“I am pushing.”
“Keep going, you’re nearly there.”
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“Try to push for a little bit longer next time to really keep it moving.”
“I give up, it’s not coming, it’s never coming.”
It is not often that conversations in my professional life and boating life are at all similar, but day four and a couple of heavy locks provided some moments reminiscent of labour suite. It’s probably to be expected when a boat crewed by midwives comes up against a lock gate that needs a good shove.
Gallows Inn Lock to Castle Meadow, Nottingham
7 locks, 14 miles
Crew: Emily and Stuart the Swan
Emily is the most ambitious person to crew Double Fracture so far. She was not content with just navigating my beautiful boat through the stormy waters and low bridges of the Erewash canal. She did not find outrunning the potential pirates of the Trent challenge enough. She wanted to to add white-knuckle thrills to the adventure, and had enlisted the help of Stuart the Swan for the escapade.
The idea was to tether Stuart to the back of the boat and go full speed ahead. Maybe reaching four, possibly four-and-a-half miles an hour. The danger was probably not going to be whiplash, the danger was more likely going to be hypothermia or sepsis. But before Em could run any of those risks, we needed to get out of the Erewash and leave the bridges behind.
The bridges were not going to let us go easily though. It didn’t help that I hadn’t learnt my lesson from the day before, and still tried to exit a lock with just one gate open, making it nigh on impossible to get to the centre of the canal (and the highest point of the bridge) in time. What was left of the solar panel box was soon demolished – a parting gift from the Erewash. (The solar panel is still alive and well and charging the batteries. It is not to be intimidated by industrial revolution bridges.)
By the time we took to the open river, the weather wasn’t looking too friendly. Grey skies ahead, and things were getting breezy. Em and Stuart decided to hold off on their dip and await more clement conditions, and instead opted to relax on the roof. It’s what boat trips should be all about.
It was only later we realised the consequences of the sunbathing. In clambering over the splintered solar panel box, Stuart had sustained a mortal wound. He kept his head held high as his body failed him. There was nothing any of us could do at the end – no amount of gaffer tape could hold him together, and so we just tried to make him comfortable as the air slowly left his body.
Reaching our destination was bittersweet. On the one hand, reaching Sainsbury’s is always a joyful moment for me and a chance to leisurely stock up on baking supplies. On the other hand, it marked the end of Stuart’s first, and last journey. He was a good swan. And I think that is how any inflatable waterfowl would like to be remembered.
This blogpost was brought to you by ‘One way or another‘ by Blondie.