Up the Junction

This is not schadenfreude, this is not cocking a snook. This is simply reportage from a war zone. I have public entertainment moments all of my own, but since I’m at the keyboard I’m not going to tell you about those today. No, this is simply why, whenever possible, I travel outside of normal canal hours. This is why I am oft to be found holed up, busily uninteracting with the world.Β Unteracting? Is that a word? If not then it ought to be. I put aΒ lot of effort into unteracting, and I am very good at it.

This is a small sample of a weekend Up The Junction – the Greek & Roman gawds alone know what it’s like on the Llangollen at the moment… πŸ™‚

The Cardinal and I have been moored in a fascinating spot, close to the meeting twixt Shropshire Union and Middlewich Branch. Because my desk is raised I am afforded a grand-stand view of proceedings without having to bob up and down like a meerkat. I had to wait only until about 09:30hrs on the first day before proceedings began to proceed, and they haven’t really stopped since. πŸ™‚

Oops, do please excuse you… You reverse… No, you reverse… No, me… Yes, you

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TwoΒ will fit, if you juggle and aren’t too bothered about the paint on the boat rails… and anything on the roof. Or a meeting of gunwales. That way no-one has to wait thirty seconds…

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If you look carefully here there areΒ three boats… and the angles involved do not favour the blockage clearing itself…

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Venetian’s Day Boat, Barcarolle (red), below – crew behaving impeccably, I should add, and having tried for some several minutes to understand the other boat’s intentions – almost falls victim to the stop/start left-side-of-canal/right-side-of-canal confusion of a blue boat whose avowed and highly vocal destination was “the pub” “where’s the pub?” “we’re going to the pub”…

Between you, me and the fuel-filler cap, I think they’d already been…

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Just after this photo was taken blue reverse-with-revs was engaged and all was well. Although the blue boat is on the “wrong side” of the canal they didn’t in fact follow Barcarolle through the turn, but went straight ahead – pubwards. Little wonder there was confusion.

Many sudden appearances onto the Shropshire Union were made from the Middlewich Branch, almost as though the view from there under the bridge isn’t of a busy road and some horrid housing, as though the right-angled junction were all one big surprise…

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Green before blue, rarely “oh, afterΒ you“. πŸ˜‰ Whoa, Neddy, thunk…. The bank opposite the junction is concrete and steel… Ouch.

Yes, you can easily get two boats through theΒ  narrows to the south of the junction, but you do need to know your starboard from your larboard when you do. No-one wanted to give way – it’s all so very much like driving on the roads but with no brakes and with wrong-side drive.

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In the interests of reminding my reader (you know who you are) that while this may on initial inspectionΒ look like raw schadenfreude-in-a-blog-post, it is not, and I must therefore confess to some five years ago and my own altercation with another boat here while I was piloting a Cheshire Cat boat, during which two mugs were broken and I was contrite enough to last me for a decade. Nope, this is simply why gongoozlers – and boaters – watch boats boating about.

It’s akin to watching your own appendix take itself out. Fascinating, and you just can’t look away no matter how much it hurts.

Passing traffic? No problem. We’ll just shoot out of the junction, attempt to beach ourselves on the road, and blockade the Shroppie… πŸ˜‰

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The other boats will have functioning brakes, surely? Young Sonny-Jim on the bow was in prime position to be somersaulted onto the bank by the impact,

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…but don’t worry, the other kid falls in the canal itself a couple of minutes later. I only caught him during his climbing out… clambering up the dangly-dangly centreline. You can see some remaining disturbance in the canal water below him… where he fished himelf out.

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The gentleman steering the green & red boat with the blue bow-flashes had earlier had the devil of a job navigating the turn north and, yes, here he’s steaming at a rate of knots towards the Cardinal’s bow… without a care in the universe. I did have to “meerkat” myself off my arse there, and ask him to either steer it or stop it! He woke out of his reverie and did both, for which the Cardinal and I say “phew, cor blimey, Batman”.

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He was busy in a shouted conversation with the boat that (eventually) followed him out.

‘Which way is Wales?’ he was asking.

Wales is south from here… he’d spent ages laboriously (and “interestingly”) turning north…

It took another ten minutes turning around again (see kid falling in above). I don’t think that Daddy is having the most relaxing holiday of his life. Were I to be asked in court which way he approached, how often he turned and in which directions I would likely accidentally perjure myself. It all got very confusin’.

I hope that if they have promised themselves the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from here in a week that they realise they have to get all the way back to base too… We can but hope that either the gentleman thrives on stress, or that his holiday improves.

Someone usually,Β eventually, gives way, most of the time, although not oft with much good grace… Note the blue boat to the right is in “reluctant reverse”, a narrowboat gearbox option that comes between “full steam ahead” and “rowlocks to the world, Doris, I smell blood“.

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It is at this point that words are usually exchanged… and gesticulations gesticulated.

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That said, you very rarely get a chance forΒ many words or gestures before someone else joins in the fray…

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Those “having words” must apply the anchor, while those gesticulating take the opportunity to hoof it away. The chap in the boat with the circular window in his cratch, who had pulled in briefly to avoid a boat some three or four boats earlier, remained briefly pulled in, having little to no choice in the matter.

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What jolly japes. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…

.before steaming merrily on your way, regardless.

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It is true that this weekend we lacked variety. We lacked – or else I simply missed spotting – one of these…

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…and, other than the gentleman who turned laboriously north for Wales, we entirely lacked a Canal Mystery Tour Bus…

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As I type this the evening “rush” is beginning and I must hie away – I have my I Spy Book of Boats to work through, and I have yet to score “whaler” and “oil tanker” and a pea-green boat with an owl and a pussy cat in it.

These are Canal-Rozzer time-limited moorings and I mun mooch on soon. I wonder if the limit imposed was on the advice of a psychiatrist, forty-eight hours being the maximum the human nervous system could take?

Remind me to set my hind-brain alarm for “Dawn O’Clock” tomorrow.

What’s that old saying about boaters? Some of them just won’t be satisfied until they’ve got a wooden leg and a parrot.

Chin-chin &etc. πŸ˜‰

Ian H.

27 Comments

    1. Some sort of time-lapse would have been great viewing – the overhead view would have been one of some sort of boat fight, with fresh boats rushing up and piling onto the scrum.

      Some of the tunnels hereabouts are time-controlled with no staff, just signs displayed ordering travel in one direction at certain parts of the hour and in the other direction for the remainder. I wonder what would happen if some even person (me, f’rinstance) were to change the times displayed on the signs, and set up cameras in the tunnel… I could make a fortune on that U-Bend video channel… πŸ™‚

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  1. ” I put a lot of effort into unteracting, and I am very good at it.” Got a big smile and laugh outta that one.
    Canal traffic jams look like the require quite a bit of skill – and patience. It almost looks like tourist boaters in Disney Land running amok…
    (I’m waiting for that parrot to show up…)

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    1. The irony-that-gives-it-the-laugh-content is that almost everyone seems to be in such a rush – on the canals, where rush is a silly concept. If it’s two minutes’ delay it’s somehow disastrous – they’re all rushing around but only incidentally, not consciously, soaking up the canal atmosphere and sceneryy. It’s all very odd indeed… but not that much different to general life. πŸ˜‰

      I worried the hell out of two hire boats once by stopping and working them through a lock, letting them get ahead. They couldn’t understand why, and I wasn’t about to try to explain that I’d rather see (or rather NOT see) them rushing and squabbling in the distance than have them snapping at my heels!

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  2. Oh. I see how it is. Years of peaceful and gorgeous scenery in the blog, punctuated only by what we all love about your personal grouchiness toward the human race generally and the canal trust board very specifically. But now the REAL canal life is exposed. Its little better than L.A. traffic. Canal propaganda has been your job all along.

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    1. Damn! I’ve blown my cover. πŸ™‚

      I confess that I am also a very keen, lycra-toting cyclist, love angling for little fishy-wishies and regularly hug swans… This, on top of my absolute faith in politicians makes me an Ideal Subject*. The freshly-implanted Control Microchip and RFID tag have left a still-tender scar at the base of my neck… All hail Spode!

      *In England we are all “subjects” of the Crown, not “citizens” or any such nonsense. πŸ˜‰

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  3. Thank you for that…it evoked memories of the far off days of the LSE sailing club and Potter Heigham bridge on the Norfolk Broads. Less continuous action than your junction, but deeply satisfying all the same…bowsprit through the porthole of the loo on a motor cruiser with occupant trapped inside was a high spot of the week.

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    1. Ah, the notices on boats all around the area – ‘Not to be taken under Potter Heigham bridge’…

      I imagine that the accident you describe was a … moving … experience for at least one of those involved!

      I remember the first time that I encountered real shallows – while momentum wasn’t affected, there just wasn’t enough water for the prop to throw around to do anything about it and, of course, I was steaming around a bend towards another boat! There are many and splendid ways to make a fool of yourself on any variety of boat (although I can’t imagine for a moment handling the complexities of a sailing boat)! πŸ™‚

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      1. Shallows are the very devil for a boat with an engine….as experience on – or off – the East Coast would show me…thus I liked to have sails!
        As to the ‘moving’ experience, I imagine shares in the makers of Exlax fell dramatically….

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  4. I understand you watching with interest. Some years ago we were holidaying in France and spent ages watching a hire-boat person trying to park is boat in Cognac. Hilarious.

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    1. The poor guy on the “looking for Wales” holiday boat was like that – I wish I could have made him take a pause and deep breath to “reset” himself. Once things begin to go wrong on a boat they just get wronger and wrongerer and wrongererer. πŸ˜‰

      We all serve our time performing such acts for others, that’s why it’s not so bad to watch once in a while! I’ve done my share to date of looking like a total pillock for an audience…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Ian. I had real trouble getting to sleep after reading your latest missive. My wife and I were laughing so much, and remembering previous encounters, hire boaters and private boaters alike. It confirms my thinking that the best thing to do is find a quiet spot for July and August, preferably up North and just hunker down. But junctions can be so much fun, perhaps a bit less dangerous than catching on a cill? Getting the hang of this blogging thing now. Just have to wait to launch the boat.
    Regards Mike

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    1. My preference (in peacetime, generally) is for the places between the places where other people moor up! I avoid towns like the plague – literally so these days.

      Good luck with the bloggery – just keep on chugging. πŸ™‚

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  6. Wow! What was I saying about a quiet life on the canal? Sometimes you just can’t believe your eyes can you? Are you sure it wasn’t a Carry On remake?

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    1. It would have looked great in a time-lapse video, we just lacked a few paddle-boarders and a boat full of migrants being pursued by the Royal Navy. Tis truly scary how some folk shoot out of that junction – even cruising past it at the wrong time of day can be like a round of Russian Roulette. πŸ˜‰

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  7. OMG – don’t these people have to do any sort of test before they set them loose!!
    Oh well, if it’s any consolation it’s not just the amateurs. Yesterday on the Welland Canal (which allows large freight ships up and down the great lakes) two very large ships somehow managed to plow head on into each other! No one was seriously hurt but the ships are being checked over for damage and there will be an investigation!

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    1. Hi – I am so sorry, your comment got oiked into oblivion by the anti-spam stuff of wordpress and I’ve only just seen it! I saw video of that collision – neither vessel seemed to back off or be prepared to give way, as though no-one was at the wheel in either case! Very – horridly – impressive!

      There are courses and tests you can do for narrowboats, but 99.999999% don’t do them. Hire boaters get half an hour of gentle “tuition” usually, while a lot of private boaters only move their boats once or twice a year and so forget anything they learn between cruises! For my own part, I just have brain-freezes and senior moments – that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! πŸ™‚

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  8. Hope you are well and staying save, Ian. Thank you for this wonderful posting, Never before have see a swimming car and a swimming bus in action like this. in the UK you are driving left on water too? πŸ˜‰ Indeed amazing images. Best wishes, Michael

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    1. I think that what may confuse boaters is that while we drive cars on the left we drive boats on the right… it’s easy to forget, and nothing is instinctive! It helps that narrowboats steer from the rear and pivot from a point about one-third of the way back from the bow – and there are no brakes. It takes practice. I really felt for that poor guy looking for Wales – he is going to be exhausted, a nervous wreck by the end of his holiday. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank’ee most kindly sir – tis much appreciated.

      I suspected that it would be fun to moor here for a short time, and I was correct! I am sure that Benny Hill was about somewhere, perhaps directing the action with a megaphone, and while wearing those wide-thigh riding breeches and slapping his riding crop around. Camera! Lights! Action!

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  9. With completely dry feet and not a hint of bow-wash over my desk…I can laugh. But having tangled with anglers and “left hand down a bit” boaters I totally understand your avoidance of rush hour!

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    1. Worm-danglers do seem to generally have had their glee-glands removed, they do not seem to be a happy bunch (with exceptions, as always). I had to cruise past a large angling “competition” once – a couple of hundred anglers, one after another. By the time I got past them all I needed counselling and a suicide intervention. πŸ˜‰

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