Spring is on its way and it’s time for the boat to be out, so on a frosty Thursday this week I cycled down to the marina and go her out onto the canal. It is a strange sensation of freedom as you glide under the lift bridge and turn the boat into the canal. In some ways it is a misconception, by canal I can go north, or I can go south. I can go no faster than I can walk, or bike or drive, and the route is somewhat limited. But there it is, that sense of freedom. It is not a freedom based on the geographical but on the distance from everyday constraints. Perhaps that is why the simpler the boat, the simpler our life styles the less encumbered we can feel. Anyway, back to Thursday, it was northwards towards Tring that I turned.
The boat is due a hull survey (to make sure that the insurers are happy there is enough old steel between me and the water to stay afloat). So she has to be hauled out of the water, she will have her bottom blacked with bitumen at the same time. The workshop is just 8 miles away, one swing bridge and 22 locks (all uphill), one of which will be closed for two weeks for maintenance. Thus I have allowed 3 days for this journey at this time of year.
There is a quite a bit of work going on in the boat at present, but that is for another day of tech speak, Thursday was all about a gentle cruise in the weak sun of late winter. Having moored GB below the fourth lock of the morning I walked up the slope and as my sight line rose above the water level of the upper pound I saw a traditional wooden working boat pair slowly motoring down towards the lock. Roped side by side with the high bows painted red and white against the black of the wood they made an impressive sight with the bow wake running away sparkling in the low sun. As the lock was full I was able to get the gates open for them so they glided in with touching the sides to the gentle thumping of the traditional diesel engine.
It was a well timed meeting, this was a fuel boat so we did a deal and one bag of smokeless was duly dropped on the side of the lock before we let the water out of the lock and they sank down to the lower level. Having seen them on their way I brought GB in and up, at the right moment the bag of fuel was toppled into the front of the boat, effortless delivery!
After another 8 locks and the swing bridge, two lunches and hot coffee I moored up at Berkhamsted, where she will stay for a few days because she is now past the lock due to be closed. What else happened? well not a lot. Talked to the tow path ramblers, chatted to a fellow Waterways Chaplain, saw a few birds including a pair of white egrets, all done at rather a slow pace. The main west coast line runs parallel to the canal. I wondered how many of the Virgin trains I saw heading north had got to Scotland and back to London whilst I had travelled the four and half miles! What is freedom?