(aka All aboard the Birthday Boat)
Back in 2011, my birthday was spent mostly on board a 69 foot canal boat, cruising down the Kennet & Avon canal in celebration of my many years on earth (or rather, in avoidance of it.)
The decision to go on a short canal holiday was partially my need to do something different, and partially due to my friend DC's love of such things. He had done a similar trip a few years ago with friends, and had been saying he wanted to do one again for some time. I dove at the chance, because I didn't want the emphasis this year to be on my birthday (nearing death) so much as on having fun (no death allowed).
I chose Foxhanger Canal Holidays entirely for their name, because each boat on their fleet is named after a fox or fox-related thing. Sadly, of all the Foxcubs and Fennec Foxes, on their fleet we got Fox Terrier, sister to the Fox Hunter. Irony.
Still, the boat itself was gorgeous. Nearly 70 feet of compact comfort, two double beds, a set of bunk beds and a sofa-bed in the living room. DC, Luke, Sarah, myself and Moose would all be there Monday to Friday, and the plan was that Pash would join us Tuesday evening in Bradford-on-Avon for a Savage World's roleplay and a meal in the Lock Inn, a fantastic pub-café-restaurant with a lovely owner and even lovelier food.
I'll admit, I was the most neurotic of the bunch, because the whole trip was on my head and because the £200 damage deposit was on Dad's head, so it wasn't entirely the relaxing holiday I'd planned. Every bump or scrape worried me, and when we got stuck turning around on the Wednesday, I dang near had a nervous breakdown. While Pash, Luke, DC and Sarah kept calm and did all they could to unstick the boat, I was inside crying and panicking and drinking cinnamon flavoured whiskey while being comforted by a comforting Moose.
He said, or Sarah said, or Pash or someone said, that I'd look back on this and laugh, and he's or she or they are right, because looking back it is downright hilarious. Had anyone else organised the trip, I would have been laughing and rolling my eyes, saying 'oh god, isn't it all so typical that we should do this'.
A guy we'd met previously, who had Skipper on his hat and who, thank the gods, knew what he was doing, finally came to our aid. He jumped off his boat and helped us. He took control, told us what to do, and finally had his own boat tow us out of the Avoncliffe Viaduct shallows, towards victory. Or, at least towards Bradford.
But. I digress, because all that happened on the Wednesday, which meant we had had two days of clear sailing before we ran ashore. We stopped at the Barge Inn Monday night, which was only an hour or so from where we had originally set off. The food was average (duck eggs, ham and chips for me), the prices were high, we probably wouldn't do it again, but it was a nice way to see in the start of our holiday. The night was spent playing Cranium and Munchkin and eating my Team Fortress 2 decorated birthday cake.
Tuesday night was spent with the company of Pash in Bradford-on-Avon, and Wednesday we went further down the canal towards our final destination (after the turning-around fiasco) and ate a gorgeous lamb roast cooked up by the fabulous DC. It made the whole boat smell of mint and of love.
On Thursday, we travelled back alongside Foxcub, a Foxhanger fleet boat we'd shared most of our return journey with, and alongside whom we'd completed many locks and swing bridges. Moose and I discovered that one of the locks had been left open, and a mamma duck and her babies had swam right into it. The fact Foxcub and OUR boat was heading straight into the lock was enough to kill me, because the duck and her babies would surely be crushed by our boats if we went in. I panicked. We ushered MammaDuck and her babies out, but they didn't want to go far from the lock. A nearby peep peep peeping revealed why; she had a baby still in the bushes, the other side of the lock from where we'd ushered her. While someone else sorted out the lock, Moose and I hunted for the duckling. I wasn't going to let the duckling stay there alone, and eventually I found it hiding in some undergrowth, surrounded by thorns and nettles. I scooped him up and dropped him into the water near MammaDuck, but he kept swimming back to me, over and over. Eventually MammaDuck cottoned on and came over to him, which is just as well because I bloody well would have taken him home with me had she rejected him. Eventually he swam up to her and joined her brood. Only...
...as we walked back to the boat, I heard another peep peep peep, and someone said "I think there's another one. Eh. Mother Nature can be cruel."
Yeah, sure she can, but had I left that second peep peep to starve and die, the whole holiday would be ruined. So I searched and searched and there he was, near where I found the first, all motionless and soft and adorable. I picked him up and he didn't move. I thought shock had gotten to him, but the moment he heard his mother's quack, he squirmed and dived out of my hand, backflipped into the water and zoomed towards her. Validated, chuffed, saviour to duck-kin, I re-boarded our boat and considered the holiday a success. We headed back to the hanger where we'd picked up our boat, packed up our belongings and finally left the Kennet & Avon canal.
I loved it. It was sad to end, despite my neurosis. I'd love to do something like it again, but further afield, and perhaps without my head being on the line should we somehow break the boat.
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I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a blog dedicated to travel, art, geeky adventures, gaming, life in the South West of England, vintage style and a little bit of Disney Dreaming! If you'd like to know a bit more about me, click here!
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