Tight Fit

Some people think this is a strenuous active life and some see it as a peaceful relaxing lifestyle. Both are true. It is impressive to see lone boaters having to work locks alone and the Kennet and Avon can be hard to moor on so we are finding that we are using the gangplank quite regularly over the last few days.

On approach to Great Bedwyn, I noticed as we drove along that there was a fleet of hire boats. Unusually most were double width. It seems to me daunting to hire such a large boat if you are inexperienced. We have hired a wide boat once and it felt very luxurious to have a bed that was a full double and not converted tables. It also had a bath and jacuzzi! That was hired on this very canal. Many canals can’t accommodate wide boats so that limits them as hiring options.

The next day we were in conversation with a locally based boat owner about the shallowness of the canal and how surprised he was that we got moored where we were at all. He mentioned some particularly large boats that he was surprised managed to get along at all. I also commented that many of the locks here were very tight for two boats. He was talking about the heavy boats also breaking the locks if they slammed into the gates. He told us that the hire company with the wide boats were all adapted for people with physical disabilities. A wider boat makes it easier to move around with a wheelchair and they were adapted for easy access and with lifts. One even had a video display and steering control to allow someone who can’t stand or use the tiller to drive the boat. He had been impressed at how well one customer had managed to do it. Perhaps the controls are like an electric wheelchair or if you are adept with computer game controllers, it might be easier than traditional methods. We got another look at them returning from our walk to the shops and now I could see the wheelchair symbol right beside the names. It was a shame they were not being heavily used.

Bruce boats, adapted for wheelchair users

As I was out working a lock that day, I saw that a wide boat was approaching with some crew, a man and two young girls, disembarking. I crossed over and opened the gate on the far side so they could get the other one. People at the fronts waved and said what good timing it was. One of the girls was energetically jumping over the gate arms. “Oh to have that energy!” I said … and also the ability I thought. Then as they drove in I realised it was one of the Bruce boats and there was a man in a wheelchair beside the driver on the back deck. I asked him how he found it. “Lovely” he replied.

It was their last day so I thought I would let the energetic girl work the paddles as she was equipped with a windlass and had come to my side. It turned out to be heavy going for her so I offered to help or give her my windlass and showed her that she didn’t have to push over the hard bit at the top but just wind at the easiest point and that the longer handle helped too. She made better progress then and the other girl crossed too and had a go with it.

Later we came to a tunnel it was also named Bruce. The boat company is named for the local canal benefactors, rather than the name of the owner.

Grand stone sign outside the Bruce Tunnel proclaiming its name

Shane drove through the tunnel. We had been told that the tunnel, like the locks were a tight fit for wideboats. For us it was an easy tunnel, plenty of room, completely straight and no drips at all.

Inside Bruce Tunnel, surprisingly clear, wide, straight and dry

The following day we progressed smoothly until the point where someone had left paddles open at both ends and drained the section to the next one. It was about two feet lower and I was glad that we had recently been discussing tactics for getting the boat moving in shallow water as I had been helping a grounded boat, moored ahead of us the day before, to get going in the morning. They had been listing but not like these ones.

Boat stuck on the bank

There was only a narrow channel deep enough and I certainly thought a wide boat would struggle. There were a lot of fish jumping wondering where all their water had gone and lots of holes in the bank where perhaps some animal had found its underwater burrow exposed to the air. I wondered what lived there.

The next day was very wet. I wanted to get to the Post Office. I have started doing a sponsored “knit every day in August” in aid of Children’s Hospices Across Scotland. One of their centres is visible from a walk along the canal in Edinburgh. I was amused that wet weather had given me plenty knitting time, as I had a request from a friend to make a sun hat. Hopefully there will be some sun later in the month. She has undergone brain surgery to remove a tumour and wants to cover the shaved patch of hair, but windy Edinburgh isn’t good for a straw hat. I have never made one before and did a bit of pattern tweaking as didn’t have the exact materials and tools stated in it. I hope it fits her, it’s okay in me but the lace crown section is pretty loose. I used smaller needles for the brim to try to make it stiff enough to hold its own weight.

We made it to Pewsey just in time and I made a sprint in the rain, risking splashes from cars on the way. The bakery had an irresistible waft but I pressed on to the Post Office first. Someone else has been knitting here and it’s getting rather wet. Many of the knitters doing the August challenge are knitting for children in hospital, pre-term baby outfits or teddies. This display at the extra wide post box (it only just fits) looked quite child oriented.

Pewsey Post box with knitted topper brightly a snail, teddy, caterpillar and blue mouse

When I got back Shane received a call from Wendy. They were in our area and coming our way. We were a brief stop en route and we got moored very near a road, though it was quite an awkward spot and the gang plank was in use. I required a complete change after my soaking in the morning. They were equipped with hot earl grey red bush tea, a new and delicious combo, and cake and we enjoyed the comfy seats in Hetty. She’s not big enough for overnight guests, but can seat four. Being compact means they have been able to go more places and drive on windy narrow roads, but still had a good sized bed and a shower. They have had a comfortable three month trip in Scandinavia. Everything is smart and ingeniously put together. The seats we were on convert easily to become the bed.

Stuart. Clare and Shane in Hettie

The weather this morning was cold enough that we could have worn woolly hats. Some people were wearing them yesterday. There has been sunshine and showers and I was trying to dry my sodden shoes out. Shane used a sunny spell to get twigs that fell on our roof off and wash the panels. I had to ask him to move as a boat came the other way and I wanted a clear view down the side and didn’t want the on coming boat worrying about him falling onto them.

Shane washing panels and shoes drying in the spells of sunshine

I have started the next knitting project for August and have embarked on a much more winter weather hat. My niece has commissioned it, though she’s donated to CHAS, not paying me and anyway I haven’t bought new wool for it. The pattern is called Passing Glacier and it uses thick wool and a lined headband. It is working out but I am not sure that the lining I used might make it too tight a fit for the intended recipient. I won’t know till it is finished. I might need to re-knit it in a larger size!

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