Saturday, April 21, 2007

Since selling Lady Elgar and leaving the Cut I have not been idle.
Apart from enjoying the beautiful Shropshire countryside I've spent much time working on my new book, Living the Dream, which has now been published and tells the story of our days aboard Lady Elgar.
The book is available direct from me via my website www.trevorpavitt.co.uk or from High Line Yachting at Iver, The Uxbridge Boat Center or Limekiln Chandlery at Compton.

Here is my introduction to the book just to whet your appetite:

I sit staring at a pile of six rather battered logbooks.

Four of them are red and of uniform size – about nine inches by seven in old money. The other two are black and somewhat larger.
I open the first, the most battered, and find that on the opening page I have copied out some lines from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, writer and mystic so beloved of the hippie generation:

‘We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us.’

Despite its apparent illogicality (were we supposed to travel at night?), this passage reflects the essence of the dream we had back in the early 1990s when we conceived the idea of living on a canal boat and wandering the length and breadth of England.

Of course it didn’t quite work out like that. The log books track the practical progress of our dream and remind me that circumstances often forced us to remain in one place for long periods. The slow-moving, golden days of our imagination were few and far between whilst much time was spent in patient effort as we battled against winds and rain or struggled with recalcitrant locks. Nevertheless, despite long periods on our home mooring the logbooks reveal that we were able, in the course of some ten years, to cover more than 5,000 miles of waterway and negotiate over 4,000 locks. More importantly, though often not recorded, we met fascinating and eccentric people and made many good friends. We were able to observe our homeland from a unique viewpoint, whether it was those parts of it, almost unchanged since medieval times, where we slept with the knowledge that there was probably not another human being within a mile of our mooring, or the teeming cities where the canal threads its way through a fading industrial landscape and city workers rush about, late for appointments, babbling into mobile ‘phones, obsessed with details of a life that seemed to us of supreme superficiality.

As I attempt to extract a coherent account of our days aboard Lady Elgar from the carefully ruled pages of distances, timings and miscellaneous notes I am aware of the fact that never, even at the nadir of our fortunes, did I ever regret embarking upon our great adventure.

My only regret, as I stare at the pile of battered books that represent those ten, wonderful years is that we were eventually obliged to abandon a lifestyle that suited us so supremely well.

This is the story of our dream.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

We arrived back at our mooring on the Slough Arm yesterday. As always it’s nice to be back; to be welcomed by friends and to have easy access to a water tap (to say nothing of shore power and a BT telephone line – how quick that seems after 9600 bps on the mobile). But, of course, it is impossible to replace the excitement of never quite knowing where you will end up next day.
This has been one of the few trips on which we have had absolutely no technical problems of any kind (I did have to work on the generator before we left but, having fixed it the genny has behaved faultlessly).
And so, goodbye, Canals. We have spent ten immensely happy years exploring the English waterways and shall always look back upon our time afloat with great pleasure. We also have the sneaking feeling that we have enjoyed the very best of the canals – when a large number of them have been made available for cruising but before, as seems likely, regulation, bureaucracy and the sheer volume of boats destroy the very freedom which so many of us are seeking.
If you have been, thanks for reading my reports.

Yesterday’s run: 8.1 miles and 3 locks in 3.6 hours
Total for this trip: 436.3 miles and 399 locks in 222.3 hours
Total in our ownership: 5354.6 miles and 4123 locks in 2800.7 hours

Sunday, July 04, 2004

At Denham Country Park (above Denham Lock)
We are enjoying a couple of days at this our final mooring before returning to our base at Iver on the Slough Arm.
A combination of family reasons and our own feeling that, at the age of 65, we should settle down in a community whilst we are still young enough to participate in local affairs has persuaded us to bring to a close our ten-year idyll on the canals. During this time we have covered over 5,000 miles and worked more than 4,000 locks.
Canal friendships are rather like army friendships: an intense bond is created through mutual endeavour. We still communicate with a number of people whom we originally met quite casually whilst sharing a lock. We shall greatly miss this camaraderie of the canals.
I try not to be anthropomorphic but it is impossible, after so many years spent fitting her out and then living on her, not to feel that Lady Elgar has a personality of her own. Like a well-bred horse she has her idiosyncrasies but, having mastered them, we feel absolutely confident of our ability to handle her in all situations (although certain bits of reversing still occasionally go wrong!). She has carried us safely along almost every navigable waterway in England; from Shepperton in the South to Skipton in the North, Bristol in the West and Lincoln in the East. It will be sad to part with her but, like the famous canal writer Tom Rolt, I shall try to walk away and not look back.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Cassiobury to Denham
We are now into the final stages of our cruise.
Once again we rose late and did not leave our mooring until 0930. Cruised down to the water point above Cassio Bridge Lock and then stopped at Bridgewater Basin to take on diesel (125 litres @ 37p).
Our day was punctuated by some quite heavy, squally showers but nothing to trouble us seriously. Very light traffic all day with only a handful of boats passed.
Having moored outside Tesco at Batchworth to take on supplies we chugged on uneventfully, passing a small arm which is now used for mooring and is known to the locals as “The Stink Hole” because of the malodorous atmosphere created there by the nearby sewage farm.
Pressed on to the moorings above Denham Deep Lock, beside the Country Park, where we have so often moored before.
My sadness on this our final cruise was much alleviated by César Franck and Stella Artois!
Day’s run: 8.5 miles and 9 locks in 4.7 hours.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

King’s Langley to Cassiobury Park
After the exertions of yesterday we took our time before leaving this morning.
I have already described this section of the Grand Union in my earlier reports covering our outward journey; nothing much to add apart from the fact that the Ovaltine factory has still not been demolished and the donkey at Hunton Bridge is BACK. Having assumed that he was gone for ever we were pleased to see him on his patch again and he greeted us with his usual enthusiastic honking.
Had a somewhat trying morning as we were sharing with a couple of academics who were bringing their boat from Cambridge to London. Charming people, but oh so slow in their reactions. Amazing how many people fail to realize that a narrow boat pivots near the centre and it is often more important to think about what the stern is doing than to worry about the bow.
At Iron Bridge Lock in Cassiobury Park we met an old friend from Iver who is making his way (very slowly, as he told us) to Autherley Junction. He was interested to hear about our travels since we last met. We then said goodbye (rather gratefully I’m ashamed to say) to our companions and moored up for the day below the lock, where we were able to watch the divine Sharapova win her Ladies Singles semi-final at Wimbledon.
Day’s run: 4.8 miles and 9 locks in 3.3 hours

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Cowroast to King’s Langley
Every day now seems to have an elegiac quality about it. As we chug down the South Grand Union for the last time almost every lock holds some memory for us but my mood of nostalgic regret was tempered by having to work hard helping our new friends on Nb Shiraz learn the ropes. They are completely new to the canals and set out from Braunston at the weekend with the intention of reaching Apsley by Thursday; rather an ambitious target for a couple, no longer young, who have not handled a narrow boat before. We joined up with them at the Soulbury Three and they have been immensely grateful for our help although I have to say that they have demonstrated considerably ability (although not great nimbleness of foot!). Having ourselves received a huge amount of help and advice from other boaters over the years we are only too pleased to reciprocate now that we are quite experienced.
Having had an excellent meal (including a bottle of champagne) with Ian and Hilary we set off at 0730 this morning to tackle the heavily locked section of canal down through Northchurch to Berkhamsted and then on to Hemel Hempstead.
At the Dudswell Locks we met the team of Wyvern boats on a corporate team-building exercise whom we had seen setting out at Leighton. They were now on their way back having, they said, greatly enjoyed themselves. Presumably they are now working like a well-oiled machine!
We had a good run down to Berko and then pressed on to Boxmoor where I Heard the sound of a Lister JP2 and the Josher “Vulcan” appeared, a famous old boat but now somewhat in need of refurbishment. She was on her way to Braunston (where else?).
We took on water and disposed of various forms of waste at Apsley before saying goodbye to Shiraz and her crew.
Dropped down the Nash Mills locks and moored, as we nearly always do, near the confluence with the River Gade at King’s Langley.
Definitely one of our harder days – I was very glad to get into the shower!
Day’s run: 9.1 miles and 24 locks in 7.8 hours

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Slapton to Cowroast
A good day but a tiring one!
Set out in company with Ian and Hilary on Nb Shiraz and travelled all the way to Cowroast with them.
Having passed through the Ivinghoe and Seabrook locks we arrived at Marsworth where the main flight of locks is always rather hard work. Mary and Ian performed the delicate feat of going into several of them together (without being breasted-up). At one point I watched as they drifted apart coming round the corner, closed in on each other again and made a perfect entry into the lock without so much as brushing it – poetry in motion! Even a knowledgeable gongoozler conceded that it was “a nice piece of driving”.
Having got to the top of the locks we crossed the Tring summit for 18th and, sadly, the last time.
Moored at Cowroast ready for an assault on the long series of locks which carry the canal down to Apsley where our companions Ian and Hilary need to be by Thursday.
Day’s run: 8.9 miles and 16 locks in 6.2 hours.

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