Sunday, 24 February 2008

Boating on the Cam and Ouse

I have been dithering over what to write about for my first real post. So I asked my other half, and he suggested this, so this is what you get.

Part of our great Eurotrip was spending several weeks in England and seeing all of his family while there. We were sponsored five days boating on the Cam and Ouse by his dad and stepmom as a wedding gift.

As it turned out, we were there in a summer of record high temperatures. Unfortunately, they left while we boated. It was chilly. And one of the days was downright unpleasant, but in general it was a remarkably relaxing and enjoyable experience.

The boat we hired came from the Bridge Boatyard. I honestly don't remember the exact model, but it had two cabins, a bathroom, a teeny tiny kitchen, and a living area that could be enclosed or opened out, depending on weather. It really had to be pretty awful to close it though, since the driver could barely see out if it was closed.

The first day was really pleasant. We mooched along the river merrily, sharing the driving (although I ended up doing a lot of it as the boys lost interest in the novelty), and generally having a good time. We learnt how to negotiate the locks, though the first few took some practice. We stopped for the night at a little river-side pub where we met one of A's relatives for a drink, before heading back to the boat for our first proper boat-cooked meal. I honestly don't remember now what we ate, but it was fun. It felt ever so cosy, all hanging out in the teeny tiny boat's living cabin, closed in from the chilly night air.

We managed to ground the boat on what I think was the second day. A bloke had to come and help us get ourselves free. However, it seemed that there was some issue with the steering, so it wasn't entirely our fault. Starting it up was always a bit of an adventurous gamble after that. :)

There was one very miserable day, where I crashed viciously into the side of a lock while trying to fight the tide and the wind and not being able to see through rain. Fun. By the end of that day I was shattered. Exhausted and more than ready for bed.

But, really, apart from those two incidents, it was gorgeous. Being gently rocked to sleep was incredibly soothing. As was sitting at the front (I am sure there is a suitable nautical term for that, but alas, I am woefully inadequate when it comes to sea-faring lingo), reading my book and enjoying the scenery as it slipped quietly past. In fact, in general, the quiet was wonderful. It was remarkably peaceful, considering what a vastly over-populated place England is. We would occasionally pass another boat like ours, or a long boat, but generally people smiled and waved and were all very chilled.

One evening we met a couple of my online friends who I hadn't met in real life before, and had a pleasant evening feeding them fish curry and talking nonsense. Really it was an awesome way to spend a few days.

On the last full day, we found we had a long way to go to get back to the boatyard by the time we needed to the next day. So we rode fast and far, right up until the sun went down and we could hardly see to moor ourselves up any more. It was a gorgeous evening. The weather had been temperamental at best, but that evening the sun set slow and pink. The river was calm. We hardly saw anyone else, apart from several passing swans. It was an incredibly calm, beautiful, long evening, and by the time we battened down for the night, we were all feeling very chilled and happy. The next morning we woke early and got going, stopping only for our last breakfast of bacon, sausages and eggs, before getting back to the boatyard, and saying farewell to the vessel that had been our home for several days.

If you are in England in the summer months, and looking for something a little different to do, I would absolutely recommend this. It was a really different, exciting, and simultaneously soothing way to spend the better part of a week. It was fun, and really quite an unusual experience. Also, the first time I'd ever driven a boat, so, believe me, it's not that hard to do. :)


Sikander7 said...

Yes, it was a great and very memorable holiday. I was so glad that we could get away from the cliche overcrowded Britain into a more relaxed and old-fashioned world.

The Jabberwock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

What does one require to drive a boat? Obviously it helps if you're not prone to bouts of sea sickness, I'd guess; apart from that how challenging is it to steer a boat?

Also, what is a "lock"? Sorry, I don't speak boat. :)

And finally, a suggestion: maybe at the beginning or end of each post, you could post a little summary, with marks out of ten or something? So, for example:

Venue: Continent/country/county/state/city
Manner of travel:
How's the food?
Watch out for:
Don't miss out on:

Something short and sweet, just to give people a quick overview. :)


belgatherial said...

Like I said, it's really easy - even I could do it. It's a bit like a big bumper car. On water. :)

A lock... see, I thought about trying to explain this, but it's hard. Basicallyit's a mechanism for going up- or downstream at places where the river drops significantly. It's a big... um.. mechanical box which you take the boat into, and then fill (or empty, depending which way you're going) so that you're at the same level as the river on the other side. Does that help?

As for the summary thing, I really don't like those. Not having it was a conscious decision. Thank for reading. :)