... ... ... Seven years in an unassuming narrowboat on the waters of the "longest, friendliest village in England"  

On Board Relationships

Is it odd that someone could have a relationship with a boat? Landlubbers bond with shoes, cars, houses and I-phones so why should not a boater bond with a boat?

Over seven years, "Pogue" developed a special relationship with "Pentargon Springer", learning her foibles, eccentricities, strengths and weaknesses and learning to live in harmony with them.

"Human Relationships" ensured that scores of people, real and imagined, came to inhabit a a dampish parallel dimension, flitting in and out of the water, on and off the land and popping up in Grey Green Muddy Water unexpectedly and usually unannounced.

"The Cut Is The Longest, Friendliest Village In England" This is how it is on English waterways! The cut is more socially diverse than any other English society and inland boating is effectively classless. It does have it's share of pricks, gobshites and human islands encased in ordure, but hey! every garden has weeds and every rose a thorn. Inland waterways users are different from their sea-water equivalents where "mine is ALWAYS bigger than yours and your flag is upside down and for goodness sake who tried to misconstrue that bowlyn?"

On inland waterways everyone shares the same waters, locks, trials, tribulations, laughs, beverages and boaty troubles. Some of the cut's inhabitants are totally water-based and water-borne and know no other way; others live in floating accommodation without even realising their home is actually a BOAT. More manage to morph seamlessly back and forth between one and the other: today a boater, tomorrow a land-lubber. Anyone who thinks their shite is currant buns gets an awful let down the first time their pump-out toilet throws a wobbly or they have to carry a shitfilled cassette to a disposal point.

Who is my Neighbour?

A "boater" is someone who lives on a floating device which may be used as permanent, temporary or occasional living accommodation but who does not necessarily know it is a boat? ... OR ... A "boater" is someone who would be a sailor if he knew anything? A "part time boater" is the owner of a [canal?] boat who does not use it to its optimum. In late 2017, there was a boat lying on the GU near Dodsworth, purchased a few miles upriver, by someone, believed to be from "London", who having paid for it and taken it a few miles decided he did not really like boating after all , tied it up[entirely inappropriately] and, to all intents and purposes walked away from it, later trying to foist it BACK on the seller.

There are hundreds of boats around the system with some similar story to tell: "boaters" who, as soon as the weather gets a little bit cold, take theirselves ashore and come back at "14day intervals" to move the boat to a different "place". There are boaters who winter their boats and pay big money to the canal authority for the 'privilege' of not having to move for a few months. Finally there are those (and Pogue has been one!) who choose to park up betimes and walk away for as long as they please because they don't give a shit about petty rules and know their way around the law. ...

Pogue is a "sailor" with a life's experience (including many and long intervening breaks) of boats and water. Born by the sea, grew up by the sea, lived by the sea, built and sailed boats and took to English canals as a "Canalability" volunteer in 2010. Bought a "Springer" in 2011 to taste the waters and subsequently earned a reputation as one who could test the limits of boat and crew as a lone ranger on any available stretch of water upon which the boat could be cruised.
Before August 2010, I knew very little about grey green muddy water.

In the mid 1960s I had skippered a small motor launch with crew from Shannon Harbour to Dublin along 100 miles of the stunning Grand Canal.

In 2004, I took my [Icelandic] wife and her son on an unforgettable 14day cruise on the mighty River Shannon. Other than that my experience is with dinghies, mostly on the Irish East Coast and later with my daughter on Lough Derg and every and any lake or pond we could get a GP14 into. I built that dinghy from raw timber with my brother.

During the early years of this century, I was involved with a beautiful Brixham Trawler and with the London unit of the Maritime Volunteer service, sailing the Thames Estuary, the Channel and South coast, doing a few "deliveries" and sometimes crewing for my brother.

Sailing and the sea runs in the family, four of the five of us are in the able to very able category and one crossed the Atlantic many times and has circumnavigated the globe in his own boat.
Sometime in 2011, my wife in her wisdom decided it might be expedient if I were to give up sea sailing and maybe look at canals? I believe the line of argument was that she had heard rumours of escapades in stormy conditions at sea and was worried that someday I would be brought home to her in a body bag ... or not at all ... It was the "or not at all" bit that convinced me I'd had a fair innings on blue water. Although she is competentin boats, she has no interest. She is a well proper urban lass, with a red-neck husband who happens to like water

In 2010, I joined a canal charity in Harlow, crewing as a volunteer bringing people out who were shall we say less lucky than I had been in life. This then was my first introduction to grey green muddy water and a totally new form of boating I had not experienced before apart from a single crossing of Ireland in my twenties. The charity ran familiarisation days and formal training days under very skilled canal boaters and I found myself certified, qualified and and competent to fall out of a boat or retrieve someone else who had gotten wet by immersion.

'Twas only a matter of time before I had a wish list drawn up specifying the type of canal boat I might buy if I were to start looking for a floating home.

It would be no longer than 36'. It would have an air-cooled engine. It would be simply appointed, able to sleep two in a double bed and have space for one or two extra crew.

Lehmann Bros had recently collapsed and the financial world was in turmoil. My funeral euros were salted away in Ireland but there was no guarantee that Irish banking might collapse as it had done in Iceland. It might disappear down the fissure opened by Northern Rock. A boat, built to live in, began to look like a very sensible option and so high gear was engaged and the search began for a boat to fit my budget and my wish list.

Someone had told me that if you knew what you wanted and looked hard enough, eventually the boat would find you. I looked hard, saw a lot of boats but could find nothing that I would feel at home in. There was one boat which matched my wish list but was not within my budget and I kept ignoring it until, eventually, I thought "sure I should at least LOOK at it I suppose". The boat found me. One look at it, and I knew it was what I would want if I were ever to buy a canal boat. It ticked all the boxes and more as well. When I told the sellers it was outside my price range they suggested I make an offer.

The above is a VERY simplified version of a frantic three months driving all over the the lower half of Britain from an Essex landbase.

Suffice to say that at the end of January 2012, I drove my own boat onto the cut and in to a new dawn.