Just in the nick of time before the new lockdown measures, I had the opportunity to take my family on a boat ride on the canal from Penkridge to Great Haywood on Friday.
We met Jess at the boatyard at 8:30 am for our safety briefing and lock lesson. I didn't join in the lesson, that was for my wife to do. My job was to drive!
What I loved about the boat was how it was perfectly suited to a day out for a family. Granted we went out in the winter when the nights are drawing in and the days are pretty miserable, so getting to Great Haywood and back felt a bit of a slog, but we did moor up for an hour at Tixall and had some lunch. I can imagine that a summers day it would be perfect to stop and have a nice walk and lunch at a pub on the way.
The fridge was stocked with milk, plenty of tea and coffee available when we got there, which was a bonus! We took a picnic with us, sandwiches, crisps and fruit etc. but having the fridge made me think that next time we could take something we need to keep chilled, so feel confident that all your catering needs are covered!
My son heard that there was a PlayStation on board, with a telly! He has me texting Jess at 7:30 am on the morning asking if it was a 3 or 4. He needed to know! To clarify, it's a PS4.
You can probably tell from the pictures, we were right in the middle of autumn, so the colours were beautiful.
There were 4 locks there (so that means 4 locks back!), and each of them had their own charm. Getting to grips with 'parking up' before and after each lock to let your passengers back on takes a bit of getting used to, but after a few attempts, I got the hang of it and was well away.
I did get a bit worried a couple of times, and this was when I come up against traffic coming the other way. You have to pass on the right, so imagine driving on the continent. That's not the worry though, it's the incredibly small gaps that you have to navigate through. What made me feel better was that every boat we passed seemed to have the same anxiety. One chap who crashed his boat into a moored boat said he'd been doing it for two days and asked if we could forgive him! I didn't have the heart to say I'd be at the helm for about 40 minutes.
If I could offer some advice to anyone who wants to give this ago, wear comfortable shoes. When navigating, you're standing in the same spot for hours on end. If you can share the driving, do so, but if you're doing it all, look after your feet. I had boots that were designed to stand at the bar in, and unfortunately, there was no bar.
Thanks to Jess and the team at Georgie's Canal Cruises for a great day out. It's something we'll definitely do again!