Tag Archives: London

Miss Inexperience: a fire, a futon, a fridge

the Camden confusion

Having spent her first summer in London continuous cruising, Miss Inexperience decides to take a winter mooring at Camden. She had no particular reason for picking Camden, other than it was a ‘cool’ place to moor and it was locked at night so she felt relatively secure. With hindsight it was a silly choice; had the canal frozen she’d have been stuck somewhere with no facilities and had to lug canisters of water from the nearest tap, assuming, of course, that she could persuade Camden Lock Market, whose tap it was, to let her do so.

It also meant that anyone who knew where she was moored on 9th February 2008 called her to check that she was all right. Which was … interesting, as she had no idea there was any reason she shouldn’t be…

“Are you all right?”

“Er … yes … why?”

“Camden’s on fire! But you’re OK? It’s not near you?”

“Camden’s on fire?”

Miss Inexperience walked out on to the back deck of MsB’s boat and looked in the general direction of Camden. There was a plume of smoke and an orange glow… MsB on the other hand had turned the radio on to reports of a fire burning out of control in one of the markets.

“It’s OK” Miss Inexperience told her friends, “I’m not moored that close to the markets, I had no idea it was happening.” She carefully omitted to mention that she was not, in fact, on her own boat, and that that probably had something to do with her lack of knowledge.

“I think it’s the Canal Market” says MsB. “Shall we go and check?”


They grab coats, keys and lurchers and head off down the towpath as fast as their little legs can carry them. When they finally get into the mooring and can clearly see that the boat is safe, they breathe a huge sigh of relief. What was actually a twenty minute brisk walk felt like it had taken hours. They discover, upon arrival, that not only do they have a far better view of the (reportedly) 30 foot flames than they had from the back of MsB’s boat, but also that everyone else on the mooring is standing around on the towpath watching the flames and chatting. They put the dogs into Miss Inexperience’s boat, make themselves a cup of coffee and go and join the party on the towpath.

Every now and then someone’s phone will ring, and one of the boaters present (including Miss Inexperience) can be heard patiently explaining the situation.

“No, it’s OK it’s not that close to us … the Canal Market’s the one on fire … no, no between the Hampstead Road locks and Hawley lock … the one above the Hampstead Road locks is the Camden Lock Market … no, that one’s fine … no, even if it were the Camden Lock Market it probably wouldn’t affect us, we’re at least 300m away, and most of us are here, so we could get the boats out anyway … we’d only have to go round the corner past Cumberland Turn …yes, I can see the flames … no, not that dramatic, probably looks better on the news … there are helicopters everywhere … no, I think it’s all right, that block’s gone but the fire brigade appear to have it contained … no, I’m not planning on going to have a closer look…”

the mattress malfunction

Finally, in the summer of 2009, Miss Inexperience admits that her elderly futon mattress is no longer fit for purpose, and so, with the aid of MsB, goes about purchasing a new one, similar to the one that MsB has. Now MsB had purchased said mattress some time ago from a shop in Camden which no longer existed; however, a quick label check and associated internet search revealed that the company was still going. Several phone calls and quite a lot of measuring and re-measuring later, they managed to order a mattress of almost exactly the right size for the bed.

The main problem that remained was how to get it delivered. Fortunately MLB was quite happy to have things delivered to her houseboat, and they had done this on many prior occasions. However, some delivery companies are considerably better at finding MLB’s quirky address than others. Some firms consistently fail to recognise that boats could have addresses, let alone letter-boxes. As a result they would frequently attempt to deliver to, say, the nearest house, or in the case of Miss Inexperience and MsB’s joint dog food orders, quite often the nearest restaurant to the mooring. The local pub apparently found it less amusing, as they rarely took parcels in. If you happened to get one of the better firms they might manage to find the gate, but that was merely the first hurdle. Having found the gate, they had to get through it, which seemed to cause some consternation, despite the inclusion of the gate code in the delivery instructions. If, by some fluke, they did manage to get through the gate, they then had to identify the correct boat… This should be easy, after all the name of the boat forms part of the address and the position of the boat on the mooring is included in the delivery instructions; somehow though, it was never that simple. So, if it’s this much hassle to get an ordinary package delivered, you can imagine how stressed Miss Inexperience was about a mattress, which wouldn’t be that easy to collect from the dispatch office if the company failed to deliver.

MsB did the ordering and instructions because Miss Inexperience didn’t want to mess it up, and is given a delivery date, which Miss Inexperience then checks with MLB. It turns out that MLB isn’t going to be in that day, but she is quite happy for someone else to wait in her boat for the mattress. Miss Inexperience therefore books the day off work and goes round to MLB’s first thing in the morning to wait for the mattress.

The mattress does not arrive, and it keeps on not arriving as the day goes on. Sometime around lunch-time, Miss Inexperience does something she should probably have done first thing; she wanders over to the nearest house (where cards are often left by this particular delivery company) and puts a note on the door stating that the mattress delivery should not be attempted here but at the nearby gate. The mattress continues to fail to arrive. Miss Inexperience variously stands at the gate fretting, wanders up and down the mooring fretting, and, finally, rings the company she’s placed the order with, to find out what’s going on. The mattress company ring the delivery firm. The delivery firm state that they tried to deliver and that no one was in.

The mattress company ring Miss Inexperience back. Miss Inexperience reasonably points out that a) she has been in all day and that b) there is no card in the box telling her that they have tried to deliver and that she was out. The mattress company ring the delivery firm again. The delivery firm state that it’s too late to get it out to her today, but that they’ll put it on tomorrow’s van. The mattress company ring Miss Inexperience to explain what’s happening; Miss Inexperience points out that she has booked the day off work to be here for the delivery and that she can’t just take another day off tomorrow. MLB, who has now come home, kindly offers to take the delivery the following day.

The mattress does not arrive the following day – couldn’t find the address. Nor does it arrive on the next delivery date – absolutely no idea.

the new mattress is a hit

Eventually MsB contacts the delivery firm and somehow manages to get the direct line for the driver. He puts it back on his van and drops it off at the end of his shift the following day – going out of his way and above the call of duty to get the damn mattress to the mooring. That man, whoever he was, deserves a great deal of thanks. Miss Inexperience was very grateful, if only because it stopped her having a nervous breakdown over the whole bloody thing.

Now all she has to do is move her boat to outside MLB’s boat as soon as possible, so that she can swap her manky old mattress for her amazingly thick new one. She manages that the following evening, swaps them over, and discovers once she’s made the bed that two of the three lurchers she and MsB currently have between them can no longer get up onto the bed without assistance…

the fridge frustration

One day, a short time after MsB had managed to secure her somewhere to moor her boat on a permanent mooring, Miss Inexperience arrived home to discover a fridge on her back deck. A 230v fridge, covered with a tarpaulin, plugged in and full of food. Not, sadly, her food.

The fridge, it transpired, had been inside the boat that had previously occupied the mooring she was now on. It had in fact been in use while inside the empty shell, a shell that was also used as a tool-shed. Miss Inexperience was somewhat relieved to discover that the tools were not in fact inside her boat, they’d been moved into a butty.

frozen fridge

But still, a fridge.

The answer to the question “when are you going to move that fridge?” was variously over the course the next few months: “as soon as I can”, “I don’t have anywhere to put it” and “I’ll see what I can do”. Miss Inexperience is glad to be on a mooring, there’s no doubt about that; it comes as a relief after all that frantic boat moving on days off, trying to remember exactly when she arrived on a mooring and when she has to move, as well as, after she has moved, where she’s moved the boat to this time. On more than one occasion she set off in the wrong direction, only to have to turn round and go to the mooring she’s actually left the boat on. Not to mention that there is mains power on her mooring, as well as water on tap (so to speak) which means that she can actually do some of the jobs that need doing on her boat – she doesn’t actually do many of them in the end but she does get some done for her. However, her cruising ability is something she jealously guards. (She only has a 230 circuit put in after she’s been on the mooring for several months, it genuinely hadn’t occurred to her that one would be useful before that.)

And now she has a fridge on her back deck.

It stays there for over a year, until it finally dies and she takes it, by boat, for disposal. You are not having another fridge on my back deck she informs its owner – if all your food won’t fit in your fridge, I’ll store some of it in mine. He accepts, so she does. It’s not ideal but still an improvement on the living with a fridge on her back deck. A fridge, for goodness’ sakes.

Miss Inexperience learns about mooring in London

Local restrictions

So far Miss Inexperience has only done a limited amount of cruising on any boat; she has travelled as far west as Newbury and as far East/South as Camden on her own boat and has done various stretches of canal on other peoples boats. On canals, and even canalised rivers, you can generally stop pretty much anywhere along the towpath for up to two weeks (depending on local restrictions). So, other than her brief sojourn on the Thames she has never really been anywhere with limited mooring. London is, therefore, a bit of a shock. Around Rickmansworth and Watford (as far north as you can get and still be on the tube network) it’s possible to moor pretty much anywhere. In London proper however, there are designated moorings and in most places it’s not physically possible to just bang in a couple of pins as there are high voltage cables and fibre optics running under the concrete towpaths…


(7 days – no breasting up, plus 2 boats worth of 2h ‘stop and shop’ moorings)

Miss Inexperience headed straight to the visitor mooring in Camden when she arrived in London for a couple of reasons: her job was in Camden (she might as well make life easy for herself) and it’s Camden. The latter is the reason most people head to Camden (it’s a very popular mooring).

When Miss Inexperience first arrived it was possible to moor there for 14 days during the winter and 7 days during the summer – it’s now 7 days all year round. She was lucky; when she arrived there was a space into which she could squeeze her boat. This is generally not the case, which means either a quick turn in ‘dead dogs’ tunnel’ [1] and heading back to Little Venice or carrying on down the Camden Flight to Islington.

The Camden visitor moorings (though not the stop-and-shop moorings) are theoretically locked overnight, although that is generally done by one of the boaters currently on the mooring. There is (or at least was) a warden for the mooring which somehow didn’t seem to make a difference, it was still done by whoever happened to be there at the appropriate moment and remembered, or occasionally by a boater from one of the other moorings as they passed through. Miss Inexperience is bad at confrontation and didn’t really want to have to ask locals to leave the mooring; however she quickly discovered that not locking the mooring meant towpath “parties” going on all night outside her boat with loud music and drunkenness that she also wasn’t very keen on. She also discovered that putting on a high-vis jacket when she went to lock the mooring lent her an air of credibility and meant she got far fewer questions.

The boats in Camden also tend to be used as a backdrop for people’s photographs, which is mainly not a problem. It’s even perfectly acceptable to step onto someone’s boat to take a photograph providing they have given you permission. The following however, are all things Miss Inexperience has seen and DOES have a problem with:

  1. Young men leaning on her boat in order to impress their girlfriends – solution: open towpath side curtain and shout “oi” through the window – it’s amazing how high they jump.
  2. People climbing onto her boat WITHOUT PERMISSION in order to get better pictures of whatever it was they were trying to photograph: boats going past, the houses on St. Mark’s Crescent, ducks, kayaks, each other posing on a boat – solution: same as above but often with the door rather than the curtains.
  3. People climbing on her boat in order to honk her bicycle horn (the horn got nicked fairly soon after she arrived in London anyway so that became a moot point).
  4. Children casting the boats off in broad daylight – she discovered quite quickly that yelling like a fishwife and chasing them a short distance generally made them go away and not try it again until after the boat they’d been caught doing it to had left.
    Camden has bollards rather than rings which makes it a lot easier to cast a boat off, however fastening your ropes on your boat not the towpath and a chain padlocked at both ends (round the bollard, and round the boat) goes some way towards mitigating the problem. Motorbike padlocks and heavy duty chain are best for this as children in London have access to bolt croppers.
  5. People sitting on the roofs of the boats to: eat their lunch, drink a coffee, smoke a joint – yes really. This is usually dealt with by a yelled “get off my boat” from whichever of the local boaters happens to notice the imposters first, in the summer this is often someone on the back of a trip boat.

Despite these minor problems Miss Inexperience enjoyed mooring at Camden; there are two supermarkets in easy reach of the mooring as well as an “organic supermarket” (outside her price range but good for treats). In fact when Miss Inexperience gets her first winter mooring this is where she chooses to be (good job the canal didn’t freeze that year otherwise she’d have been stuffed as there’s no facilities on-site).


And finally: it’s all fun and games until someone sets fire to a wall.

Regents Park Road Bridge viewed from the water

Miss Inexperience was sitting in AP’s boat when she hears crackling and can smell burning outside. As her boat is next to AP’s she sticks her head out the door to see what’s going on, only to discover that someone has set light to the ivy covered wall next to the boats. It has been a dry summer and they’ve clearly put some accelerant on it as the flames are already 6 foot up the wall. Miss Inexperience rings the fire brigade and endeavours to explain that no, she doesn’t have a postcode for her current location, the nearest road is Regents Park Road and that the fire is on the towpath. In the mean time AP and some lovely Italians from a hire-boat attempt to extinguish the conflagration with buckets of water and at least one of the hire-boat’s fire extinguishers – Miss Inexperience didn’t manage to stop them in time, she still wonders how they explained that one when they got back. They did such an efficient job that the flames were gone by the time the fire service arrived, but, as the wall was still hot and there were crackling sounds (and a primary school on the other side of the wall) they decided to douse the wall thoroughly anyway while chatting with Miss Inexperience about living on a boat. Good fun was had by all.

Little Venice

(14 days)

The Grand Union (Paddington Branch) is considerably easier to moor on with several sections where it’s possible to put in pins. One of these is just beyond the official visitor mooring rings at Little Venice, however (as Miss Inexperience discovers when she moves in the middle of a week to get out of the way of the Canalway Cavalcade moorings) the whole stretch from Little Venice to the Harrow Road Bridge is counted as the Little Venice visitor mooring. The BW enforcement officer gently explains this to her and agrees that she can move her boat as soon as she gets a chance.

Volunteering at the Canalway Cavalcade (before she owned her own boat) was Miss Inexperience’s first introduction to the canal in London and she discovers (the first time she goes there when the Cavalcade isn’t on) that Little Venice looks oddly empty without it. As a local boater however she realises that it can make moving around a bit of a nightmare. There is a huge influx of boats at the beginning of the festival, meaning that you have to go further afield to find a mooring as the whole section is closed to visitors and, when they all leave again it’s possible to get stuck waiting to go through the Maida Hill Tunnel (272 yards, thanks for asking) for up to an hour. Generally, if at all possible, it’s a good idea to be a long way away from Little Venice when the Cavalcade is going on because boats that aren’t part of the festivities really just get in the way.

It is on the Little Venice visitor moorings that Miss Inexperience discovers children like to bang on the outsides of boats and then run away – a kind of water based equivalent of the doorbell game, and that anything not locked down, for example AP’s bike, will get nicked.

Brownings Island, Little Venice

There is a wicked cross wind at times on the Little Venice visitor moorings; this is fine if you manage to find a space on the section with rings, however, if you’re trying to moor single handed and your boat is being blown out while you’re trying to knock a pin in things can get a bit dicey. Miss Inexperience struggles with this for about twenty minutes one day with a particularly vicious wind before coming to the conclusion (having checked the towpath both ways) that if she just loops the rope over a section of fence while she quickly puts the pin in, it’ll be fine. This blocks the towpath but she’s keeping an eye out and putting the pin in as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, as she hits it for the last time a cyclist appears.

“Mind the …” the cyclist slows and looks up to see what’s going on … and is promptly taken off her bike by the “…rope”.

Miss Inexperience picks her up and apologises profusely. The cyclist, a little shaken but otherwise unhurt, accepts the apology and the explanation, ducks under the rope and leaves saying that she has learnt an important lesson about mooring boats “to slow down and look for ropes”. Miss Inexperience takes the rope down, ties it to the pin and vows never to do that again.

She also arrived back at her boat one evening to find that one of the pins had come out (some people seem to think that slowing down past moored boats is a slur on their boat handling) and the boat was almost completely blocking the canal (quite impressive since it’s only a 40’ boat and the canal here is quite wide). Given the strength of the wind and the length of the centre line it takes Miss Inexperience, MsB and AP quite a while to get the boat safely back to the bank. Fortunately, Miss Inexperience has ‘D’ pins and always threads the rope through them so she just has to bang the pin, and a couple of spares, in.

Paddington Basin

(7 days)

The Paddington Basin mooring is a bit of a concrete jungle however it does have a couple of things in its favour, notably its proximity to supermarkets, Paddington Station and St. Mary’s Hospital – on at least one occasion someone who has had an accident on a boat has been hauled onto the roof and taken round to the back to St. Mary’s where the skipper has yelled “a little help here” in the general direction of the ambulance bay. It also extends the amount of time you can stay in the area of Little Venice to three weeks.

That said, Miss Inexperience isn’t a fan of Paddington Basin, most of the moorings are down slippery pontoons and those that are on concrete are generally under bridges. There is one mooring, near the glass bridge that has a security guard opposite it (which oddly didn’t make Miss Inexperience feel that much more secure) and the level of wind in there is such that lighter boats (like Miss Inexperience’s) sometimes have to crab to get anywhere. The wind means that manoeuvring has to be done at some speed and Miss Inexperience has been yelled at more than once by boaters who appear not to understand that not all boats handle the same. She has, on more than one occasion, wondered aloud whether the boat owner in question would prefer her wash hit his boat or her boat did so as she was being blown in his direction.

However, apart from its lack of trees and slippery surfaces in places, Paddington Basin is quite a safe place to moor; in fact the worst thing that happened when she was moored there was the discovery by AP of a group of builders sitting on the back of Miss Inexperience’s boat drinking cans of beer on their lunch break. They probably thought it made them less conspicuous. For all Miss Inexperience knew they could have been doing it for days, but, as they didn’t leave any mess and didn’t argue when AP pointed out that it wasn’t their boat and they shouldn’t be there she wasn’t too worried about it.

Kensal Green

(14 days plus 5 boat lengths of 24 hour)

Opposite the cemetery at Kensal Green is actually quite a nice place to moor. It’s a long mooring on a wide section of towpath which allows the possibility of safe barbeques and general sitting around on the towpath (something of a rarity in the middle of London).

There is also a huge Sainsbury’s which Miss Inexperience and MsB regularly cruised to at Christmas (subject to ice) to collect last minute shopping and alcohol (a quick lift of the trolley over the magnetic wot-not and you can offload straight onto the boat before slipping the trolley back into the supermarket the same way you got it out – no damage done).

It is however a bad plan to attempt to moor here during the Notting Hill Carnival, as Miss Inexperience and one of her friends discovered. They set off for the mooring one evening during the festival, thinking it would be fun to cruise through. However, by the time they’d had a few bottles, rocks and other missiles thrown at them by drunken festival goers who appeared to equate boats with target practice. Had been leered at, jollied at and generally irritated by being the only sober people in a crowd of louts (albeit louts that couldn’t get at them and were drunk enough that they couldn’t even manage to hit a narrowboat moving at 3 miles an hour) it started to lose its appeal. She didn’t make the same mistake twice.


(14 days, locked at night)

As Miss Inexperience quickly discovered; the Islington Visitor Mooring is a funny place. It starts about 10 meters east of the Islington Tunnel (the longest on the Regent’s Canal – it only has two tunnels, one of them has to be the longest) and is in a deep cutting surrounded by houses.

Kings Place

When Miss Inexperience moored here the first time she was very new to boating; she knew about the “8 ‘til 8 rule” regarding running engines but, as she was getting home late and her batteries weren’t holding charge, she put her engine on at about 1950 one evening (for half an hour so she could shower) and got yelled at by someone who pretty much moors there full time. Sadly, the irony was lost on her as she didn’t really understand the continuous cruising rules at this time. The reason for the bawling out was gently explained by another boater. There is at least one local who has a problem with the boats and who always reports boats running their engines after the 2000 cut off.

She explained the situation; he nodded and responded that when he needed to do it he went for a half hour cruise as they couldn’t say anything about boats moving. Wide eyed with terror (there are two locks east of the mooring and a tunnel west of it) she nodded and pointed out that single-handing at night was a bit scary. So he helped her top up her batteries and introduced her to the concept of “batt aid”.

Miss Inexperience eventually tried to avoid mooring at Islington for a variety of reasons, not just the grumpy local(s). The Northern Line is reliably unreliable which lead to Miss Inexperience attempting to cycle to work. Not knowing the way she got herself in the wrong lane going down Pentonville Road and nearly got knocked off by a van while trying to do a legal right turn (legal only for bicycles, buses and taxis; everyone else carries straight on) meaning that she arrived in work on time but very shaken. On top of that was the difficulty of negotiating the very busy centre of Islington (it’s a bit like Oxford Street but less … linear) from the supermarket to the mooring, and the embarrassment of the day she had to figure out how to get to a position where she could call down to AP to let her in because she’d arrived back after the mooring had been locked and she’d forgotten to take her BW key and phone with her.

Victoria Park

(14 days)

Somewhere between Islington and Victoria Park

The visitor moorings in Victoria Park are notoriously difficult to get on to. They’re generally two boats deep along the whole length of the park and many of the boats present appear to be continuous moorers. Whenever Miss Inexperience headed down that way she inevitably ended up turning back having not found anywhere to moor. The further East you go on the canal in London the more dodgy boats and continuous mooring there is to be found. The enforcement officer at the time Miss Inexperience was there had done a marvellous job of clearing the rule-breakers out of central London, but unfortunately, as with many problems, it was just moved; in this instance to Victoria Park and later to the bottom of the Hertford Union and the Lee Navigation. It is possible to walk around the edges of Victoria Park, and at night it is advisable to do so – though it’s better than it used to be. It’s a great place to moor if you’re going to one of the festivals, or even if you just want to listen to one of the festivals, since you can hear the music from the towpath; that’s if you can find somewhere to moor.

Mile End Park

(14 days – if you last that long)

Very few people moor in Mile End Park even though there are a couple of places you can do so, and even fewer do so more than once. Miss Inexperience didn’t try it, as a single female being that far away from the safety of other boats

Lillies, somewhere towards Limehouse

seemed like a bad plan. There were too many horror stories and she wasn’t keen on ending up as a statistic. After Miss Inexperience moved onto her mooring and stopped continuous cruising in London she briefly had a job in Mile End. Having seen the park at night (and had to purchase Kevlar tyres for her bike because of the quantity of broken glass lying around in the park) Miss Inexperience is very glad she didn’t try and moor there. Not recommended for anyone.


1 Dead Dogs’ Tunnel is actually a disused loading bay.



Miss Inexperience plays on the Big River[1]

(May Bank Holiday Weekend 2007)

Miss Inexperience somehow made it through that first awful winter when she couldn’t get the stove to work properly, the water temperature was more changeable than a British Summer Day, it snowed, it flooded, trees fell down blocking the navigation and the towpath, she couldn’t afford to renew her mooring as she had been out of work for much of the time and she wanted to move closer to civilisation anyway, so she ends up ‘continuous mooring’[2] in a field because she can’t get any further in the direction she’s trying to go, by the skin of her teeth. She wasn’t entirely alone; her neighbours took pity on her, and in the depths of winter took her by car to get coal, picked up firelighters when she ran out and occasionally took her and her skinny lurcher into their boats to warm up with a mug of sugary tea.

With spring comes the possibility of seasonal work in London so Miss Inexperience identifies five days in which she can move her boat and crosses her fingers that the damaged weir will be fixed by then otherwise she’s going to have a VERY long commute. She also secures SBT to help with the move as he’s done “The Big River” before.

The Kayak Race

The cruise starts with turning the boat, this shouldn’t be difficult but there’s a wicked current running and Miss Inexperience is fighting the boat round just as some people on the bank start putting kayaks containing children into the water, directly in line with where Miss Inexperience’s 15 tonne lump of uncontrolled steel is going to land… Eventually the adults realised the danger, stopped putting children into the water and assisted her to turn the boat. (But not sadly before they shouted abuse at her for messing up their race – as there were no signs and Miss Inexperience doesn’t have access to the internet she really had no way of knowing that there was going to be a race.) At some point in the middle of avoiding the children an alarm started going off on the control panel. There was nothing that anyone could do about this. Other than put a spare hand over the speaker; neither Miss Inexperience nor SBT had a spare hand.

The cooling conundrum

Once Miss Inexperience and SBT had managed to get clear of the kayaks, find somewhere safe to pull in they turned the engine off and discovered that the water-cooled engine had run out of cooling water. They waited. They let the engine cool down. They put some more water in and cruised for a bit. They checked the water level. They put some more water in. They cruised a bit more. They repeated the procedure every couple of hours for the whole trip. But at least the alarm stayed off.

The handlebars/pub/bridge concatenation

The last stretch of the Kennet through Reading is extremely fast flowing and, as it passes through the city centre, narrows to approximately half the width above and below. There is also a low arched bridge, with a pub garden next to it and it is a sunny day. Miss Inexperience misjudges the flow, in full view of an almost overflowing beer garden, hits the bridge; losing in the process the handlebars to her bike (if it hadn’t been locked to the roof the chances are she’d have lost the whole thing) and the gas ventilator. Those in the pub garden cheered. If you are ever in a position to cheer at this kind of accident, please don’t. Miss Inexperience lost her ability to have a shower that day. Not to mention the cost of repairing the bike.

The supermarket/licensing miscalculation

So, they’re on the Kennet, heading for the Thames and looking for a supermarket because Miss Inexperience didn’t think it was worth stopping for food in the morning since they were already running late. Now if you turn left out of Reading (upstream/north) you come to a good mooring directly outside a Tesco Extra. If, however, as Miss Inexperience and SBT did, you turn right, you end up having to go through at least one lock (where you have to buy a licence[3]) before you can get to somewhere that might stand a chance of having a shop. The boat has an anchor but no navigation lights (just a ‘tunnel lamp’) which means they cannot move at night on the Thames; this wouldn’t have been a problem had they turned upstream. As it was they were just pulling into a mooring as the light started to fail. Cutting it a bit fine there hey Miss Inexperience?

Boats, boats everywhere

As Miss Inexperience and SBT head further down the Big River they encounter a lot of other boats. Miss Inexperience starts to enjoy herself somewhere in the middle of day two; there’s no need to slow down on the Big River, it’s wide and fast and really quite fun after the Muddy Little Ditch she’s been moored on until now. This is all quite relaxing until they start meeting canoes, kayaks, rowing boats, skiffs, toppers and various other small squashy boats containing small squashy people, who don’t seem to be aware that there’s a 15 tonne lump of steel heading for them, and that even if Miss Inexperience throws the boat violently into reverse it’s unlikely (given the current) that she will be able to stop it before she hits them. Particularly if they will insist on hanging around in front of her. There were several tense moments where Miss Inexperience moved to go round such obstacles only to have them turn around and head back towards her (no, not tacking, just erratic).

Tide-tables exist for a reason

Having managed not to kill anyone, sink the boat or any of the other terrible things Miss Inexperience has imagined happening throughout the whole journey, they arrive at Teddington Lock at completely the wrong time to hit the tide. They pull onto the lock mornings, go to talk to the lock-keeper, realise their mistake, scurry back to frantically ring a different lock-keeper (the one at Brentford) and beg him to let them off the Thames when they arrive at about 21h… He agrees. They secure the boat on the lay-by with the lock-keeper’s permission, before sauntering off to acquire some food/emergency battery operated ‘nav’ lights and, for reasons known only to Miss Inexperience, a mop.

They get through the tidal section without incident and turn onto the Grand Union Canal just as the light is failing (at some point the nav lights fail as well, good job there wasn’t anything coming the other way). They moor up and somehow find their way to a restaurant for a well deserved celebratory meal.

The power of suction

After three days on the Big River without slowing down for anything, the Muddy Little Ditch into London seems very slow and boring. It takes Miss Inexperience most of the day to crawl past the rows and rows of moored boats (going considerably slower than she really needs to as she hasn’t quite figured out that it’s the water movement that matters rather than the actual speed). However in spite of this she manages to arrive in Little Venice just before a trip boat is about to leave. This isn’t a problem except that she’s never taken this boat through a tunnel before and she’s tired and can’t seem to keep the boat moving in a straight line. The worst happens, she gets stuck on the side of the tunnel, and completes her traverse with much cringing and scraping before pulling over as quickly as possible so she can embarrass herself in private.

She moors up at Camden and relaxes.

[1] The Thames
[2] Miss Inexperience rings BW when she realises that she won’t be able to move away from her current location and arranges to overstay with permission. By the time the flow has abated enough for the weir to be fixed and normal service resumed, there are about 10 boats on this section all in a similar position.
[3] Had Miss Inexperience thought to check the tide tables and locations of supermarkets before setting off she would have realised it was safer and cheaper to remain on BW waters overnight and only venture onto The Big River (which is EA territory and therefore requires a separate licence) in the morning, thus saving them the cost of a day’s licence and quite a lot of stress. Ho hum.