Monday, 4 March 2013

Musing at the End of Winter

Janis has been home for nearly a week from her travels in Cambodia, New Zealand and Thailand and how swiftly our lives return to normal.

She has now fully settled back onto ‘Roots and Wings’ and we are talking and planning for the coming cruising season.

On Friday ‘Futurest’ had her BSSC Survey and after a thorough examination she was deemed very satisfactory for another four years. The examiner had run out of certificates so promised me he would forward the completed one onto Kate Boats shortly. We shall await this arrival before setting off on our travels for the next eight months. One wonders what adventures will befall us this year.

Initially we journey for the five days down to Banbury so that Tooley’s can service my engines and fix a small job on ‘Roots and Wings’ for Janis. Then we shall return to Napton Junction, turn right and journey down the Grand Union Canal towards London. Janis has never been this way by canal before and as it is two years since I was last in those waters, it is high time for my return as well.

We are looking thoroughly forward to it since the weather has been steady sunshine over the last few days and the air temperature has been slowly rising making our afternoon walks even more pleasant than usual. The River Avon has fallen to a friendly height and is currently very gentle; the quietest it has been for many months. While in the parks prolific banks of yellow Daffodils are almost ready for bowing their heads into their normal flowering position.

A flock of Waxwings settled very briefly in the tree opposite to Kate Boats this afternoon and luckily I was on hand to see the unusual spectacle. The birds were the first I had ever seen, too far away to take a photo or two with my primitive snapshot camera but easily distinguishable by their crests and pinky grey plumage through my 10x50 binoculars.

About half a dozen ‘twitchers’ were present too with their massive long lensed cameras pointing excitedly upwards into the tree. The birds were only there for a brief moment before flying off and, resembling a flock of Starlings in size and flight, alighted on another tree further down the hill. Their group of avid camp followers hurtled themselves enthusiastically after them, seemingly impervious to the proximity of the busy main road that they were on.

Last Saturday morning was brighter and sunnier than ever and the boatyard was busy sending out its fleet of hire boats for the first weekend of the cruising season. It put me in the mood for a cruise too, so Janis and I turned ‘Futurest’ around so that she now faced east, ready for our departure whenever that may be.



‘Futureperfect’ assembled ready for launching

Then on Sunday Janis and I unpacked ‘Futureperfect’ from her bag and for the first time, put her together and launched her onto the Grand Union. She looked very stable in the water sitting prettily like a little paper boat with about half an inch draft so that only the keel seemed to be afloat. Of course she had no ballast and as soon as we climbed aboard the difference our weight made was enormous.



Sitting quietly in the water


The stability as we did so was tricky to cope with and to avoid capsizing her, in the end we sat on the quay with our feet in the boat, before one at a time, sliding our behinds as quickly as possible into the boat and onto the thwarts, while the other held the boat as steady as possible against the quay. With Janis safely in the stern-sheets and myself on the ‘midships thwart ready to row, the fore and aft trim altered considerably too; we were well down by the stern by this time with the transom bow slightly out of the water. But the position was not too uncomfortable for rowing.



The Bow



The Stern


I rowed the mile and a half towards Leamington as far the moorings at the Lidl food store. The little vessel with her rounded six foot length and four foot beam was tricky to manoeuvre at first but with practice my technique improved to suit and we went well in the pleasant spring sunshine.

The timid Moorhens fled at our passing and even the normally cocksure Mallards were a little uncertain and taken aback by the unusual apparition splashing by.

At Lidl my little companion went shopping, having rather precariously got ashore in a reversal of the manner she had got on, leaving me to look after things. I practiced my rowing for a short while and then as she had not returned after about ten minutes, I decided to give my behind a rest from the hard seat and to stretch my legs, so went alongside the moorings to climb ashore.

However I soon found that because of the boat’s very fragile stability, it is impossible for one person to get onto the quay, without altering the list towards the shore so considerably as to capsize her. As soon as I moved my weight from the centre of the thwart, down went the gunnel much quicker than I could transfer my weight onto the quayside and she began shipping water at an alarming rate. I decided to abort the effort and let go of the land and managed to scrabble back up to the centre of the seat before she filled completely with water.

Because the boat is far more stable longitudinally the only safe way one can get ashore single handed I think is to position the stern transom on the quay before changing your weight from the ‘midships thwart to the stern-sheets and then putting your behind on the quay.

It’s tricky anyway though.

As soon as Janis returned she steadied the boat while I got out and after hauling the boat out of the water we emptied her unwanted ballast and returned home with my little shipmate rowing. This was made trickier for her than it was for me as my heavier weight in the stern made the the bow sit much further out of the water than ever; almost as if it was begging like a dog.

But she swiftly became used to it and we were soon back at Kate Boats.  We clambered ashore much easier this time after our afternoon’s experience and putting all parts carefully away into the carry bag we loaded it into the Saloon on ‘Futurest’. It fits snugly, behind the easy chairs beneath the starboard gunnel. 

It had been a wonderful day in which we had learned a great deal and were well pleased .

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