How to live on a Submarine… sorry … Canal Boat

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Locks along the canal.

Two full days have now past as we have headed up the Llangollen Canal (I still choose to not try and pronounce that word, Welsh is such a guttural language that I don’t think I will ever master) and we have been learning almost all of the way. The canals are incredibly tight as they are meant to only be as wide as two boats in most places and in many others only one boat can pass at any time. The at times gut wrenching part is when you are about to commit to a long tunnel or aqueduct only to find someone on the other end who is a little more closer in than you. 65 foot long boats do not stop as fast as you would like and they definitely do not have much control when you reverse.

We have had a few scrapes and been beached once or twice. It is amazing how many people are out on the canal doing the same thing that we are. The canals were originally built to transport industrial goods around the country at a time before trucks and trains. They didn’t last as the best form of transportation for very long as by the time they were constructed trains began to overtake them as the better form of goods transport. For that reason there is no industrial purpose and is completely dominated people on holiday or on a weekend get away. A guess is that maybe a third to half the boats are owned by individuals and the others are rentals such as ours and that means that possibly a third to half the drivers are really good at what they are doing and the rest….. well they are figuring it out as fast as possible. At one point we ended up in a tree when one driver came down the canal in a crazy and fast zig-zag. We were helped out of it by a nice man who owned a boat mored further down the canal who assured us that it wasn’t our fault for ending up there.

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What it looks like out the back of my bedroom.

The boat is incredibly thin and it really does seem like you are on a submarine. It is also not really like a sailing boat where you might spend most of your time “on deck”. There is very little room to be outside, There is a small space right at the front and the area where you steer from at the back. There is a long roof but you are not supposed to hang out there and bridges and tunnels are so frequent and only as tall as the boat that as soon as you got settled in your tanning session you would be diving for cover. As for inside if you have ever watched a movie about a submarine and you have seen the images of how close everyone is you have an idea of the ‘cozyness’ of this. Trying to pass someone in the hall is a dance as most of the time I have to walk sideways so as to not be banging my shoulders all the time.

Showering is entertaining as well. All of the water that goes down a drain goes directly into the canal. For all of the sinks that isn’t a problem as the drain is above the water line but because the drain for the shower is lower it needs a special pump to get the water out. In your first shower you will inevitably forget this and be standing in ankle deep water. Water temperature is also fun as the water is warmed by the engine and so the hot tap is HOT. Not wanting to waste too much water creating the right mixed temperature you tend to usually have showers a little more on the cold side and make them super fast.

And so in 2 days and an evening we have made it up to our turn around point at Whitchurch. As we came in I was at the helm and so it fell to me to turn around the 65 foot boat in a hole that maybe was 70 foot wide. There really are not many places along the canal where you can turn around and it is a tricking process involving what can only be described as a 100 point turn. I didn’t hit the banks though and so the ducks at the one end better be very thankful for the effort to avoid them. We start heading west again tomorrow at possibly a slower pace back through the Northern Welsh farm land. It is as you would expect a calm area (when you aren’t fighting a boat) and while it isn’t Northern Ontario it does have that peaceful nature to it.

And so tomorrow it will be just us, a few boats and some cows along the way.

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