Friday, 12 February 2016


  It is a fact of life that we cannot predict the future, even the near future. The things we take for granted today could all be different tomorrow. It’s the same for narrowboats as it is for humans. We have a particular person in in our lives for a time, but it cannot, no matter how much we may think or want it, be forever. I’m saying this because, as it turns out, this will be the last of my occasional ramblings. It was originally the Skipper doing most of the writing, as any long-time reader of this blog will know. I just put my tuppence-worth in on the odd occasion, really because I thought it only fair that you heard my side of the story. And yes, I admit I got a bit of a thrill going behind his back, and let him carry on thinking that he was the boss!

When I say that this will be the last time I write, I actually mean it will be the last time either of us writes. There’s no other way I can say it – you see, the Skipper has gone for good. I know he didn’t plan it this way – who does, when the time comes for them to meet their Maker? But I know that he would have accepted with good grace the fact that the whistle had been blown, and full-time announced… My “hunch” that there was something going on turned out to be correct. I finally got Roots and Wings to explain everything to me. I have to say, I did feel irked – and still do, a bit – that I wasn’t told sooner. But I suppose I can understand that everyone was feeling so sad and shocked about the news; and Roots and Wings, bless her, said that she didn’t know how to tell me, and was just “waiting for the right moment”, which, she said, “never seemed to come.”

…When the Skipper left in early December, it was, apparently, to go to the hospital. Although he didn’t say anything to me (I think he didn’t want to worry me), he had not been feeling in the best of health for a while. Anyway, the long and the short of it was that the doctors discovered it was cancer, and a type that was “quite aggressive” at that. According to all accounts, he was cared for magnificently in Warwick Hospital by the team of nurses and doctors, in fact all of the staff; and of course Janis was by his side day and night. He had a fine coterie of visitors, who did a splendid job of keeping his spirits up – though knowing the Old Man, I’m sure he would have been doing the same for them as well. He passed away on the 20th December, and a memorial gathering was held at Tooley’s Boatyard in Banbury on the 5th January.

As you can imagine, I’ve been feeling a bit bereft since I heard the news. I can’t help thinking of all the voyages we still had to make. I know, of course, that a narrowboat will inevitably have more than one owner in its lifetime, often several. But there was something in the way me and the Skipper worked together that felt just that bit more special. We never said anything to each other about it; but I think we both knew.

…So now I have an unknown future ahead of me. I’m quite happy for the time being resting here at Kate Boats; but I suppose I will eventually be moved and sold to a new owner, with who-knows-what plans for me. It seems right to finish the blog now, and I know the Skipper would want me to say thank you and goodbye to all of his readers and friends over the past several years. While Old Salt has now truly found his “Future-Rest”, I, his original Futurest, will go on to waters uncharted, to places undiscovered, to people unmet. And who knows? Perhaps we will meet. Not in this form, not with this name, but in an entirely different life. For now, though, I bid you farewell. And I salute my Boss, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of travelling over the past eighty-two months. I have loved every minute of it.

Thursday, 28 January 2016


Well, who’d have believed it? Over two whole months since the Skipper’s last blog post, and not a word in the meantime! Luckily for him, I don’t worry too much these days if he disappears for days on end. I’ve decided there’s no point in getting fed up. I’ve got used to his gallivanting around without so much as a by-your-leave, especially during the winter mooring period, here at Kate Boats. It’s when he catches up with friends and family, and his “on-land” pursuits. We’ve been travelling together now for six and a half, nearly seven, years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in that time, it’s that you’ve got to let him please himself. Luckily, I’ve had ‘Roots and Wings’ for company, and all in all, it’s been a very pleasant winter so far, with us breasted-up against each other. We never seem to run out of things to chat about. Although I have to say I do miss the cruising along the water, and the smooth, lightly-lapping sensation against my bow, which is only produced by the forward momentum of motion, having my amiable companion beside me while I am in stasis here in Warwick more than makes up for it. However, I can’t help feeling that it’s just getting too long now since sight or sound of the Old Man. What makes it more strange is that, up until a couple of weeks ago, Roots and Wings’ Skipper, Janis, was very much around as usual, plus the fact that last month the Skipper’s two sons, Alex and Rupert, were staying for several days. But absolutely no sign of the Skipper himself! Mmm, it all seems a bit fishy to me. Call it gut instinct if you like, but I can’t help feeling that something is going on, that everyone except me knows about… There’s nothing for it: I’m going to have to come out with it and ask directly. I shall ask Roots and Wings. I’ll choose my moment carefully, at a suitable opportunity. After all, I wouldn’t want to unsettle her… Today, as I sit here on this pleasant and peaceful section of the Grand Union Canal, a spotless sky hangs spaciously over me; and despite a temperature that must be only a few degrees above zero, the usual features and routines of nature – the ducks gliding past every so often, a brave Robin Redbreast in the vicinity scouting for food, and the delicate, occasional splashing of the water against my sides – continue undaunted.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Breezy but Bracing

Both little ships are now tied up at Kate Boats and I managed to get ‘Futurest’ across from the towpath just before the current blow began, which was useful.

My boat, having now spent six winters in a row here, I moved initially across into her customary winter berth right outside the office. However another vessel tied up just astern of us was using all the available 24 volt power points for its various needs. So yesterday, after a couple of days down there without power, I have moved the boat and breasted up against ‘Roots and Wings’ where there is more than adequate sockets for both of us.

The present blusteriness of the weather has come as quite shock after such a mild, quiet and unassuming start to the month of November and here at Kate Boats, though we are protected to a great extent by tall buildings all around and to the west of us predominantly, we have still felt the strength, in gusty form, of the gale-force westerly breeze that everybody is talking about.

Last night ‘Futurest’ was ranging excessively fore and aft alongside her bed partner so I decided to put out back springs fore and aft as well as bow and stern lines to keep her tight alongside and all has been neat and secure since. Though the temperatures are dropping slowly, both little ships are snug and warm aboard, and with endless hot water and being able to use an electric kettle once more, life is a relative luxury.

Yesterday morning Janis caught the train for one of her customary visits to Newark and basically she will be away for about a month. However she is returning tomorrow with a hire car so that we can attend a Douai Abbey and School reunion on Friday at Woolhampton (situated on the Kennet & Avon Canal coincidentally). We have definitely arranged to meet there my old school chum Roger and his wife Judith but I am hopeful that there may be others attending that I might know also, even though it will be just a couple of years short of sixty since we will have last met.

As I write now aboard we have just been peppered by one of the many gusty squalls that have continually passed across us today and the sound of the rain on the roof blots out all other noises that one normally hears.

Friday, 6 November 2015

The Return to Our Winter Moorings

On Monday last the two little ships left the moorings at Leamington and moved the short distance up to Warwick.

However Kate Boats’ yard is still busy and there was no room as yet for both boats. So ‘Futurest’ drawing the short straw, has been left tied up for a while on the towpath opposite while we have managed to secure an equally temporary mooring alongside Kate Boats for ‘Roots and Wings’.

Here, even though her stern, because of a shortage of depth beneath her, is a good ten feet out into the canal (a mooring very reminiscent of our recent experiences on the Kennet and Avon Canal) we have been able to connect her to 240 volts shore power, providing her with all the decadence that such a move gives; hot water all the time whether the engine has been run or not is one pleasure that Janis and I have been looking forward to and dreaming about for ages now.

On Wednesday we began another pleasant occupation that’s available to continuous summer cruisers after they have tied up for the winter months; that is catching up with all the visiting that most people do naturally all through the year.

On Wednesday Janis and I spent the day with my brother David in Stratford-upon-Avon. The bus stop is situated opportunely just outside the yard gate which makes it so much more convenient for me to use with my bus pass. We didn’t manage to see much of him this time last year since we were away in Australia and New Zealand for most of the time so this visit was well overdue.

Then yesterday we had to attend a sad occasion; the Thanksgiving Service to my son-in-law Steve at Flackwell Heath Methodist Church.

We hired a car for the day and shot down the M40 and arrived well within time for the service. So we were able to meet my two sons Rupert and Alex briefly before the service began.

Steve had so many friends as a result of the numerous interests in his life and the church was soon bulging at the seams with many of them attending the funeral and though most were in conventional dress a large number were dressed in science fiction costumes from Doctor Who and Judge Dredd through Planet of the Apes and onto Star Wars which was a particular favourite of Steve’s. We were even privileged to have a special detachment of Storm Troopers attending, resplendent in their full shiny white plastic armour.

The service itself was as usual quite sad as everybody was reminded of sad thoughts of loss of a husband, father, son, brother or simply good friend. The reading of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd…. “ was read so beautifully and with such great control under the circumstances by my daughter E-J, the bereaving widow whilst the tribute of Steve’s youngest daughter Harlie was very courageous and heart-warming.

Later, after the service, was the wake in the church hall and as always at funerals, this was the happy part of the day. It was the time for reminiscence and the meeting of old friends that haven’t possibly had contact for many years.

It was lovely.

And now this morning (the day after) Janis and myself are in Wetherspoon’s at Leamington Spa, making use their Wi-Fi reading the many more tributes to Steve on Facebook.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Approach of Warwick Wintering

We lay presently at Leamington Spa, with the days getting shorter and the nights growing longer and this seems to herald more than ever the end of our 2015 cruise.

As always it has been a wonderful and eventful year, especially in the company of Janis my excellent travelling companion, while our two little ships that have happily been close together now for four years or more, frequently hugging each other while contentedly breasted up, seem to be aware that they are so near to home and winter moorings at Warwick.  


Steve, Janis and George on the way to Thrupp


It has been an eventful month in that it saw the sad and premature death of my son-in-law and chum Steve, who had only recently been to see us with my grandson George and cruised to Thrupp and back from Kiddlington on ‘Roots and Wings’. When the news came through it was such a shock in spite of our knowledge that he was going into hospital for what was expected to be quite a routine operation. He was a happy, always kind and thoughtful man and will be missed terribly by my daughter E-J and grandson George as well as the many many friends that he had. The number of wonderful tributes he received on Facebook was phenomenal.


DSCN4683  In the lock

The Sun always shines at Napton-on-the-Hill


After sampling the delights of the Kennett and Avon Canal this year as far as Bristol and the glorious River Thames in between the former and the South Oxford Canal, which was all bliss and having recently passed through Radford Bottom Lock on the Grand Union Canal, which is the last lock of more than four hundred this year, it will be good to tie up finally at Kate Boats to taste the sins of civilization again. As we plug into 240 volt shore-side electricity it will be wonderful to blow the dust off the electric kettle and toaster once more and not be forever anxious about the continual state of the leisure batteries and with public transport so close to us I shall be able to indulge to my hearts delight in visiting my family and friends with such ease during the winter months for as long and as many times as I like.



Jolly japes in Jephson Park, Leamington Spa


Friday, 9 October 2015

S’alright for Some


The Skipper has just popped out for lunch to the local Wetherspoon’s pub so I thought I’d grab the computer for a while as he was away. It always takes him all day to write a blog (bless him…He is getting on you know!) but it takes no time for me at all for me to say what I need to.

By the way, do you like my latest font? Don’t know what it’s called as I couldn’t read the words but I reckon it looks better than the old Man’s boring Calibri that he uses all the time.

Anyway what I wanted to say was that I’m getting a bit fed up at being left behind all the time. Reading his blogs have you noticed that he and Janis have taken extra trips this time out? Each time they’ve gone off with their fancy friends in ‘Roots and Wings’ and left me behind at the moorings to my own devices every time, without another thought as to what could happen to me while they were away and you know how bored and sad I am when left on my own.

That Skipper of mine!…. He does really take liberties sometimes.

The latest time it happened was when they all swanned off to Cropredy the day before arriving back yesterday. The Old Man didn’t start right anyway, when we arrived in Banbury and he tied me up under trees blocking any sunshine and as you and I both know the sunshine on my solar panel makes me feel so much better. He did at least think again about his thoughtlessness when he shifted me to a mooring nearer to Banbury Lock and into all day sunshine just before they left.

But…. oooh the smug look on ‘Roots and Wings’s bow as she passed me by made me so mad. If I hadn’t been restrained by my moorings I could have gone across and smacked her.

Still while they were away for twenty four hours I managed to calm down as it wasn’t really her fault, was it?

And when they returned she was facing the other way of course so for the first time this year she and I were face to face so we could enjoy a good chat together. And she shared with me, not in a smug boring way as she could have done, but nicely about her experiences in Cropredy, which I thought was kind of her, don’t you think?

It was lovely to be face to face and be therefore closer than we had been able to be all summer.

She’s alright really. It’s the humans that run her that are the trouble.

Still I need to go now as the Skipper will soon be back and wanting the computer again. It would be awful if he caught me using it. My writing like this would offend his dignity I know it would. But it’s lovely to be able to talk to you and get things off my chest now and again. See you soon I hope.

The Swift Passage of Time and Miles

I have noticed that it is over a month since my last posting from Hungerford and all I can say is how time flies when one is enjoying oneself. But I am also very aware that this is the first month since beginning the blog that I have written so few. I apologise as I do take great pleasure in writing these words as much as I hope you enjoy reading them.


Sunrise pictures at Somerton Meadow



Morning mist at Somerton


Morning’s calmness


However I wasn’t really aware of this lapse till I met and then was reminded by Lisa on NB ‘What a Lark’, who we encountered frequently with husband David while we were on the South Oxford Canal below Banbury, as our two ships ‘leapfrogged’ each other on their way northwards.



The narrow entrance into Nell Bridge Lock, Aynho


But we are now at Banbury after a swift passage (for us anyway) from Hungerford to Reading and then onto the River Thames to Oxford. On our continued idyllic exploration of the Kennet and Avon Canal it suddenly occurred to Janis and I that at our present rate we would soon run out of time for getting back to our winter mooring at Warwick by 1st November and as a result mild panic set in. After a few days spent in Newbury where we entertained Neil, a friend of Janis’s, for a little while, we set off in earnest, using only overnight moorings, towards Reading and the north until we arrived at a beautiful mooring at Kiddlington Green Lock on the canal just north of Oxford.

Here we remained for two nights while my grandson George and his dad Steve paid us a visit and we took them up as far as Thrupp and back in ‘Roots and Wings’. It was a great occasion for me as I hadn’t seen them for sometime.

And now in Banbury Janis’s sister Raeleen from Australia has come to visit us. She will be here for a few days so we shall be busy making sure she sees all the local places of interest before she leaves. In this respect on the day before yesterday we made the most of the beautiful sunshine to cruise to Cropredy, again in ‘Roots and Wings’ (the cruiser layout of her design makes her much more of a sociable boat for visitors than ‘Futurest’s traditional boatman’s cabin layout). We stayed the night there and returned to our moorings below Banbury Lock yesterday afternoon. But Raeleen’s work never seems to be too far away as today she has caught the train to Warwick to meet a colleague for a working pub lunch  giving me the grand opportunity of catching up somewhat with my errant blog writing.

In a few days Raeleen will be leaving and our return voyage to Warwick for the winter will be accomplished after we continue to the north towards Fenny Compton, Napton, Long Itchington and Leamington Spa.

The weather remains very fine for us at present though the verdant Summer green countryside of the past few months is now rapidly donning its colourful Autumn clothing as the days grow shorter and the nights get cooler. I must soon overhaul my ‘Squirrel’ solid fuel fire ready for its imminent Winter commissioning.