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Archive for October 5th, 2011

Boat Blog: A weekend jolly (part 1)…

Posted by indigodream on 5 October, 2011

Saturday 24th September

Limehouse Basin to Paddington Basin

The view from our front door - autumn/winter morning views like this are a consolation as the days draw in.....

We travelled up to the boat on Saturday morning – not least to spare poor Ty’s nerves – Richard’s mum is not well enough to look after him at the moment so Ty had to come boating with us. It was a good opportunity for us to try a new ‘natural’ anti-anxiety medicine (Calmex) which the vet had just received – he kindly gave us a 3-day free sample to try – I’ll report later…

We set off to explore some more familiar ground today with some very familiar faces – some of our neighbours from Surrey. Pete and Sue have hired a narrowboat before, but Mike and Madeleine had never been cruising and were keen to try it out. None of them had been on London’s canals before so we were looking forward to amazing them with this hidden world.

We had debated doing the East London Ring again, but with the weather set fair we decided to give them the extended tour – the trip from Limehouse to Paddington is very special. There are relatively few boat movements along here (jam packed with moored boats though!) and the water was crystal clear, giving us a fine view of hundreds of submerged plastic carrier bags and other trash – it’s such a shame that people feel the need to chuck rubbish in the canal – it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of proper bins along the towpath. Never mind, in places this depressing underwater vista was obscured by thick mats of vivid green duckweed – I’m not sure which was worse!

Nonetheless, the Regents canal is a fascinating cruise, with the ever changing landscape of demolition and new development which seems to characterise London’s restless energy. Not that you’d know you were in London, there are enough tranquil spaces to make you doubt where you are – though we did experience a peculiarly London ‘thing’ today. Coming through Mile End, an old afro-caribbean woman had quite deliberately taken off her clothes and, dressed only in pair of large white knickers, was ponderously swinging her pendulous breasts towards the water. For some reason, which still bothers me now, we just observed her and cruised on, as if naked women taking a dip in the canal was a perfectly normal phenomenon hereabouts. We had  someone who’s spent a lifetime working in social care and two nurses on board – it never occurred to any of us to stop and ask if she was ok or call any authority to do the same. I have to assume that she was having a cooling paddle rather than drowning herself as I’m sure that the towpath telegraph would have informed us of such dramatic happenings……

Lou adopting her usual locking position....

The canal was very quiet compared to most that we’ve cruised this year (I’m not complaining!), but we soon caught up with hire boat Theo and shared locks with them for most of the day – they were good company and the helm seemed very competent so we had a convivial time. It turned out that they were a group of Scout leaders, doing a recce for a scouting cruise in the near future. One of their party, a vivacious lady called Liz, was greyhound-mad – she used to work at Sittingbourne track and has a deep love and admiration for the breed. As soon as she caught sight of Lou and Lynx on deck she jumped ship and came across at every lock to give them a fuss. She seemed so fond of them that I persuaded her to buy a 2012 Greyhoundhomer calendar which features Lou, Lynx or both on the front cover, March and December – they are such glamour models!

We saw fuel boat Baron today and filled with diesel – there seemed to be different people on board – I wonder whether the boat has changed hands?

We had our usual stop at Camden – the Stop ‘n Shop moorings were occupied (or should that be colonised?) but we were amazed to find a spot on the visitor moorings proper – we’ve never done that before! We left the hounds on board and set off to have a look around Camden market again – it is a seriously bizarre place, packed with a mix of colourful locals, tourists and stands of unique merchandise – both trendy and tacky. The group was soon separated by the brownian motion of the crowds, but without any great planning we all ended back at the boat at the same time, the conclusion being that an hour in the market was enough before we succumbed to sensory overload. Getting a space on the Camden visitor moorings was such a novelty that we were tempted to stay the night there, but that would mean missing our favourite bits – Regent’s Park, London Zoo, Little Venice and Paddington itself.

We got to Paddington at around 5.30pm and, for the first time ever, it was full – we have never failed to get a mooring on one of the pontoons or towpath before. In desperation we sneaked into a slightly naughty spot on the towpath side and briefly tied to the light fittings (sturdy cylinders, honest!); but another boater came and warned us that security wouldn’t let us get away with it – they’d apparently moved another boat off that spot with a dire warning that if they didn’t move they’d be banned for life!. So we sneaked into another spot on the offside (Paddington Station side) in front of some older office buildings with a narrow and slightly overgrown strip of path alongside (you’ll know it if you see it). I’m not sure whether mooring is allowed, but there were rings and no signs telling us we couldn’t so we settled in for the night.

Lynx has learned his locking technique from Lou......

We were sitting on the front deck enjoying the basin’s ambience (helped by a bottle of wine!) when we were hailed from across the water – it was another familiar face – Christine from nb Ketura with friend Steve who moors on Limehouse cut. They were soon persuaded to join the party and we had a merry hour BUT we hadn’t quite realised how much we’d been absorbed into boating life. Our shore-based neighbours were soon yawning/looking bewildered as the conversation drifted towards boaty things. We tried to bring them into the conversation by explaining current BW structures/politics and started to feel a little bewildered ourselves, so the party broke up and we went off in search of food!

Mike and Madeleine were weary after a day’s boating so they headed for home – we hope they’ll come again though – they certainly enjoyed the day and really took to boating. Sue and Pete joined us for supper at our favourite Japanese noodle bar – See – at the end of the basin. We were so disappointed – the food was as good as we remembered but the service was chaotic – what a shame.

We got back to the boat and gave the dogs a last walk – poor Ty, he’d been in a bit of a state all day – we think that the Calmex may have taken the edge off his fears but nowhere near enough and not for many hours. He hadn’t had a wee all day so we resorted to the valium – as always, he was calm enough to go out by 2.30am but he got spooked by a heron standing on the path and scooted back to the boat. There’s a strange light in the basin made up from bright white lights from the office buildings, the moire effects on the footbridge and the violet glow of the pontoon lights nearby – the standing heron looked as translucent as a reincarnated spirit – the whole scene was surreal and I can hardly blame Ty for being scared….

Photoblog:

Mike and Pete getting the hang of locking....

Sue enjoys boating....

Green corridor...

Fuel boat Baron - such a useful service, especially when the canal to New Era diesel (up Limehouse Cut) will be blocked next year...

Volunteers (presumably) get busy with a grappling hook - there's plenty to drag out of the water....

I thought this seal looked very cute on the roof of this widebeam

Isn't that a great balcony? We thought it might slide in and out like a drawer but it is fixed!

This 'stub' has been properly closed off now with new piling and a road beyond - that's how canals disappear....

It's good to see "Boris' Bikes" (Mayor of London's hire bike scheme) being used.....

The cinema boat again - it really is a novel feature...

View along the Angel tunnel - the lads above were just fishing....

Sharing locks with nb Theo - they had an eventful trip - the boy sitting at the front broke his toe the first time he stepped off the boat!

The madding crowd....

Liz and Lynx - all that fuss really wore him out.....

Lou having a rest between Liz's fussing visits....

Strange lights in Paddington Basin...

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