Love and Affection
It’s a funny thing, but after 43 years of marriage we weren’t sure if we liked each other. Or, at least, enough to be together, just the two of us, on a narrowboat for more than a week. We’d been on week long holidays many times over the years. For some years we had a timeshare on the Llangollan (top tip: don’t do it, the legal battles to end the contract are horrendous). We knew we could manage one week, and preferably with company, but the idea of being squeezed together for weeks on end was daunting. This is why, when we approached retirement and perhaps owning our own boat, we decided that we should test our rapport.
When you take a week’s holiday, you either do a ring, and are focussed on getting around in the time available, or an “out-and-back” where you start planning the return journey after two days. We decided that the key thing was to go out long enough so that the timetable did not matter. Three weeks should do. We planned to do the Pennine ring in 2018, and booked a boat from Bear Boating on the Leeds and Liverpool. “The most luxurious hire boat ever” said Waterways World. Plans were made and bookings sealed.
Then came the dry spring. And the dry summer. The Leeds and Liverpool was closed above the hireboat marina. It got worse, and the canal was closed below the marina. Bear Boating advised that we could cancel our reservation, as spending three weeks shuttling back and forth past the hire base was not a holiday.
Cancellation was only a couple of weeks before our holiday, so we frantically scoured the websites and found Valley Cruises on the Coventry Canal. Their “Calder Valley” was a suitable boat and still available for a three week cruise. (With hindsight, we should have spotted this omen). It had a permanent cross-bed for Roma and me, and a separate double bedroom for guests. We picked the boat up in August 2018 and set off. For part of the time we had relatives joining us, and we invited our long term cruising chums to join us for the last week (in case we got behind schedule!).
The boat was awful. I can say this as the company has gone out of business now. We asked how we would know if we needed to top up the fuel on this longer trip, and were given a 3ft long wooden stick to dip the tank. The guest logbook included an alarming entry that advised, if you were sharing a broad lock, that you should be the left of the pair so that your diesel fumes would not trigger the smoke alarm in the other boat. The guest who had written that warning did not mention the choking fumes that built up in the bottom of a narrow lock.
There were two macerating toilets, one of which stopped working reliably. The maintainer came out to look at it, but decided that it was impossible to repair by the towpath. We settled for the option to use this as the “wee only” loo.
We had to buy some folding chairs so that four of us could sit in the lounge (please excuse the untidiness, but you see what I mean...
Then there was the smell. Evidently the cross-bed sat over the sewage tank, and smells from the tank wafted into the bedroom. We found it worse in the back of the chest of drawers, to the extent that the clothes we had put there were left in place as an impromptu air filter.
And last, but certainly not least, there was the noise. The diesel clattered and the engine boards rattled at different engine speeds. With some practice, you could either avoid the worst resonances or stand with one foot on the offending plate to stop it vibrating. At the end of the day’s cruising, the silence when we shut down the engine was deafening.
The Power of Canals
The real power of the canals is to sooth the soul. Boaters will all know about the calming effect of moving an unhurried pace, but the beauty and variety of the surroundings is always fascinating.
I could have shared a photo of a quaint bridge or reflections in the water, but I chose this wonderful piece of canal art (it transcends graffiti) in Leicester. We’d never have seen this if it weren’t for the smelly, stinky boat that got us there.
We decided that we really did want to go cruising the canals, that we still loved each other enough to share a small space for extended periods, and that we enjoy the company of others while cruising. We also learned a lot from Calder Valley about what worked and what didn’t. The lessons were invaluable when it came to laying out Perseverance. This is why Perseverance has:
Space for two guests with their own room, permanent bed, their own toilet and basin and their own storage spaces
Space for two more guests on “made up” bed(s)
No macerating toilet or sewage tank
No engine noise and no fumes at the tiller
We were glad to see the back of Calder Valley, but she did help us design Perseverance in so many ways!