not a problem as we had an unvarnished spare. With work to be done on the tiller handle, Richard took the opportunity to make some improvements. One of his colleagues, who’d enjoyed a trip on the boat over summer, made us a new handle from an old oak gate post which we fitted to a spare brass tube and Richard had the unvarnished ash spare trimmed down to a slimer girth so that that the electric hand warmers fit perfectly. Richard has spent may weeks gradually varnishing the timber sections – is it 8 coats applied at least 16 hours apart – he was very diligent and the tiller looks beautiful. Richard then found an outfit who would chrome our brass for a reasonable price. Well, the result is great – shiny chrome tiller handles perfectly adapted to our seasonal cruising needs. The last part of the transformation is to get our brass greyhound chromed – then he won’t need any grooming, unlike the rest of the greyhounds on board….