May 072013

When is a cruise not a cruise?

With a long weekend booked and a good forecast. The May Bank holiday weekend was looking nailed on as our first overnight cruise of the season but fate was yet to play its hand as my adult daughter came down with mumps and we couldn’t leave her to suffer alone. I say “we”, although his can also be interpreted as “the wife said”.

However by Saturday afternoon the sickness had subsided enough to allow us to leave her alone long enough to get the boat out for an hour of so. Although the promised good weather was yet to make an appearance. I’m pleased to say the engine fired easily after the recent electrickery issues and we had a short but challenging trip in the stiff breeze.

Sunday was middle son’s day off and usually he would visit for some of Mothers cooking. However he hasn’t had mumps yet and thought it prudent to stay away, so we agreed to take him out for the afternoon. Where could we go? A repeat run of the previous day’s short cruise was in order. The only difference was that the wind had dropped and the sun was making a valiant effort to shine.

And so to the Bank Holiday Monday itself. The sun finally made its promised appearance as we headed towards Preston Boat Jumble with the now much improved daughter in tow. After spending far too much money on stuff we didn’t really need, and breathing a sigh of relief when we found out a ten foot boat hook does fit in a Toyota Verso, we left after lunch with the intention of dropping off our purchases at the boat en-route home.

Arriving at the marina we stowed all the new gear on board. The pub across the cut from the mooring was busy and the visitor moorings alongside full. Several boats chugged past making the most of the sunshine. We all agreed there was no rush to get home and the tea would keep. I started the engine and rolled back the canopy and we headed out of the marina for a run up to Tewitfield and back. It was just too nice not to.

Over the weekend we probably cruised more than we would if we had stuck to our original plans but it still felt like a weekend missed. There’s more to cruising than pottering up and down the waterway, pleasant as it is. We still missed out on waking up in the middle of the countryside. Sharing an evening beer with other boaters in a canalside pub. Lazy afternoons drowning maggots or just watching the kingfishers darting back and forth.

But there’s always next weekend…

Jul 112011

Home from another weekends boating, which got off to rather a bad start. We left the marina on Friday and headed north to one of our favourite mooring spots. Rain had been forecast but if you wait for the right weather before doing something in this country you’ll rarely do anything. So we motored through heavy showers until we reached the Capernwray Arm which was to be our mooring for the night.

This short arm is a popular mooring spot set in a wooded area with no road access. The only access to the area is via footpaths across adjacent fields or a shingle path from a nearby caravan site. The tall trees make it a nice shady spot on hot sunny days, a haven from strong winds or an umbrella against the worst of the rain. It used to lead to a quarry which now forms a useful turning area at the end of the arm or a secluded fishing pond. British Waterways have provided a floating pontoon which takes up a lot of room but provides easy mooring for visiting boats. This pontoon was about to spoil our day.

Capernwray Arm

Capernwray Arm showing the pontoon

The pontoon is topped with the kind of decking that infests most people’s gardens these days. It’s wooden, it’s green with algae and it’s wet. When hopping off a mooring boat it’s a death-trap. You’ve probably already worked out what happened next and yes you’re right, we should have seen it coming too. It’s not as if the crew (my wife Ann) leapt ashore with gay abandon. She really did try to step ashore carefully, it was just too slippery for her to keep her feet and she went down heavily, banging her shin, twisting her knee and bruising her thigh.

At this point I was still sat at the helm; the boat was almost stationary but starting to drift away from the side. I reached out and just managed to get a handhold on the pontoon and slowly pulled the boat in before I could get off and help her. Luckily another boater nearby saw the fall and was there to take hold of the boat while I attended to Ann. Fortunately, she was able to stand and with help from me and other boater we got her back on board and laid down while a finished securing the boat.

Ann was in shock, so blankets and hot drinks were applied while we assessed the damage. She’d managed to hobble back onto the boat with a little help but adrenaline was still flowing at that point but it soon became clear that nothing was broken. While examining her injuries it came to mind that had she been seriously hurt, access to an ambulance would have been challenging. Just trying to explain where we were to an operator sat in a control center miles and miles away would have been difficult enough.

Caperwray Arm

Capernwray Arm busy with boats

Once back on the boat you can arrange to meet your rescuers at a bridge number, assuming the services understand the concept of navigation by bridge number on the waterways. But if you have an emergency in a location without road access do the services have a plan for getting you out? There are many popular mooring places around the system where access is difficult by anything but a boat, that’s part of the reason they’re popular.

I’m not a fan of blame-storming but something else that needs to be considered in these days of “Where there’s blame, there’s a claim” culture is that, as British Waterways provide the pontoon for boaters to moor against, it can be argued that it’s their responsibility to maintain it so that it’s fit for purpose. A mooring pontoon you can’t walk on safely is not fit for purpose. I don’t want to see my licence fees going up even more each year to pay compensation claims, I‘d rather they spent the money on a power washer or some chicken wire to make such surfaces safe.

British Waterways are in the process of transforming themselves from a huge quango like organisation to a charity, which will embrace the volunteer culture to drive down its operating costs. It won’t unfortunately decrease it’s liabilities to the systems users, but will increase the risks as volunteering provides more opportunities for workers to hurt themselves.

We toyed with the idea of abandoning our weekend and heading for home but you’ll be pleased to know that after a Friday evening of thunderstorms and torrential downpours the sun came out for the rest of the weekend and Ann managed to hobble on. We moved up to Tewitfield the following day and Ann managed to limp to the pub to take advantage of the medicinal properties of a few halves of lager and the promise of a car-boot sale on Sunday.

Jun 222011
Degrees of Pride

My Daughter graduates from Durham University soon and convention tells me I should be looking forward to celebrating with her, but I’m not feeling it, if anything I feel a little awkward about the whole graduation deal. It’s not that I’m not proud of her achievement, I certainly am. My Daughter has always been bright, she sailed through school and it was clear for an early age she could go on to achieve anything she wanted academically. She made her choice, went for it, and is now about to receive her well deserved reward. In contrast my sons are dyslexic and [More…]

Apr 192011
Light at the end of the tunnel

Had a day off work in order to take Ann to Preston Hospital for her penultimate radiotherapy session, primarily so I could sit in when she had her review with the oncologist. The review was a bit of an anti-climax but we’re not expecting any further treatments to be required after tomorrow so things are good on this front at the moment and we feel the scary times are over. Later Ann and I were talking about the whirlwind of things she’s been through in the last six months since she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The first thing that [More…]