Stand By Your Man

When going through the locks the day before, we had accidentally trapped 4 coots. They seemed to be a bit anxious at first but calmed as the lock filled. We didn’t open the second set of paddles as the young man from the other crew said it hardly seemed fair. They would have coped but we were in no rush so we just let it fill slowly.

In the morning when I got up I could hear a lot of cheeping. I went out to find a young coot was constantly mewing. Adults were around, it wasn’t lost. They were pretty much not bothered by it. I didn’t really expect to have birds being the noisiest thing in Southall.

We headed off and I realised I couldn’t sit down because the seats were too wet so I would have to stand. I gave the seats a wipe to speed things up. We passed the skip boat. There seemed a few. Then we saw a group of workers on the tow path and a boat was tipped over with a crane on it. We watched it lift and swing. We expected a tree bole or something heavy but it was mainly leaves. I liked that the work boat was called Pride of London.

Just after it there was a side opening into a depot of Canal and River Trust boats. I could see one called Pride of Slough there. We waved to the workers, they smiled cheerily.

There were a fair amount of coots and moor hens on this stretch and quite a few permanently moored boats. I saw the moorhens had made the best of the urban environment and nested in a boat fender and I corpoated any local materials they could find.

Moorhens in a nest inside a tyre fender on a stationary boat

We had break at Tesco and I tried to be quick. It was an easy place to moor with rings but we weren’t hanging about. Shane cast off as soon as I got back. While Shane was going to wash his hands after casting off I thought I could hurry us along by starting driving, just meaning to do a short and easy stint. We had quite a distance to cover to our booked mooring. In fact what came next was a sharp right turn, into the Paddington arm. A man watched from a bridge over the entrance and waved. There were very few other movingboats and people seemed to think we were quite a novelty even though the there were plenty of boats lining the edge.

A shout from Shane, standing beside me as I was driving made me turn and go into reverse, despite us trying to make a good pace. I passed the tiller to Shane and stood on the edge to get a picture of a basking terrapin. It slid into the water after I had snapped it.

Terrapin in the Paddington Arm

The other time I saw a terrapin was in the furthest north canal in England, the Lancaster. We had had to cross an estuary to get there too. Both times I had been standing at the back but it was someone else who spotted it. One day it will be me who finds one myself.

There was no chance of missing the next interesting site on the way. A boat was swung right across the canal. It still seemed attached to the bank at one end, but the rope hanging off the backlooked like it was weighed down. The spike had probably been pulled out. I went to the front and with the boathook reached the rope, then with some pulling and pushing from me and gentle nudging from Bartimaeus with Shane driving us across and me trying to stop them bumping. A man on the bank was watching with interest and was pretty surprised it was all working out. I climbed off and started to push the spike in. He said it would need a hammer. Yes we certainly had one of those. Shane threw one in to the bank and I hammered it in. The man observed we seemed used to it. In fact the ground was very soft due to the recent heavy rain, so it wasn’t hard to knock in, and why it pulled out easily too. Who knows how long it will stay.

The number of moored boats increased as we got further in to London. We hadn’t met any moving boats though. Of course when I did it was at a particularly congested bit. Shane met one in an even narrower part and the only other one was at a bridge, a very wide trip boat and Shane had to slam into full reverse. We passed one boat going the same way as us. Mostly little boats are faster but this one was being punted and with a man singing David Bowie and playing a guitar. Perhaps we were at Little Venice.

Coming past a punting boat, complete with dog and guitarist

Everywhere was more crowded and when we got to the locks at Camden the area was packed with people relaxing in the bars on a Friday afternoon. They were barriered off the lock itself so noone could help push a gate if needed but there were plenty of people leaning in the barriers watching and filming. The arms of paired locks overlapped which made for extra clambering. Only one of each pair actually operated though. A bystander thought I had the heavier job, but I was no more likely to want to drive with such a massive audience. Shane leapt out to help a bit at locks anyway.

We had a faint chance of reaching out mooring in a small window Kirsty had between dress fitting and going back for a birthday meal. At the third lock the clouds were beginning to break. I was still enjoying the new and old scenery.

I got back in and handed Shane his waterproof jacket and donned my own. It fairly tipped down but I felt I couldn’t leave him alone out there. Shane drove us under a bridge and we sheltered with others. Messaging Kirsy confirmed she wasn’t hanging around waiting for us getting drenched but had sought shelter at the underground and was sensibly heading back before rush hour as we were not going to be there for a little while anyway.

A jolly mexican party boat in the pouring rain

When the rain stopped we headed off again and we had some fun el to work through and were soon at Angel. The moorings were crowded and we only just fitted in a slot, slightly overlapping at each end. It was a fiddly business for Shane to set up the electric payment but the mooring, amazingly, is free. Not long after another boat breasted up with us. The cheerful young woman roped up to us and as we said we had only just arrived, she gave us some tips of interesting things to see in the area and gave us her number in case we needed to move. She was planning to stay longer than us, and her boat is longer too. She wrote down the suggestions on a torn off corner of a painting. It is nice to have friendly neighbours. Her boat is Misty Dawn, another day with up to that then. The wide boat in front of us had too good a name to ignore so I told Shane to stand by it for a photograph in the morning. Stand by “Yer Man”, I told him.

Shane obediantly standing by Yer Man