Last weekend, I travelled from Bristol to Warwick to spend the weekend on a canal boat with my boyfriend and his parents.
Travelling on a canal boat is something I have never done before and my boat experience in general is mainly limited to ferries and water taxis in places such as Venice or Copenhagen or a short boat trip I took on the Rhine in 2014. So spending a whole weekend sleeping, eating and travelling on the water was going to be a novel experience!
We started off very early in the morning on the Saturday as we needed to cover a bit of a distance and the boats move very slowly. The first thing we did was top the boat up with water and dispose of sewage. Then came the locks…
A lot of canals, but not all, have Locks. These are devices which raise and lower the boat so that it can travel over water of different levels. They basically do this by either filling the area with water so the level of the water and hence the boat rises or draining the water out so the boat lowers.
As there were four of us on the boat, while two walked alongside the canal to open the locks before we got to them, and one person drove the boat, my job was to sit at the front and, when in the locks, to gently push the boat away from the wall if it got too close to it and to keep the ‘captain’ company. This did get a bit boring after many hours and I was getting quite cold as it wasn’t a very active job so I got out and helped with the locks towards the end of our long journey including one twin lock.
I really enjoyed doing the locks and was surprised by my own strength as they were very heavy and awkward to open. I didn’t even try to open the locks on the other side of the canal, however, as this involved walking going across the paddles to get to the other side of the canal which could result in a very high and dangerous fall and my swimming isn’t very good. I was also told it was traditionally woman’s work to do the locks as men would have steered the boat so the women would deal with the locks which made me quite proud as they are very hard physical work!
Although I did really enjoy my canal boating experience, I don’t think I could stay on one for a very long period of time like some people do. Aside from the very close living quarters and a lack of privacy, I really couldn’t cope without a proper shower and toilet facilities nor the lack of internet or a good TV signal . We also discovered that anything plugged into the electricity sparked a lot when the microwave was on so that would be an inconvenience.
Despite this, I definitely want to travel on a canal boat again. I know there are some canals around the Bristol area which don’t have locks, so maybe it would be possible to travel on them with just two of us.
Let me know what the most unique modes of transport you have travelled on are?