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.