Sawley is very well located – from here I have four waterways in easy reach (the River Trent, River Soar, Trent and Mersey canal and the Erewash canal). I am now the proud owner of map books for each route, and frankly running out of excuses to diversify from my comfort route to Nottingham City Centre and back. (I nearly made it onto a different river when a friend – let’s call her Bekky – and her boys came to stay. But it was windy. So we went to Nottingham instead.) But the finest crew in the west were coming to visit and they demanded a new view.
The River Trent was thus ruled out. Thea wanted some countryside, and the River Soar looked like it had quite a few built up areas along the way, so that map was also put to one side. This left us with the canals. Trebble did some research, and found more riverside pubs along the Trent and Mersey, and thus a plan was formed.
Since their last visit, the crew had grown in number, and there was a new Captain in town.
Alex seemed to have great faith in his team – he would occasionally check on the driver’s navigational skills, or make route suggestions, but he largely left us to our respective jobs. He preferred to evaluate how well the cabin had been baby-proofed, including a full check on how chewable loose items were. (His survey of the boat interior was more comprehensive than I had bargained for, and he made a discovery in the bedroom drawers that made me blush a little. But as his father said, you’re never too young to learn about safety.)
This was what boat life was all about – cruising down the canal for an hour or so (preferably with someone else driving) with a ready supply of drinks and snacks, and then mooring up outside the pub. I had thought originally we might make it as far as Willington that night, but it soon became apparent going that far (a 20 minute car journey incidentally) was going to be a pipe dream.
Instead we stopped at Stenson, eating at the Bubble Inn and manoeuvering through the lock in front of a crowd of dozens. Dozen. It was the biggest congregation the crew had ever performed for, and I like to think we passed with flying colours. No one fell in, nothing got broken. And that’s all I hope for at any lock. (Some applause would have been nice, but you can’t have it all.)
That night brought a Double Fracture first – mooring up without any pre-cemented mooring rings. It was like wild camping for narrowboats – we hammered three stakes into the bank and tied up. Hoping that it would hold fast for the night, but not so fast that we couldn’t get the stakes out again in the morning.
(Unfortunately the spot we chose was a nettle breeding ground, so getting on and off the boat came with stinging risks, but what is adventure without a little danger?)
The first time the finest crew in the west came to visit, it was raucous (ish) affair with novelty-flavoured vodka, drinking jenga and debilitating hangovers. I’d like to say that it was Captain Alex who prohibited such behaviour on this trip, but I think it was the combination of sun, low-level all-day drinking and more food than a small cruiseship would carry that meant we were all ready for an early night. (We’re in our mid-30s. Don’t judge us.)
The second day was as lovely as the first. I used to be a river woman, but now I’m all about the canals. (Plus, I bought a 30-day canal explorer licence for the year, so more canal trips are necessary so I get value for money.)
It was also Trebble’s birthday, and so the boat hosted its first experimental cake making. (Previous experimental cakes have included the burger cake, cake Laura and a giant Jaffa cake.) As the Latter-Trebbles had just moved into a new house, Thea and I took this as our inspiration, and came up with this masterpiece (proof that a boat is as good as any place to create baked art):
All future boat trips will now come with a cake. Promise*. Applications now open for future crews.
This blog post was brought to you by ‘Cheap Thrills‘ by Sia.
*Subject to availability, terms and conditions apply.