On The Regent’s Canal

Last night I visited Martyn on his narrow boat in King’s Cross. We were planning to take the boat out for a little chug on the canal – Anthea (one of the boat people) had promised to hold our hands on our maiden voyage.

We both arrived back at the boat about 18:30, only to find that Anthea had nipped off with the other newbies down the canal already.

Still, when we mentioned this to the other boat people, the excellent Robin offered to be our guide for the evening.

So, we fired up the engine and attempted to get out of Battlebridge Basin. The main problem is, when you’re reversing, the rudder has hardly any effect at all. It only really works when you’re going forwards. At one stage we seemed to be drifting sideways down the basin towards a row of parked (oops, how about ‘moored’?) boats. It’s the wind apparently :-)

Still, with a bit of shuffling backwards and forwards we managed to get out of the basin and off down the canal proper. Straight in to the tunnel. The tunnel is between 800 and 1000 metres (over half a mile) long. It’s pretty straight, very dark and quite tricky to navigate. The problem is that if you bang into one side of it, you tend to ricochet off and bang into the opposite side, and so on, and regaining stability is quite tricky. In fact, we didn’t go straight in to the tunnel because there was a boat already in there coming our way – it was Anthea and the newbies on the way back!

Just as we had entered the tunnel, Martyn (who was driving all evening) said ‘Ooh, it’s quite claustrophobic isn’t it?’. Oops!

I think Martyn was spending so much time making sure the boat was going straight he didn’t have much spare capacity for claustrophobia :-)

Whatever, we didn’t hit any part of the tunnel, Martyn was superb.

It takes about 20 or 30 minutes to get through the tunnel – it goes pretty much directly underneath Angel tube station, so I’m led to believe.

Once we got out of the tunnel we cruised in to a lock. Now that was fun :-) It turns out that we were windlass-less – that’s the handy cranked handle you use to wind the lock mechanisms up and down. No matter, we pressed a trusty adjustable spanner into service and it worked fine. The most difficult part of locks is getting on and off the boat.

Martyn was trying to be polite and avoid the fishing folks when we sort of rammed into the opposite bank. Oops!

As we chugged past some moored boats, a chap on one of them shouted out ‘Hello Martyn!’ – it turns it that it’s the estate agent who sold Martyn his boat. We arranged to see him down the pub, as we could see it just a little further down the canal.

We docked very smoothly, it has to be said. Martyn bought us a bottle of celebratory Veuve Cliquot champagne with nuts and crisps all round :-)

The journey back was interesting, mainly because it was in the dark (not that the tunnel ever gets light). We got a bit stuck in the lock and it was a few minutes before we could open the upper gates and carry on to the tunnel.

We cruised back to Battlebridge basin and managed to dock with just a tiny shuffle, to be greeted by a round of applause from the residents :-)

The whole experience was fabulous, and I’m keen to go again. Robin gave us invaluable advice during the trip and was very good company.