Miss Inexperience buys a boat

Sometime around August 2006, Miss Inexperience decides to finally follow her dream and move onto a narrowboat. Despite having been to innumerable National Inland Waterways Festivals, grown up next to the Llangollen Canal and spent time on a variety of narrowboats, Miss Inexperience really hadn’t done her research and didn’t really know what she wanted apart from: nice wide gunwhales (which she didn’t know how to spell) and the ‘railing type of handrails rather than the solid kind’. A friend was selling his boat and Miss Inexperience went to look at it. She loved it. It was quite a small boat, quite scruffy and had been re-painted really, really badly but that didn’t matter, this was going to be her first boat. No looking at a variety of boats and picking one for Miss Inexperience. No, this boat. A scruffy 79, or possibly 82, Springer built boat with a dodgy service history and an engine that no one has ever bloody heard of.

So she bought it, and started piece by piece to take her life apart and ‘de-clutter’ it down to the point where it might stand a chance of fitting onto a 40 foot boat. In the process she rid herself of a good three-quarters of the contents of her wardrobe, 6 bin liners full of books (that hurt) and quite a lot of other stuff that was being kept merely because it wasn’t actually in the way. The charity shops and clothing banks did well out of Miss Inexperience that year.

Car load by car load

Slowly, car-load by car-load, she moved onto her new boat. A boat that was moored five hour’s drive away from her flat, an hour’s walk from the nearest shop (despite having moved onto the boat by car Miss Inexperience doesn’t actually drive, thank you parental taxi service), 10 minutes from the nearest pub, 8 miles from any prospect of employment, but handily only about 20 seconds from the nearest combined sanitary station (release ropes and shove across the river). Yes, I said river. Rivers are prone to flooding, and strong currents and other things that first time boat owners with no bloody experience at all should probably not be dealing with on their first winter aboard. Miss Inexperience was about to learn some tough lessons in life on the water.

Lesson One: The oven has a gas safety cut off. If you can’t find it, you can’t make your oven work. Which is going to rather scupper your plans for dinner. Oh well, scrambled eggs anyone?

Lesson Two: Full elsan cassettes are heavy. Opposite Miss Inexperience’s first mooring was a combined sanitary station with a toilet (tastefully illuminated with ultraviolet strip-lights) and a quite handy motion sensor light which came on whenever anyone stepped onto Miss Inexperience’s back deck making finding the keyhole considerably easier. Since Miss Inexperience didn’t need to fill up with water, it made sense to her to walk her full cassette round to the emptying point, normally a two minute walk. It took Miss Inexperience fifteen minutes to haul her toilet round, and caused her to gain several fetching bruises on the thigh where she’d forgotten about inertia and whacked herself with the damn thing.

Lesson Three: Bugger the cars. When going through a partially automated swing bridge with an increasingly impatient queue of cars waiting for it to re-open Miss Inexperience shouted across to her AP[1] to start lifting the barrier on the far side. The first car promptly started across the bridge, despite the other barrier not having been raised yet. The bridge wasn’t quite closed, and it remained not quite closed, and slightly wobbly, until BW arrived, fixed the mess and retrieved Miss Inexperience’s only BW Key from the mechanism.

Lesson Four: Make damn sure you can make the bank before leaping off the boat, particularly in November. Funnily enough this occurred at the same swing bridge as Miss Inexperience’s previous mishap. There was a coal merchant opposite the bridge moorings which was due to close and Miss Inexperience only had half a bag of coal left and needed to go to work in the morning. In her hurry to get off, she hit the bank with the toe of one boot[2] and dropped straight into the water with the boat heading for the bridge. Much swearing ensued as Miss Inexperience hauled herself back out of the really quite cold water just about in time for her crew (SBT[3]) to stop the boat hitting the bridge. Miss Inexperience then squelched round to the coal merchant, with her two (rather drier) crew, to beg for coal even though it was nearly closing time, so that she wouldn’t freeze to death. The guy in the coal merchant took pity on her, or possibly he just wanted her to stop dripping on his floor.

Lesson Five: Solid fuel stoves take a lot of getting used to. Miss Inexperience spent a lot of time cold that first winter, and to be honest it’s a miracle she didn’t set her chimney alight since she didn’t think to sweep it before using the fire. Most of that first winter was spent sat inside, shivering, wearing her coat and hat, cradling a mug of coffee, almost in tears, wondering what the hell she’d done and why she’d wanted to do it. She could make a fire, she was very good at making a fire; it was keeping it going that was proving to be a problem. As a result she was using a LOT of firelighters.

She survived.

[1] Aged Parent.
[2] A note of caution: work boots are very heavy when full of water and the lace-up variety wont come off without a lot of effort so if you’re going to fall into water wearing them, make sure it’s shallow water. If you’re likely to fall into deep water make ’em easy offs – better to lose your boots than your life.
[3] Strange Bloke Thing: A considerably more experienced boater.

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