Miss Inexperience is a restless soul, so when the time comes to leave London, she does so with the same lack of planning and at pretty much the same speed as she arrived. Bored now of the hurly-burly. Bored of the same faces, the same places every day; she decides, one June evening in 2010, that it’s time to move on. And this time she’s brooking no argument.
MsB, who has been in London for 13 years, ums and ahs; she is used to the monotony of pay and considerably more attached to her surroundings than Miss Inexperience is. Although they have been talking about leaving London for a while, this has always been at some unspecified point in the future. On this particular evening however, Miss Inexperience turns round and says: “you keep saying we’re going to leave. When exactly?”
And that, as they say, was that. There is some planning that goes into this. They both have to hand in their notice, a task they perform at the same time as booking off the week they’ll need to get out beyond the area Miss Inexperience knows well, yet still stay close enough to be able to commute back.
So, with everything sort of organised they pack their stuff onto the boat and set off with barely a goodbye (to be fair they’re not planning on going far at this point). That first night is spent at Kensal Green, barely any distance from where they started, but the sense of freedom is tangible. There is adventure in the air.
They travel slowly, since, despite having been re-packed twice, and the grease gun having been unclogged. The stern gland is still leaking like a sieve and Miss I is obsessively pumping the bilges. They crawl the length of the Paddington Branch, turning west at Bulls Bridge onto a section of canal Miss Inexperience has never traversed before but that MsB used to live on a long time before.
Slowly, slowly they put Cowley Peachy, Uxbridge and the amusingly named Black Jack’s Lock behind them. They stop overnight at Rickmansworth near the mislabelled “Aquadrom” before hitting Cassiobury Park, where they intend to spend a couple of weeks before dropping back down to Rickmansworth in order to empty some toilets. For the next few weeks Miss Inexperience and MsB will “continuous cruise” (or “continuous moor” as it’s sometimes known) in this area until their contracts have expired and they are free to continue their journey to a new life on the other side of the country.
A funny shaped parkMiss Inexperience had actually been moored in Cassiobury Park for a while before she noticed quite what a funny shape it was. Of course, once she had noticed there wasn’t a lot she could do to un-notice…
Amusing, and it turned out apposite shape aside Miss Inexperience decides Cassiobury Park is an extremely nice place to moor. It feels like mooring in the middle of nowhere, but is near enough to Watford for there to be a ready supply of everything you might need – such as shops, a laundrette, takeaways and, usefully, a plumbers’ merchant (but more of that later). There is, in common with all such beautiful places, very little phone reception. It was a blissfully quiet couple of weeks.
Cassiobury Park is also where Miss Inexperience and MsB, who have between them lived in London for 16.5 years, saw their very first flasher.He was a youngish man, early 30’s maybe, with some daft story about how he was on his stag do and his mates had stolen his clothes and wouldn’t give them back until he had had his photograph taken. He didn’t have a camera with him, and was definitely sober.
They laughed at him and sent him away with an elderly t-shirt so he wouldn’t frighten the wildlife on the way back to his car. He came back 10 minutes later, again naked except for his brown loafers and white ankle socks (pulled up). His story this time was basically the same except that he told them his friends were hiding behind the bridge and that they would be able to see the flash, Miss Inexperience has no idea if the pun was intended. On top of that she has fantastic night vision, is well aware that there is no one hiding behind the bridge and having been in the area for nearly two weeks knows full well there are no convenient pubs in the surrounding area that he could have come from. She is also, truth to tell, getting a little bored of this game now. In the interests of an easy life however, and to an extent out of morbid curiosity as to how far this will go, she continues to play along. She is not daft enough to get her camera out, she has, after all lived in central London for over three years and instead fishes her phone out of her pocket and photographs him with that – it takes a couple of goes to get a shot that he considers adequate, he would probably have asked her to try it again had she not informed him that she is bored now and he should go away.
Of course he doesn’t. What he actually does is creep along the side of the boat (a boat with no lights on bar the one in the bedroom where there isn’t anyone, no music on and two people paying very careful attention to any noise outside) and attempts to peer through the bedroom window at the two women inside (the two women who are standing fully clothed in the kitchen).
Miss Inexperience gently opens the door, quietly steps up onto the gas locker and informs the whole of Cassiobury Park in a voice trained by years of calling back lurchers, and tinged with anger at the invasion of her privacy, that the young man in question is a pervert and that he should leave now or he WILL REGRET IT.
Miss Inexperience subsequently posts the better of the two photographs of the flasher on Twitter because what else do you do with such a thing? Granny Buttons enhances it for her, no one admits to knowing the man.
Everything else is optional
In July 2010 Miss Inexperience had not yet come into contact with Jon Ody, the originator of the title of this section, however she understood the principle. Most things on a boat are, in fact optional; it doesn’t matter greatly if the engine doesn’t work, or indeed if there’s no gas or the glass in the stove is broken (as long as you’re not trying to use those things), however, there is one thing that should work at all times. That thing is, of course, the bilge pump.
Miss Inexperience has, as has been previously mentioned, a very leaky stern gland, so it was really quite fitting that early one Sunday morning she got up to take the dogs out, flicked the bilge pump on as usual, and discovered that it wasn’t working. It is a Sunday morning. She doesn’t know the area particularly well. She doesn’t have the faintest clue right now what’s wrong with the bilge pump and anyway the dogs need to go out.
Remembering the day her engine mounts had disappeared under water and yet the boat was still afloat, she lifts a deck board tentatively and stares into the murky depths. There’s about 3cm of water in the bilges. Ah well, it can wait for a few minutes. Miss Inexperience takes the dogs out and frets a bit. Where on earth is she going to get the bits to repair or replace the bilge pump on a Sunday morning? It might just be a loose connection. She wanders along the towpath a bit further and frets some more. MsB is inside making coffee, currently blissfully unaware of the bilge pump situation.
Miss Inexperience returns with the dogs and explains to MsB what she has discovered. “Oh,” says MsB.
Miss Inexperience drinks her coffee, takes up the deck boards and pokes the bilge pump. It’s not clogged, although it is filthy. The fuse is still intact and none of the wires appear to be loose. She declares it dead. Dodo-esque in fact. “Oh.” Says MsB.
Miss Inexperience takes a walk down to Bridgewater Basin to see if they sell bilge pumps – they don’t. So MsB takes the Nicholson’s Guide and her phone and sits on the roof working out which is the next nearest boatyard and ringing them to see if they are a) open on a Sunday and b) sell bilge pumps. They are, and they do. Miss Inexperience gets her bike down from the roof and takes a ride… A six-and-a-half-mile ride, down some of the bumpiest towpath she’s ridden on for a long time, through Rickmansworth, past the “stink hole”, all the way back to bridge 180 and a tiny basin with a comprehensive chandlery who have, in stock, all the bits she needs to replace her bilge pump. She is in the chandlery for a total of about 20 minutes including locking and unlocking her bike. It took her nearly an hour to get there and will take nearly an hour to get back.
But bilge pumps are not optional.
On the way back she detours into Rickmansworth to confuse the other shoppers at Waitrose by riding her push bike through the multi-story car park that is the only road access to the store (the alternative involves taking her bike in the lift, or carrying it bodily up the stairs).
So, two hours cycling, 20 minutes in a chandlery, a 30 minute detour to Waitrose and about half an hour to fit the new bilge pump. Done.
It actually takes longer to pump the water out of the bilges than it did to fit the pump.
The deck board latticeOver the four years Miss Inexperience has owned the boat several of her deck boards have been replaced. The one on the front locker was replaced after a friend stepped on it and it fell through. Said friend was very embarrassed; it wasn’t her fault, the board was rotten and should have been replaced before that happened. After that three of the back deck boards were replaced for similar reasons. They were verging on dangerous and, as they were the ones that were mostly stood on, they got done, the same applied to the top of the gas locker. But that, sadly, was as far as it had gone. The less well used deck boards were in better nick than the rest so they were waiting, and had been waiting, for a while. In fact, they’d been waiting for so long that by this time they were a little dangerous and Miss Inexperience had been forced to carefully place things across them so they couldn’t be stood on.
About a week after Miss Inexperience stopped in Cassiobury Park, Thoroughly Decent Bloke (TDB), a friend she hasn’t seen for a while, turns up with his so-new-he’s-still-in-the-process-of-fitting-it-out wide-beam. He moors up next to them, taking the number of boats that have joined Miss Inexperience in Cassiobury Park to two, as AP has also turned up by this point. Miss Inexperience is grateful she doesn’t know anyone else who’s likely to be joining this bring-you-own-boat party as they are currently lending credence to the argument that scruffy boats always travel in packs (even though TDB’s boat really can’t be described as scruffy).
TDB stops by on his way back from work the following day, takes one look at her deck-boards and points out that they need replacing before someone falls through them. Miss Inexperience knows this, that’s why there are things strewn across the back deck in a seemingly random pattern, unfortunately she has no way of getting hold of the materials she needs to manufacture new ones and anyway, right now her priority has to be her dodgy water system, it can wait. Anyone who doesn’t know not to stand on the bits with stuff on them shouldn’t be on the back of her boat anyway.
“I’ve got some spare materials, I’ll make you some new deck boards.”
“Really?” Miss Inexperience replies. “Thank you.”
And he does. Without any hoohah at all. Miss Inexperience wakes up one morning to find that he has taken away her old deck boards to use as templates for the new ones and slowly, over the course of the day, he puts them back, only made out solid ply rather than the lace she had before. He also finds some green deck paint left over from doing his roof and paints the whole deck green (even the Hex Board) so that it matches itself, if not the rest of the boat.
“It’s no trouble” he says to her protestations. And it does mean that it’s now safe to walk on the back deck again.
Keep stirring, there’s one in there somewhere
It has been getting progressively harder for Miss Inexperience to change from forward to reverse over the course of the journey, and it’s becoming almost impossible to find neutral on the way. By this point the change requires actual thumping of the Morse handle in order to dislodge it, and changing gear is increasingly involving a nasty grinding noise and on occasion the boat not actually going into gear. This is really not a sustainable situation, and Miss Inexperience is struggling with the Morse lever one day when TDB comes past. He gives it a waggle.
“The gear cables could just be dry. Try putting some WD40 down them.”
“I beg your pardon?”
So he shows her, spraying it into the top of the cables and waggling the lever until it moves freely. It’s a revelation, such a simple thing that makes life so much easier. Sadly the free movement hardly lasts any time at all, those gear cables are very dry.
 Perrott, D and Mosse, J Waterways Guide 1: Grand Union, Oxford and the South East London: Nicholson 2006 p. 44