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 We're hoping to go on the canals in September.  We've provisionally booked a boat for 13 - 20 September, from a boatyard near Rugby.  The hire firm is Viking Afloat whom we've used many times before as we find their boats reliable and well maintained and their customer service to be excellent.

I'm still suffering from costochondritis, and there's a fair chance that I won't be up to heavy work like turning the windlass on lock paddles.  Thus, we'll be doing what we often do and throwing out an invitation for one or two people to join us.  ('Us' being myself, my husband Richard and our son Henry.)

It doesn't have to be someone we know well, we've taken gambles on acquaintances in the past and so far, it's always worked out.  (Kalypso V was a friend we didn't know well when she originally came with us, in fact, we'd never met in the flesh back then)

To fit well into our life on the canals, you need to meet most (but not necessarily all ) of the following criteria:

Be happy to spend a week with no TV and no computers (house rule - we're there to get away from it all and relax)

Switch off the mobile phone, apart from emergencies.

Like wildlife - half the point of the canals is to enjoy the countryside.

Be slim enough to get through the narrow corridors that are inevitable on a narrowboat.

Like board games - we play a lot of board games.  We're more than happy to teach the rules to new players and to play any you may choose to bring with you.

Like morris dancing/folk music.

Be fit enough to walk towpaths, push open heavy lock gates and wind up heavy paddles.

Like vegetarian food.  (We don't eat only veggie, but we do eat a lot of veggie)

The cost is £265 for a single person, or £211 each for a couple.

No previous experience of canals needed.

If you're interested, either reply here, or email judith.proctor@gmail.com
watervole: (Default)
Back home again after a great week on the canals.  There were lock restrictions because of the drought and low levels in the reservoirs, but also lots of rain (but not enough to make any impact on the water shortage).  They are going to close all the locks and let parts of the canal run dry in August.

Even with the weather and the restrictions we had a good time, though it felt odd to need to be aware of the time.  Normally, on canals, we simply take our watches off, get up when it's light and go to bed when we're tired.  When some locks are only open between 10am-12am and 2pm-4pm, you do need to have some awareness - though often we'd simply follow our normal waking pattern and arrive at a lock well before 10am and sit down for an hour to play board games.  We took plenty of games, we always do, so we didn't find it much of a problem.

Even the rain doesn't stop things much.  If you have to go though a flight of locks in the rain, then you go through in the rain.  It actually reduces life to easy, simple factors.  All decisions on the canals are straightforward ones and based on getting the boat to place X by day Y (especially when travelling back to the hire base).  Having made the non decision to go onwards, you then get a real sense of achievement as you work up the flight, especially if you're part of a crew who work as a team.  (on a wide lock, you can often get two boat crews working together)

There's a skill to minimising water use on canals, and it's surprising how few boat crews are aware of it.

It's this:

If you're going down hill, start filling the lock below you before you start emptying the one that you're in.


Because when the locks are close together, the depth of water in the pound (the stretch of water between the locks) is so affected by the water coming out of the lock that you're emptying that a lot of it will go over the little weir beside the lower of the two locks and bypass the lock entirely.  You've just wasted a lock-full of water.

If you work the two lock in parallel, then the water from the higher lock will flow  directly in to the lower lock and you can keep re-using the same lock of water all the way down the hill.

As a fringe benefit, it's also much faster.  You're slightly slower on the first lock as you have to wait until you've a crew member at the next lock, but thereafter, every subsequent lock is already  empty and waiting for you as you finish the lock you're currently in.  You often clear the flight in half the time of crews who have wasted masses of water.

Obviously, if there's a boat coming the other way, then you arrange to cross with them at a sensible point so that you both get the benefit of a lock in your favour.  (If you can't visualise it, don't worry, but essentially, you don't empty a lock if there's a boat able to come into it in the next few minutes)


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Judith Proctor


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