Monday, May 22, 2006

Baptism of fire, wind and rain

I have absolutely no idea, how we ended up on a narrowboat. I know I booked it obviously, but it wasn't our intention to go narrow boating. My daughter and our neighbour, her friend, and myself and a friend of mine decided to have a week away. It was left for me to book something and initially I tried Centre Parcs but they were far too busy and far too expensive, and so I started surfing the net.
I came across this web site, offering Narrow Boat holidays. They were a little one boat company, I looked at the dates available and our week was free, so I contacted my friend and said 'How do you fancy a week on a narrow boat?' She was all for it, so to cut a long story short I booked it.

I must admit, the weeks leading up to it were filled with some trepidation. None of us had ever been on a narrow boat before, I kept worrying about sinking it, crashing it. But as the day drew near, we had our train tickets booked and had decided on the Llangollen canal. So along came the Saturday we were to set off and there began the 'holiday from Hell' for Christine, Christine and Lucy, but my baptism of fire!

A few weeks before our holiday started, there had been a rather horrible train crash at Potters Bar, this apparently had been caused by a faulty repair to a point, so on the day we were off to Crewe, Railtrack decided they were going to check all the points practically all over the country and most train journeys were going to be delayed due to speed restrictions.

We got to Euston and it was heaving with people. There were TV crews milling around asking what people thought of the train delays. Most people were furious, but not us because we were going on holiday on a Narrow Boat!!! We found our train, then sat on it for a hour before it moved anywhere, eventually it left an hour and a bit late and we began the journey to Crewe at 20 miles per hour!! By 3.45pm, when we had only reached Stafford, I thought it would be best to phone the owners of the boat as they had been expecting us at 2. I explained we were going to be late, they were great about it, but did warn us we wouldn't be allowed to cruise in the dark and as it was the end of October, it would be dark very soon.

We eventually got to the marina at about 4.30, we grabbed some basic supplies at the marina shop, and they were basic, had our run through on how the boat worked with the owners, what to do on a daily basis to ensure we didn't sink, how to go through a lock, then bless, them, they took us down the canal to a pub and moored us up there and then was gone.

We had a really nice evening there actually, a nice meal a few drinks, it was halloween so we had to vote for the scariest waiter (They were all dressed up as ghouls and ghosts) then staggered back to the boat for a good nights sleep. Tomorrow was a big day, WE WERE ON OUR OWN.

Day 1
We woke up to rain, not a lot of rain, but rain just the same. Christine senior got to work on the breakfast from our meagre supplies and I went to the back of the boat to start the engine for some hot water. I turned the key, kept it on the heating element for 30 seconds then turned. The engine coughed, spluttered but wouldn't start. I patiently tried again, it still wouldn't start, so I tried again, and again and again. After 10 minutes I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to call the owners. Luckily for us they had an arrangement with an engineer, so told us to wait and they would send him along.
Eventually the engineer came and got us started. An hour after that, saw us pushing off and starting our journey towards the Llangollen canal. We did all the usual things narrow boaters do on their first ever trip. Nearly hit moored boats, panicked everytime we saw another boat coming towards us, went across the canal instead of along it. Had to get rescued by another boat when we got stuck on a ledge, it was a bit of a laugh actually, until we got to the junction at Hurleston. We were meant to turn right, and go through 4 locks, but they looked so scarey I went straight on towards Nantwich, I just panicked, we went under a little bridge and as we emerged, this HUGE gust of wind just took the boat and pushed us towards the tow path.
An hour later saw us still trying to get away from the bank, Arthur, the owner, had told us not to use a lot of throttle so we didn't, as a consequence every time we pushed the front of the boat off, the wind just blew it straight back to the bank again. We were stuck fast!!

Lucy started stressing, then crying, to make things worse, it really started chucking it down with rain. We pushed the boat off the bank, the wind just kept pushing it back, we were trapped!!!

Then we heard this whistle from the bridge behind us, there was Arthur and Christine! The owners, our saviours!! They had decided to come and find us so they could take the boat to a marina to change the batteries! Thank god!! Arthur got us away from the side like the true pro he is!! It was great really because as we cruised towards the marina, we got extra tuition. He changed the batteries on the boat, chugged us back towards Hurlston Junction for the Llangollen canal, took us through the locks, and moored us up as it was beginning to get dark. His parting words were ' I've moored you up nice and tight, there's a storm coming, but it will be gone by 11am tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your holiday!!' Then he was gone.

Day 2
The day started at 5am. It wasn't planned that way, it's just that we all got woken up by a loud BANG on the roof of the boat. Then, as I slowly came to, I noticed this distinct rocking motion of the boat. It was rocking from side to side quite violently, then I became aware of this whooshing and howling and rustling, along with the occasional noise of something falling onto the roof. I jumped down from the bed and was very glad to see, that at least, the floor was dry and we weren't sinking!! There is a gentle current on the Llangollen. It brings water from the river Dee to some reservoirs at Hurleston, it usually meanders along at about 4mph. I looked out of the window, canal side and saw the water moving along a tad faster than that. The water was full of leaves and bits of wood and branches, it was then that I saw that the trees were bent over double in the very high wind. We were moored under some huge trees and if was probably something falling from them that had hit the roof. It must have been a force 10 gale outside, so I decided to make a cup of tea. There we all were, huddled all together with a nice cup of tea while we waited for the heating to warm the boat, it was 5.30 in the morning. Then the rain started, really heavy heavy rain, which then turned to sleet. I actually found it quite cosy. The others didn't!!

Apparently, it was the worst storm since the year dot, there was widespread flooding, the river Dee had burst its banks (Remember the same river that takes water along the Llangollen to Hurleston) Trees had come down, homes were under water and my mobile beeped non stop with texts from wellwishers enquiring if I was still alive!! Arthur was right though, by 11am it just blew itself out, we got the boat started (eventually) and chugged on up the canal. We needed supplies urgently and had to get to civilisation soon. We didn't realise until the next day, that the Llangollen canal was about 5 inches higher than usual, we had a few hairy moments coming out of flooded locks, being dragged back towards the bywash taking the water past the lock. We went through this really spooky bit of wood and ended up at Wrenbury.

Wrenbury post office was sight to behold. If you ever go to Wrenbury, do go into the post office, it is a mini supermarket too and sells the most delicious pies and pasties from a local baker. Nice cheeses and bacon, in fact, very nice food of all sorts. I highly recommend it, oh and in the summer, the villiage of Wrenbury have a scarecrow hunt too!!

We spent the night there, we had a nice meal in one of the local pubs, had a look around the villiage which is pretty and spent a peaceful night on the boat.

But that's it for now, my baptism of fire is to be continued..........

1 comment:

Shazzy Clank said...

It's hard to believe that such a nightmare experience can have turned you into such a keen boater. You and the canals must have been made for each other.