The bald, wizened Englishman was not impressed when we crashed into his canal boat. Neither, to be honest were we.
Thirty minutes earlier we’d been sitting on the train from London. The train was running later and later and didn’t get to Rugby until 3:30. We arrived just as it started to rain, which may have been something of an omen as things turned out. A quick cab ride took us to Rugby wharf and five minutes later we were introduced to Grendal our home and transportation for the next week. Grendal is sixty-two feet long and painted a jolly yellow colour. She is the opposite of obese.
We were given a ten-minute introduction to everything from where to turn on the gas, to how to untangle the propeller and how to steer. Our greeter piloted Grendel out of the side canal on which she was moored and performed the 25-point turn necessary to line her up on the main canal. Then the greeter jumped off and we were on our own.
Some months ago we visited our friends who were on a canal boat on the Canal du Midi in France. The Canal is huge and the boat was like a cruiser. Ours is a different experience. The canal varies between seven feet and twelve feet wide and twists like a snake with cramps. The boat is like a mini super-tanker. You stand at the very back and try to thread all sixty feet through the turns. Meanwhile other boats come in the opposite direction, sometimes there are boats moored on the sides. And this with five minutes guidance before you are on you own.
I negotiated the first couple of turns successfully, but stressfully, but then there was this tight turn with other boats moored all along one bank. It was here we introduced ourselves to other boaters by crashing into them. “Ya bloody idiot.” was, I assured the boys later, a jaunty English nautical greeting. Probably luckily I didn’t respond in kind, instead apologising profusely. That seemed to do the trick as the boater proceeded to provide me with various pieces of actually useful advice.
Onwards we motored. After another fifty minutes the constant pressure became too much and we moored up with the help of another boater who actually knew what he was doing. Following the advice of our greeter back at the wharf we aimed for a pub meal. She’d obviously envisaged we’d make better time and would be at the first set of locks instead we moored a good twenty minutes walk short. And once we’d made the walk it turned out he pub closes on Sunday evenings. I cannot possibly adequately convey how much I had been looking forward to a beer.
And as we walked back the heavens opened and it poured with rain.
I have to say that right now we’re questioning our wisdom in doing this. But the Grendal is sixty-two feet long and the canal here is 12 feet wide. There’s simply no way to turn around and go back!