Saturday, May 13, 2017

A four-day jolly with three friends

Let's be clear about this. Kantara is licensed to carry up to six people. But, strangely, that doesn't actually mean that six people would be comfortable travelling together in her. In the past, we've had one or two friends or family spend a week or so with us, and that's been manageable. The demand on the boat's resources - space, water, food, waste disposal - haven't been excessive. But when we invited Colin, Frankie and Andy to spend four days with us, it wasn't without some trepidation. Five adults in a sixty-foot narrowboat sounded like a recipe for trouble.

For a start, our dinette only seats four. We overcame that with the addition of a folding stool at the end of the table. The table was crowded, but manageable.

The saloon has a sofa-bed that seats two - or three real skinnies, I suppose. And there's the step up onto the well-deck, and Grace has made cushions for this, one for the seat and one behind the back. That's good for one person. There are two floor cushions too, but only room to use these if we take away the coffee-table thingy that's normally on the right-hand wall. We put that in the car for the duration. Two more seats. So theoretically we can seat five in the saloon.

Beds weren't an issue. Strictly speaking we can sleep six; two in the permanent bed, two in the bed that can be made up in the dinette, and two on the sofa-bed. There are curtains to hang across the boat between the dinette and the saloon to give a degree of privacy to the occupants.

Our fridge is quite large, and perfect for the two of us. But for five...? Grace prepared some of the meals in advance, and put those in the fridge. Cooking for five in a smallish galley with four others passing through from time to time wouldn't be easy. Add to that prepared food all the other edibles and drinkables needed, it did all fit in.

The shower room wasn't an issue, of course, because none of us minded not sharing it. However, there was the matter of the 20-litre toilet cassette, and how often it would have to be changed. But we do have three cassettes, and there would be several places where they could be emptied, so I was confident - ish.

Water was a bit of a concern. Our tank holds 180 gallons. It sounds a lot, but if five of us wanted to shower every day... And washing up for five would be a factor. As would loo-flushing for five. But there would be places where we could fill up if needed so don't panic, Roger!

So, off we went on our jolly (thank you, Nikki and Ralph on NB Miner Bill, for reminding me of this aged but perfect word) south down the Grand Union. None of these three friends had been on a narrowboat before, and boaters out there will know the feeling of responsibility you have as the boat-owner in that situation! They had to have a good time!

And they did. We all did. They arrived at 11:00 am, and we were en route by 12:00. We stopped for lunch just before Watford Locks. When we arrived at the flight afterwards there were no other boats, and we went down quickly. We even got the assistance of a vollie. Buckby Top Lock, heavy though the gates are, was easily managed by three of us.

We moored for the night below Top Lock.

That short trip was very routine for us, but very new for them, and they were full of questions, and keen to help with everything. After dinner at The New Inn, we went back to Kantara to learn Linkee, with the help of generous quantities of wine.
I lost. 😒

Bed-time was the first trial of the workability of  having five of us together. It worked fine - of course it did. Everyone was very laid-back and patient, and it wasn't long before we were all contentedly asleep.

We carried on down Buckby Locks the next morning. There were several other boats on the flight, and we shared with NB Valour all the way down.

The bottom two locks were tiresome, as they often are, with water entering at the top of the lock (over the top of the gates and through leaks) faster than it could leave through the bottom paddles, but it was a challenge, and not a little amusing, too.

Elsan disposal and milk purchase at Whilton Chandlers halted our progress for a while, then we continued, with Colin at the tiller, and Frankie walking. Perhaps she didn't trust him!
The weather was beautiful. Tuesday had been dull and quite chilly, but this day was sunny and hot. I was glad there were no more locks.

We winded at Stowe Hill, and drove back to a beautiful spot opposite a farm camp-site, with a lovely panoramic countryside scene the other side of us. Beer, wine, sunshine and chat. Grace prepared dinner, turning down several offers of help.

Thursday's weather was cooler than the day before, but still fine for cruising.

We stopped at the Heart of the Shires shopping village, but found it rather uninteresting. The Tea Rooms were über-busy, so we couldn't even get tea or coffee there. We went back to Kantara, and had lunch.

Frankie drove as we moved on towards Bucky Locks.
At Bottom Lock, we were joined by a solo boater on NB Red Rebel, and went up together as far as the Top Lock mooring we'd used before. No New Inn this time. Grace served up a superb Chilli Con Carne with salad.

On our last day together, Frankie and Andy needed to be back at the marina by about 2:00 pm, so we set off with plenty of time ahead. We shared the lock with another boat, turned right at Norton Junction, and headed up to Watford Locks. We only had a short wait at the bottom, and we ascended quickly.

And we arrived at the marina at 2:00! No sooner had we tied up and gone down into the boat than it rained. It poured. Our three friends left for Milton Keynes with time to spare. Despite my anticipated difficulties, we'd all had a really good time, and the three of them were talking about "next time..."

My goodness, it's quiet here now!


  1. Now that sounds as if it was an absolutely wonderful jolly! What a lovely word....yes, I've seen the Miner Bills using it too. It suits the purpose precisely, doesn't it? Fabulous photos of a perfect trip. I'm so glad the rain held off till you got back!

  2. Thanks, Val. Yes, the experience would have been very different if the weather had been the way it was a week earlier. Our friends came well-prepared with waterproofs, but we were glad they weren't needed.