Launch CountdownThe Big DayMay 1st, 2014The big day is here.
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Something quite special happened today. We went to check on the progress of the boat refit and discovered that the fitters had fitted the vintage tiller from The Dolly, Mark’s dad’s old narrow boat. It looks amazing.
Today we went to take delivery of the last bits for the bathroom and on the way back decided to stop for lunch at the Somerset Arms. @somersetarms. The pub is in the village of Semington, right by the side of the canal, right by the side of Semington lock.
The pub looks lovely and authentic from the outside with a number of outside tables. it was bright and sunny today so we opted to sit outside. Inside it’s a big pub, stylish yet retaining an essence of old English inn. The Somerset Arms menu was extensive with lots of baguettes, paninis, soups and light lunch time meals with a selection of pub food meals on offer too. So, on the face of it fairly traditional fare.
What made this different was the service, the presentation and the homemade food. We opted for the butcher’s platter, reasonable at £12 for two. It included smoked chicken, smoked duck, chicken liver paté, a hot vine of vine tomatoes, warm rustic bread, pickled onion and gerkin and a delicious home made spiced apple chutney. Served on a wooden platter it looked so tempting and tasted great. A great choice for a light lunch.
On leaving Caen Hill marina, if you turn right you’ll come immediately to the Caen Hill locks. It’s a flight of 29 locks between Rowde and Devizes. To navigate the locks will take you about 5 – 6 hours. It’s a big ask at the beginning of a holiday and for the uninitiated it’s probably best to start by turning left as you exit the marina and head towards Bath.
If you’re a seasoned narrow boater and want to start your journey with the challenge of the locks, then once you are through them all the route is lockless for about 12 miles, that’s 3 days or so cruising.
Heading left there are a series of 7 locks and 7 swing bridges in quick succession, but there are spots to moor up between them and you can take the trip at a more leisurely pace.
…I’ve helmed the boat for the first time. I was nervous, but as I took the tiller I very quickly became aware of the weight of the boat, the amount it needed moving to make an impact and the timing of turning the tiller from side to side.
Obviously I’m no expert, but have more confidence in front of the tiller and am more aware of how my actions can steer the boat.
The boater’s handbook advice says to stay in front of the tiller. The reason they give is that you don’t want to get trapped behind it. I discovered that standing in front of the tiller made it easier for me to control the boat and gave me better vision ahead.
You have to concentrate, so it’s not a job you take on with a glass of wine. I think some people think that boating is all about floating along with a glass in hand. You’re manoeuvring 24 tonnes of steel.
There are several things you need to consider when cruising.
Obviously driving the boat, locks and bridges and other canal users. Each of these takes concentration and consideration and a mistake could be very dangerous. Even other people in the group who aren’t actively steering, opening and shutting locks and bridges need to stay alert because they don’t know when they might be called on to help out.
Save the wine until you’ve finished cruising for the day. Then once you’re moored up for the evening, you can wind down and relax.
Mark looks like a pro. Mastering the tiller and getting us where we needed to be – safely.
Today we took Topsy to the dock for her refit. The trip was only 4 miles but included 6 locks and 7 swing bridges. For the first time this year we had sun and warmth; a couple of showers but nothing that ruined the trip.
Running back wards and forward from lock to lock I felt as though I was 17 again. Mark took the helm and I was the lock running scivy. I have to say I really enjoyed it. I had my friend with me for the best part, and we sat on the lock gates across the water from each other having a chat and passing the time of day whilst waiting for the water to fill or empty.
We met several dogs and passing walkers and a couple of gonzoozlers who liked the look of the boat. Well I do too.
Came home feeling totally energised. Although it took us forever to reach the dock, I think they thought we’d got lost. But we made it in the end and the refit starts on Monday.
What a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
I’ve had two days aboard. And the minute the sun came out I was sat outside with my coffee, winding down and beginning to feel relaxation as it should be.
We went for a walk towards Devizes along the locks and had to take out coats off.
Is this the start of Spring? You can only keep your fingers crossed and hope so. Because I can’t think of anywhere better to be, than on a narrow boat when the sun comes out.