You know; my good friend Bones is an absolute genius, though of course she is far too modest to admit it even remotely.
But the fact is, this is not the first occasion when she has suggested an idea which after very little consideration on my part has been swallowed up wholeheartedly, though not necessarily as a result of what I may have read in her column in Canal Boat Magazine.
In the pre Christmas edition of the mag she just happened to mention a wish list she had, which contained a small dinghy that could be very useful for exploring exciting looking waterways; those little green and weedy creeks with low sun-drenched bridges, overshadowed by unkempt trees that draw, in passing, the envious eye of the adventurous narrowboat skipper but which he knows are far too narrow and shallow for him ever to navigate. He has to be content to pass them by forlornly, wondering what magic garden might have been there.
Being of that sort of enterprising nature myself, very early on in my boating career I considered that some kind of small boat would be the only way of satisfying this urge for further exploration so had considered various small dinghies or perhaps a kayak even as suitable options. But I always came up against the same seemingly insurmountable challenge:
Where would I stow this small boat on board when not in use?
I have noticed that lots of people plonk them on the roof along with other clutter. But I find this idea not very suitable since being a single-hander means that in locks, when I am prancing over the top of the boat, any thing up there other than a clear roof, for me is a serious hazard and could prove fatal. Having a rigid solar panel is quite enough, as well as the various mushroom vents, boathooks, poles, planks and centre lines, all of which are there for the sole purpose of tripping me up.
Some people tow dinghies behind them but in the narrow confines of our canal system these can be a troublesome hindrance when manoeuvring and when proceeding through locks they must be a nightmare. Also they become untidy depositories for junk one wouldn’t otherwise have and accumulated rainwater, discoloured with stagnation; all in all a most unsatisfactory setup.
So I was content to just dream as I drifted by, for example tantalising drains that lead off the River Witham or the numerous disused but extensive Brindley oxbows, where the North Oxford Canal has been straightened during its history, and I never gave the idea another consideration.
That is until Bones’ wish list.
Her suggestion was a foldable dinghy (brilliant!) and she had been foresighted enough to insert a web address for me to look up too; bless her.
My mind was on the wheel of adventure again.
The site was impressive, especially when I discovered that the smallest size of dinghy made would fit when folded, neatly and almost unobtrusively behind my easy chairs in the Saloon. This is space beneath the gunnel that I don’t use anyway and it would not be missed even if the boat remained there forever. Also there would be no need for clutter on the roof or any unwieldy encumbrance astern of ‘Futurest’.
The dinghy being carried
I was almost sold on the spot and nearly clicked on ‘my basket’ at the ‘checkout‘ straightaway. However I decided that it would make a nice break to travel down to Wellington in Somerset to see where the boats were manufactured and to see one of the boats already built, in situ.
…. being rowed
Having phoned Steve the proprietor, he arranged to pick me up at Taunton Railway Station, take me the eight miles to show me his establishment and then deliver me back to the Corner House Hotel in Taunton where I had booked to stay for one night.
……. and sailed
And that’s all there was to it.
I travelled down on Tuesday morning to Taunton and returned the following day having purchased the ‘Crafty Scamp’ leaving a deposit, the balance of the agreed price to be paid just prior to delivery in a month’s time.
Hopefully we shall enjoy a lot of extra pleasure this summer.