Living aboard a narrowboat on London canals just gets more an more exciting, the adventures never end.
Constantly cruising and trying to adhere to the rules as much as possible means we move. We move frequently. While the rest of the world (it seems) hides inside in a warm cosy place and rides out the winter only emerging in Spring, we continue the battle of finding somewhere new to moor each week or two.
Knowing we have to move means a few days before casting off I mentally prepare to move home again, mentally prepare my new route to work and mentally prepare for the boring journey ahead up a grim and grizzly london canal.
the travel power pulley has been replaced and a new belt applied. However when running up the engine the belt failed within 5 minutes, so there is still a problem somewhere with the belt fitment. Still no travel-power. still no automated home laundry. that's shit. I hate washing in a bucket.
However, onwards and upwards, since the engine is still capable of propulsion we are heading up towards the River Lea again for a final Assault on the River Stort. I want to see Sawbridgeworth and surrounding areas so that's where we are headed.
From Limehouse, the next stop is Springfield, just one lock and a couple of hours cruising.
Just one lock, Old Ford Bridge, lock 19, yes that's all there is, what could be more simple, it's electric so what can go wrong?
For a start, the lock could be jammed full of more shite than I ever thought possible. A couple of trees, a gate, a couple of doors, some planks of wood, a shopping bag on wheels, massive sheets of plastic, several different balls, 100 or more bottles, uncountable plastic bags, natural plant debris and a delightful swathe of diesel oil over the top of the lot giving off a lovely smell.
You can imagine this might challenge the lock operation a bit. It did. No sooner had I opened the bottom paddles than we had a red malfunction light flashing in the lock-keepers office.
I called BW (0800 4799947) to report the problem and the chap there advised me to "put the kettle on and have a cup of tea" not to be confused with "put your knickers on and make me a cup of tea" To BW's credit they came out quite fast for a cold, wet and windy sunday afternoon.
I sat by the fire warming my arse and clutching a beer* (Hobgoblin) ((*equally not to be confused with clutching my arse and warming a beer)), occasionally glancing out the window to see if anyone was on the lock. In-between glances. somehow the BW key-holding magician slipped under the radar, fixed the lock and buggered off. Maybe he buggered off because I wasn't standing there waiting with a cup of tea?
The lock doors opened and slowly emptied of shite, which was circulating in a cross current just outside. It was a delightful picture of unwanted household items swirling around in the green and brown sludgy paradise of the canal.
Getting in the lock was a case of, give the engine full welly, get some inertia up to tackle the howling side-wind and then knock it out of gear to glide over the swirling mass of rubbish, enter the lock a bit fast, chuck the centre-line and bow line round a bollard and hope Honey Ryder stopped before giving the bow a cill-shaped face lift.
Job done, we went through the lock in minutes.
Brilliant, isn't this canal boating fun?
Excitement over, yes really we do love electric automated locks where you can't control the paddles rate of opening...
Shortly after leaving the lock we realised the adventure wasn't over as we dipped our hands into the lucky dip barrel of fun. First pulling out a piece of wood that was blocking the upper lock doors to find a dead rat under it, then pulling round a corner into a fast flow on the river Lea with a strong head wind, we made progress at a rate of knot...
It's almost painful to watch the scenery go by in slow motion, watching a moorhen paddle past us was a bit like being on the motorway and being overtaken by a caravan... but in this case the caravan was being overtaken by a small bird with dubious fashion sense. ( a bit like me cycling through london in fact)
I can't believe how much fun it was, I could barely contain my joy at spending a whole day of my weekend moving a stupidly designed brick on water just a few miles in driving wind and rain, avoiding plastic bags and other products of human excess. There was nothing I could think of that would bring more joy to my life than doing that.
Oh wait a minute, yes I can.