Such fun this boating lark. Turns out I have tendon damage after what I thought was a trivial slip in Warwick a fortnight ago, but was getting more painful by the day/lock (and there has been 89 of them since it happened.) Will take a few days off then hopefully resume slow and steady progress towards London at the end of the week. 36 locks still to do.”

Wrist splint

This was my post on Facebook on the evening of 16th May. At the end of the previous section of my review of 2022 I had just been told that I needed to wear this support, which contains a metal strip to stop you flexing the joint, for at least the next 6 weeks. The idea of getting Bream from Apsley to Limehouse for the Historic Narrow Boat Club gathering in 11 days time, suddenly seemed all but impossible, but having come this far I was at least going to try and get into London.

However, I’d reckoned without a super group of people from the Club, several of whom were making their way south behind me. We had already had a group WhatsApp for those of us heading south and several of us are also friends on social media and it wasn’t long before a plan was made for Bream to hitch a series of lifts to the gathering.

The first section was with Ray and John on NB Owl, from Apsley to Rickmasworth. They were stopping there for a rally at the weekend, but I would press on, as I knew that there would be boats coming north from London, so there was a decent chance of a few lock swaps.

Locking with NB Owl
First lock with John (by the gate) and Ray (on NB Owl)

It took a few locks to get a system where I was able to contribute anything more than hanging onto Bream, but we made very good progress down a steady series of locks and I waved them goodbye at about 4pm. From there I was on my own, but I was lucky enough to find a swap at every lock bar one, all the way down to West Drayton. For that one I took it very steadily and was able to get through in about 25 minutes, though I would have been stuck if any of the paddles had needed me to use both hands.

Over the new few days, I worked in the day and moved in the evenings. I stopped on the eco-moorings at King’s Cross for a few days, having been generously worked down the Camden locks by a local. The area continues to change almost beyond recognition, though it was 8 or 9 years since I’d last been this way by boat.

The relocated gasometers at King's Cross
The relocated gasometers at King’s Cross

The eco-moorings gave me my first experience of double-breasted mooring, with a lovely young couple who were students and new to boating, but rapidly becoming very keen. The highlight was definitely the moment when I looked up from my desk to say hello as they were stepping over, to see a double bass being carried to the towpath! Also an honourable mention for possibly the worst implementation of software I have ever seen in my life, controlling the electrical hookup on these moorings. Simply dreadful 🙄

For the final run into Limehouse I paired up with Eric and Janet on Tug No. 2. We overnighted in Limehouse Basin and then moved onto the event moorings, arriving the day before the event began – I’d made it!

I won’t write at length about the gathering, there is plenty elsewhere, but it was a lovely weekend and great to see everyone after so long. The trip to the Tide Mill was super and I also very much enjoyed taking Bream around Bow Back Rivers, though I’m not sure CRT enjoyed it quite as much as Tim and I did, as the locks were proving quite temperamental with a couple of dozen narrow boats wanting to work through over the two days.

In no time people were heading away in various directions, many of them up the Lee and onto the Stort. That had been my original plan too; it’s a lovely waterway, but I decided to stay put. I moved a little closer to Limehouse and for a few days was breasted up with NB Squire while Richard nipped home.

I grabbed a lift with Owl again, back up to Camden, with Sarah, who had been staying on NB Purton, also offering a very welcome extra pair of hands. I’d booked a week in Paddington Basin, always one of my favourite moorings.

Paddington Basin
On the visitor moorings in Paddington Basin

The plan was to take it easy for a few weeks, move as little as possible and see if my wrist would recover enough to let me start to work north. I moved a short way out of the centre after a week, and then back into Paddington as I’d secured a second spell on the paid moorings. Not cheap but incredibly helpful as it was clear that the wrist wasn’t going to improve any time soon.

With the assistance of Amy and James I secured a mooring near to their spot at Packet Boat Marina for a couple of months, something I’d never before done in 23 years afloat, barring when I’ve needed to leave the boat somewhere secure while I was abroad. The people there were lovely and welcoming, and it was nice to have friends as neighbours, though if I’m completely honest it confirmed what I’d always known, that marina life was not for me. I needed to be back out on the cut, just as soon as I could.

To be continued…