Post by Tony C on Sept 6, 2020 20:18:57 GMT
Disaster has struck on the Nene- my boating buddy has been shanghaied.
We were passing through Wellingborough around lunchtime, and I stopped to take on water, whilst Alex scooted to a nearby Tesco for booze.
There were a couple of fairly venerable-looking GRP cruisers on the river front moorings forty yards ahead of me, which had an air of having been there for some time. I've noticed that the more knackered-looking the boat, the more quirky the owners seem to be. But I was in no mood for quirky boaters- I was on a mission.
I was only briefly passing through the place and will never return (at least not in a steel narrowboat), so I contented myself with a wave, a cheery smile, and a hello to their owners- as I attempted to multi-task by making coffee and filling the water tank (and still failed at both).
Alex, however, can never resist a chat with a fellow boater. And I mean never.
I became aware that a conversation of some depth was developing alongside one of the GRP cruisers up ahead. Good on the lad, I thought. Being nice to his fellow boaters and making up for me being an antisocial twerp.
But... we do need to be making a move if we are going to make Northampton, so you know...
Their conversation went on, and I went on sitting in my stern with a dwindling coffee, growing a tad impatient. I don't like cruising on a timetable, but them's the rules if you want to get to Northampton up the Nene.
At length Alex walked back to my boat.
"This is great," he announced happily. "I'm going to tow him to Northampton, and he'll pay me for doing it".
It turned out that the GRP boat did not have an engine. The owner wandered over and began a lengthy explanation of how he was from somewhere further south, and had bought the boat a couple of weeks ago- but the engine was no good, and had gone to a local marine engineer for repair, and he had since been marooned in Wellingborough for a couple of weeks (I'm no professor of English, but I have translated- the original text was somewhat more colloquial and involved much use of the term 'geezer').
He had attempted to obtain a tow from several passing boats- including his GRP mooring companion, who was extremely concerned about preserving his boat, and would have nothing to do with the idea. Alex was the only person in two weeks who had been helpful enough to agree (and for a very modest fee)- even though it might scupper his own plan of meeting a family member near Gayton Junction.
I also was on a mission, with a funeral to attend in Merseyside one day this week, but no day set so far, plus work to do, and my car to fetch from many miles away. I needed to be off the Nene and pronto.
I have to say that even him towing a dinghy was a damn nuisance in the locks, with it bobbing around and coming across my path all the time. So the idea of him towing a 25ft cruiser plus his dinghy seemed a real handful.
I could not find enough positivity within me to express a favourable opinion about this new expedition, so I said I'd meet him at the first lock on the way out of town and we could see how it all went.
I'm not proud of being selfish about it, but after watching the whole cavalcade approach and moor up onto me on the lock landing, I grew increasingly sceptical about this venture.
The other GRP cruiser, whose owner had left slightly earlier than us, was just getting into the lock as I approached, but he would not entertain me sharing the lock with him, for fear I would damage his vessel whilst bobbing around. Which I guess is fair enough, but what a pain.
That meant an instant 20 minute delay whilst he got through on his own- by which time another couple of boats showed up behind us.
Thankfully two unselfish old hands saw a bottleneck developing and came forwards from one of the boats in the queue, and they worked the paddles for me, so I was through pretty quickly.
I looked back as I left the lock, and saw Alex leaping about the roof and lock landing with various lines, trying to keep his three boats in place, whilst the GRP occupants both remained resolutely within their vessel and would not venture forth to assist the manic Alex - and I decided that I had to press on and leave the GRP circus to their fate.
With all the faffing around they clearly had to do just to get into a lock, I couldn't see how they could possibly make decent time. Plus, I couldn't fit into a lock with them anyway, so I wasnt going to be any help.
So on I went, not helped by the dour GRP cruiser leaving guillotine gates lowered behind him as he motored on ahead (gazza will know how annoying this is)- instead of leaving them raised so that upstream-bound boats can just cruise straight in.
My original plan was to reach Billing or thereabouts, but by 4pm I knew that was not going to happen - not unless I cruised on into the dusk and beyond- which my body was already telling me was not going to be an option that I would enjoy.
Northampton was not on; Billing marina were not answering the phone, and various old injuries and issues were starting to remind me of their continued existence- so I decided it was time to stop as soon as I could.
Salvation came at Whitemills marina, who- although not answering the phone- had several very cheap bankside moorings, and I was pulled over in no time.
To my utter amazement, about 90 mins later the GRP caravan appeared in the lock a little way back, and Alex popped over to my mooring for a catch up.
It turned out that his GRP chap had hit the cider even before they left Wellingborough, so that his spirits were high- although to be fair, his competence was not quite at the same level. His young spouse, however, was a lot more use on lock duty, and after the boat traffic died down a bit they had managed to pick up the pace, and were actually contemplating going past me, and all the way up to gayton tonight.
He is just mad enough and young enough that it might happen, but I really, really doubt it. The cidered-up GRP owner will be enthusiastic for as long as the booze holds out, but he won't last the 10 plus hours needed.
I have a feeling I will overtake the merry crew tomorrow a few miles on, but we shall see. Every day is different, with new characters and new places. The pace will have to slow down a bit soon, but this lifestyle will still have that unique feature that I've never experienced before. You never get bored.