Monday, 9 June 2008

Narrowboat Tetris

Strawberry Fair came to Cambridge this weekend. Its a raucous, messy, somewhat crazy event, and as a result many of the boaters moored along the edge of the common where its held tend to move away for the weekend to avoid it. So on Friday night, with James and I on board, Kestrel set off out of the city to Clayhithe, towing Bacchus, which belongs to another boater friend, Tanja and her cat Fennel. (Her engine has gearbox issues). We started off moving with the boats tied side by side, but once through Baits Bite lock (and past the spacky rowers) we attached Bacchus, using a relatively long line, to Kestrel's stern, like a working pair. James, Tanja and I stayed at Bacchus' stern, which despite having no engine, needed to be steered independently. It was a lovely cruise, as night fell, but it was pitch black by the time we reached Clayhithe, to discover the moorings taken up by a few cruisers from Ely who had left stupendous amounts of space between them. We reckoned Bacchus would fit in one of the gaps (being only 45ft to Kestrel's 60) so brought the smaller boat alongside with nearly as much skill as would have been demonstrated by working boat people! This is where the tetris came in (James' term) as we very slowly brought the pair of boats into the mooring. A few worried faced appeared from behind the chintz curtains of the hireboats as James shouted ' 2 feet away, 1 foot, 9 inches...!' But with the game won, we were finally able to have dinner and crack open the wine. We missed last orders at the pub by about 14 minutes much to the annoyance of all!

The morning dawned grey and manky so all plans to clean the boat and do other various chores were cancelled. It was still lovely to open my eyes in Kestrel's back cabin and have breakfast looking out over the river. We moved Kestrel onto the bank, since the hire boaters had all but gone, locked the hound into the boat and set off to Ely on the train. Ely has the most amazing 'tat-shops'. Forget the cathedral, its all about the Gnome Factory (may not be its real name) and all the various other shops selling bits and bobs you never knew you needed. When we bring the boat through we shall certainly be stocking up on random antiques and bits and pieces. (big) James and Emma bought a lovely old Singer sewing machine for fixing the cratch cover awning. Back at the boat we just pootled about, read the paper and played with the new toy. Elizabeth, another boater come out to escape the fair was also moored, as were a few others we know. The other piece of excitement for the evening was the riverboat Georgina setting off some huge fireworks on the towpath about 20m from the moored boats. Ridiculous thing to do. Jess (the dog) was completely freaked, and as it was about 11pm, lots of people were woken up by it. The Jameses went and had a word. Apparently they had a licence. Hmmm. Everyone now awake, it made prefect sense to open up the gin, and invite Elizabeth over!

Bit of a lie in, but my James' hayfever was still playing up (he'd been plagued by it all weekend). Lovely and sunny though, so we awoke to a somewhat domestic scene of Emma cleaning and (big)James sitting in the well-deck with the sewing machine out. I soon added to it by helping Emma clean, polish and wax one side of Kestrel. Extremely satisfying to see it come out so shiny! Lunch was in BBQ form. James' sausages were edible, despite being totally BLACK with charcoal. We ate the sausages (they weren't all black) with Emma's homemade bread, which was yum. I am so totally going to learn how to make proper bread when we live afloat. Apparently its a very Cam-lady-boater thing! Tanja, as we discovered later, also makes amazing bread. My James was coxing all afternoon. We finished waxing the boat, then just sat enjoying the sun until he came back and left pretty much as soon as he did, with us steering Bacchus, being towed again by Kestrel. Getting through the lock was interesting, since we'd assumed it would be open, so we had to alter our plans and bow-haul Bacchus in. James was also just a little too enthusiastic with letting the guillotine up, hehe! I was holding Bacchus on the centreline and had to work quite hard to stop it surging forwards! Lovely smells were emanating from Tanja's kitchen and there were two loaves ready when we arrived back in Cambridge. Once we'd been to the waterpoint and pumped out (And let random tourists have their photos taken with the boat) James and I fashioned the loaves into bacon sandwiches and brought them over to the others, who by that point were having drinks at the nearest pub.

The only negative point was realising that I was sunburnt in an angry red strip between my skirt and top. Ouchies! Otehr than that it was a great weekend. I learnt a lot about, well, everything! Including how a cat copes with moving moorings. Obviously all cats are different but Fennel (and Elizabeth's Isis) both seem totally happy with being boat-cats.

[space for photo which is still on Tanja's phone!]

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