Angel

Three Mills is near Shane’s brother Roy, and we managed an easier access mooring further from the train and building site this time. It is only a 24 hour mooring though so we had to be off the next day. Not all boats pay attention to the signs and the local Egyptian geese were making free with the plant boxes on the roof of the boat behind that didn’t look inhabited at present. So we had an evening with Roy and then he came the next morning, after taking his cat to the vet, and we all set off for Angel where we had a booking.

Roy was a natural driver and even looked like he had dressed as a 19th century working boat man. The locks we approached were already wide open and he drove in. Shane gave him no novice special treatment, only opening one gate to drive out. No problem.

At the next lock it was set against us. I was now driving and let Shane off to work the lock. After a while I saw him pushing at a gate. I thought Shane was about to open the gate and started out but it was not ready for opening and the water threw us about for a while. Roy wondered what I was doing. I told him the water was in control and the boat was not reacting to my steering. Luckily all was recovered by the time the gate was opened and I had no difficulty driving in the single gate. It is always embarrassing to look less competent than the novice. This is often why I avoid driving when there are guests. Also I expect to be too distracted to focus and might not enjoy the visit so well.

We had a great trip to the Angel moorings which were looking even prettier with autumn colours. A lot of people take photos of boats especially at locks and we had been filmed a few times that day. It did seem like lots of people were stopping beside us and getting their cameras out, but that was because we were moored near this colourful display.

Autumn colours at Angel

Having arrived on a Friday night, and seeing how busy places looked as we walked Roy to the station, we didn’t take advantage of the Angel array of eateries. We had a quiet night in but expected new guests in the morning, a friend from Edinburgh was visiting her son in London, where he works. Jenny has in fact been on a canal holiday with us before but that was about 30 years ago, when neither of us had babies, never mind grown ups.

Jenny and Tom arrived right on time and had already had a tour of the boat before I got back from shopping for lunch. They had brought cake! We set off through the tunnel after cake. Often Shane does all the driving when we have guests and he more usually drives through tunnels, but he was casting off the front so I ended up driving us through. I have driven through this one before so I knew it wasn’t too changable.

Tom had another appointment so we were keeping an eye on time. He managed to help us through three locks before heading away and managed to escape the rain, which Jenny and I were caught in going back through the the St Pancras lock. There was an open day at a water tower for steam engines and Jenny managed to nip up to view it while we were waiting for other boats to go through before us. Thanks to Jenny for her photos, which she managed to fit in before the rain.

We had come through the first of the Camden locks with a lone boater. Shane thought she might be disappointed not to be helped through the others so while he turned round and prepared to go straight back in. I opened the gates to the next lock for her. She was amazingly agile leaping out of her boat and was happy to work the rest herself.

Meanwhile Tom and Jenny had worked Shane through without me. Three lockers often leaves someone feeling a bit spare, but it is handy when there are novices or very heavy gates, to have someone able to help out. These locks had some tricky features: gates that swing back open when you leave them to wind the other end; very heavy gates with trip hazards and dangerous drops; stiff paddles and lots of people watching. When I finally got the heavy gates open for the lone boater, a cheer came from the spectators of the performance!

The next day we were to do almost a repeat performance but without the rain. In fact it turned out to be a day full of happy repeat visits. We went to the farmers market first thing as I had learned from my last attempt to get bread on a Sunday morning at Angel, that the supermarkets are no open, but the farmer’s market had lots on offer. This time I didn’t have to ask the way.

We needed bread as we were expecting Anne and Richard at lunch time. Apparently Richard has had a lifetime ambition to go through Islington tunnel and we were very happy to oblige. What’s more the sun was shining. The slight variation was setting off in the other direction before turning round to head towards the tunnel. We turned round at the same place to go back, but the sun kept shining. Thanks to them for photos this time!

There are trip boats that go through the tunnel, but I am guessing it was more fun to do it with family, even if we couldn’t give them a spiel about the tunnel. Things look different from water level, so even though they are familiar with many of the sights, they saw things anew and this time round I spotted that the Viking longship we had passed yesterday with Tom and Jenny, was in fact another lifeboat repurposed for inland water living. I don’t know if the longship disguise is permanent, or a Halloween costume.

After getting moored back at Angel we decided to eat out, Sunday night was not crowded and despite the huge array, we went back to the Vietnamese restaurant, as we were happy to recommend it from our last experience. We could happily repeat it all again!

Anne, me, Shane and Richard, just out of the tunnel with a lifeboat disguised as a Viking longship behind us.

The next day had no visitors and we were swithering about when to leave. In recent showers, Shane had suffered wet legs and a split zip from his coat so we had a successful waterproof coat shopping expedition in Covent Garden. The proof of the waterproofing is in wearing, in the rain, so perhaps we should reserve judgement. I had an unsuccessful trip to a shut wool shop, while Shane took in water, or rather Bartimaeus took in water. We decided to leave the next day.

Meanwhile Dave, a friend of Anne and Richard’s (and also a narrow boat owner), seeing her posts on social media, had contacted, to see if we could meet up. He was not in London but arriving that evening. He told us not to change our plans but that he could catch us up by bike easily. We left Angel, though we had another’s day (free) mooring as we wanted to get ahead of winter closures. There was more rain forecast and we sometimes hide from that (a chance to try out that new coat though…) and then we might have to do long days catch up.

We shared the Camden locks with another boat that had been moored at Angel, all the time we had been there. I hadn’t met the owner but had noticed the name. He too was very nifty at jumping on and off and over the roof, a lone boater needs to be strong and agile, but he said it did get pretty tiring. He remarked on how he has done many locks alone, but he had managed to mess up getting in the lock, just when there is a big audience. I hadn’t seen his entry as by the time I was driving in he had already leapt out and had his boat held against the side with his rope, to let me get in easily. He was happy for photography and swivelled his tiller the better to display his unique tiller pin to my camera. He was pleased to share a lock and very happy that there was a volunteer on the last lock, so he could stay aboard.

As we came out the top lock, he went ahead. It was many miles before he found a mooring space, and had even been refused a request to double up. Our route took us through the zoo as we headed out to the Paddington Arm. We carried further out of town to near Wormwood Scrubs. It was an industrial area near the railway, but had its good points. The guy in the boat in front greeted me, as we were mooring, with “Welcome!” There was a tomato plant growing and flowering just beside us and Shane managed to buy some deionised water.

The next day Dave easily found us. I found out that he lived pretty near Angel, but being a keen cyclist he was happy for the excuse of a bike ride. He had a look at the changes made inside since he had last been in our boat over two years ago. We had lunch and we drove on with his bike on the back deck with us. He didn’t mind going further from home as he can cover the slow boat miles a lot faster by bike and his bike was certainly one that maximises speed. He told me when he got back though that his cyclocomputer hadn’t switched off when on Bartimaeus so recorded a very slow pace, his lowest ever average speed on a bike ride!

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