So yesterday was the big shakedown on the boat, time to see if everything is shipshape and Bristol fashion, and time for us to see if this life we’ve chosen is… nah you know what, let’s leave that there as it’s kind’ve moot now, and was never really a problem anyway, we adapt. I must say that while I take the rise out of H2O, yesterday they really came through for us, Gerard, the main boat dude was at Adventurer exactly when he said he would be and doing what he said he would. Tall Philipe (big boss) was supposed to be here too but didn’t turn up, the only downside of the day. Gerard’s job is to use his knowledge of boats to show people around their new boats. As we are in touch with the previous owner and have learned a lot through email, (thank you for everything P), and living on the boat for two months now has taught us a fair amount, a lot of this was old hat. But a lot of stuff was new and eye-opening, in the back of my mind I know that one day I’ll have to do an oil change but wondered where and how I was going to get a pan under the engine to drain the old oil, it’s not like I can jack it up, it turns out there’s a tap with a pump on top of the engine, how brilliant, any way blah blah, loads of new stuff learned and once we decided that Philipe was not coming, we cast off, yay!
Vanessa took the controls first, once we were out of our tiny mooring, Gerard said to take us to the lock, I was at the back of the boat making sure the cats weren’t swimming after us in shock that we would leave them behind, so Vee was on her own. I think Gerard was suitably impressed, crumbs I think Vee was impressed as, slow and easy we cruised the 200 or so metres to the lock as smooth as silk. Yeah yeah, in actual fact we zig-zagged down because Vee wasn’t used to the steering, but being out on your own boat after so long, it was beautiful. I made the first (minor) mistake, it just made sense to me to tie the boat up at the front when we got to the lock, but you moor from the back where the propulsion is, if you hold the front, the back will swing out, hold the back and the front will come in on its own. Lesson learned (by then that was probably lesson #157). Gerard did say to never tie the boat securely when in locks, but having watched Timothy and Prunella’s Great Canal Journeys, we know what happens when you do this and have drummed this lesson into ourselves, it is so much better to learn from other people’s mistakes. And then, after a brief moment of uncertainty wondering how I was going to get my loop of rope over the mushroom before realising I could just pull it to release ourselves (duh) we were through the lock and on the Saône, just like that, easy peasy.
Gerard was constantly listening to the sound of the engine and after a while said that we have a super (su-PEHR) engine, he said that it is old (1977) and basic, and having done a little over 1000 hours, it is barely run in. So long as we maintain it we will have no problem, I think it was at this point that he relaxed a bit, rolled a cigarette and said how he loves his job, we both agreed, he really does have a most excellent job!
Vanessa did brilliantly, it didn’t long for her to get used to the steering, (the wheel being at the front but turning from the rear), and then it was my turn. I didn’t have a problem with steering, mine was with having to stoop so that I could see where I was going, the boat was built for little people, I soon sussed out that I could steer with my left hand and stand in the front doors to see, that’s better. The only time Gerard questioned where I was going was when I spotted three swans in front, I chose to go around them causing us to stray a tad from the centre of the river, no harm done. (Swans hate me, they nearly always attack me and I didn’t want to see if the French swans had this urge to hiss and snap too). As we approached the lock to go home the gates were closed and we had to circle for a bit before entering, this is where I was sure I was going to screw up, Adventurer is a little under four metres wide, the lock is five metres (I believe), it should fit easily but you know, it does get hairy when the boat seems to have a life of its own, she is very light on her feet and tends to dance away quite quickly. It is so easy to over compensate because whatever corrections you make take a while to show, but not a worry, no paint left behind and we slid into the lock like, well, use your imagination. Gerard took over the reins to get us into our mooring, it is a very tight gap and there are three boats deep on our approach so it is almost a left turn and then a right turn. Home, right where we left it, kind’ve. This was wonderful, after the doom and gloom of the boats around us we were starting to sweat a little, I knew the engine was sound as P&B maintained the boat well and B was an engineer, but you do start to wonder when those around have problems, but it’s all good, we have an excellent boat.
Okay so where were the cats? They stayed on the bank, it is hot out here at the moment and Lara has taken to sleeping 14 hours (without a break, can you imagine) in a nearby woodpile, (she leaves around 7am, foregoing breakfast to get her spot). Heidi has found herself a shady bit there too and Felix comes and goes as he pleases. We said that we’d leave it up to them, if once the engine was started they were a board then fine, we have to leave the engine running for at least five minutes before moving away, so there was plenty of time for them to decide if they want to stay on board or not. Of course we forgot about stranger danger, as soon as Gerard stepped a board, they were all off. We did bring the car down to the mooring, which is a familiar scent, left the door open with some food and water, and Vee put a litter tray in there too(?¿!). They didn’t show their faces for a while after getting back, not a problem, I doubt if Lara even knew we’d gone, but, there was the feeling of, I don’t know, something. Then, this morning they were all hanging around as if they were making sure that we don’t do a runner again, too intelligent for their own good. It will take time for them to get used to what this thing – that is their new home – does, but they, like us, adapt.