24 May 2008

Happy together

Geoff and Mags have been very good value of late on their blog Seyella’s Journey. A few weeks back they opted to go from the Midlands to Manchester via the Trent and it’s been fascinating to follow their adventures on the various canal and river navigations they’ve opted to cruise. Fascinating because it’s new ground for me and it’s certainly got me thinking about a similar trip in the future. I like Geoff’s style. He strikes me as a very steady and assured sort of bloke and that comes though in his writing – it’s calm and measured and he’s building up another excellent chronicle of life afloat.

The thing that particular interests me though is that in this journey they have been accompanied by their friend Carol on NB Corbiere. I’ve often wondered about the wisdom or otherwise of cruising together as it seems to be quite a popular thing to do. Sue and Vic on No Problem spend a fair bit of time with their pals Anne and Chas on Moore2Life, while the 2 Ds on Gypsy Rover hook up regularly with Derek and Christina on NB Kalimera. I just don’t think it’s for me. I guess I like to go at my own pace and not be beholden to anyone or risk upsetting their plans. I’d like to think I was a considerate person (I’ll move up on a mooring to make space!) and worrying about what other people wanted would be my constant concern, potentially to the detriment of my own enjoyment. My one caveat would be when it’s for a short time only – because I’ve done that and really loved it, although part of me was relieved to be back to our own ‘do as we please’ days.

There was a wonderful synchronicity to our pairing up with Jill and Gordon. It was back in 2005 in the blazing hot July and we encountered one another at Kilby Bridge. We’d nabbed the last spot on a Sunday evening and got talking as you do. J & G had never come this far before, always turning at Foxton and I could sense an slight unease about their commitment to the Leicester Ring and Leicester in particular. As I’d done it before some years previously and had had an excellent time, I suggested that we go through together. This wasn’t a wholly altruistic offer on my part, mind. Company through the wide locks and through a city centre is always handy, although little did we know how useful it was going to prove.

It appeared that J&G’s holiday has already been delayed by Gordon having an accident at home in which he’d hurt his leg quite badly. He’d made sufficient recovery for them to at last get away although he was restricted to steering and hovering around the stern while Jill did the locks. Then, mid morning of our first day together and we’re approaching, I think, Aylestone Mill Lock, coming up alongside the lock mooring. Before we know what’s happened, Gordon is flat on his face on the concrete, his horribly gashed leg bleeding all over his mooring rope. Well cue lots of first aid and medicinal brandy and shall we call an ambulance deliberations before Gordon declares himself fit enough to carry on. Whether they would have carried on alone is questionable but as we were together we were able to rally round and lend moral and physical support over the next couple of days. At one point they urged us to go on alone as they were worried that they would slow us up but we wouldn’t have dreamt of it.

Travelling together lent a whole different dynamic to our cruising. Yes, we were noting the places we were passing through and admiring the stunning scenery along the Soar but what I remember is the interaction between the couples, the sharing of life stories and canal tales, the fun and laughter, not to mention the the regular Pimms o’clocks! I guess what I’m trying to say was that companionship added a richness to this cruise, a new dimension that elevated the Leicester Ring beyond just another Ring done and ticked off. We celebrated our last night together with a stonking Chinese from the take away in Willington – there wasn’t a space to be had in the village (what a surprise) so in the end we just stuck both boats into the bank and left our rear ends hanging out (gosh, that brought back memories of childhood when without the convenience of neat piling or handy rings we invariably ‘moored ugly’). That night we toasted a wonderful three days of cruising and something even more precious – the friendship and fellowship of boaters. Shame that the vintage bottle of Champagne that J&G had been saving for a special occasion had gone off and smelt like old socks. What’s worse, A swore it smelt fine to him....Heathen.

NB. Travel tips. We went anti-clockwise around the Ring and had a completely trouble-free passage. Kilby Bridge is recommended as a good starting point for the Leicester section although there seemed to be a number of decent moorings a bit further on too. Considering how full Kilby Bridge gets, that could be useful to know. Mo of Balmaha has an excellent knowledge of this section so it might be worth checking his blog for mooring recommendations. Next overnight stop was Thurmaston next to the parks and water parks and the day after that we tied early in the Zouch Cut. It was a stunning trip made all the more perfect by the brilliant weather – and the excellent company.

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