Follow the ongoing travels and adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the Canals of the UK and Europe aboard their narrow boat 'Oo-La-La', read the monthly account of their travels and view photos documenting those travels. Follow the adventures of Rob and Marlane as they cruise the canals of England and Europe aboard their narrow boat OO-LA-LA
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Travelogue: England - 2001


September

(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by clicking on the image)

We returned from a week in the Norfolk Broads refreshed and ready for battle. Reedham on The Great Yare is a small East Anglian village near the centuries old canal town of Beccles and city of Norwich. Not much except holiday boating goes on there and it was an idyllic vacation. We were forced to relax and meditate on the beautiful river, it's marshes and country walks along peaceful footpaths. Our cottage sat directly on the water with it's own little dock and private garden so, as the weather was mostly sunny and warm, we dined al fresco. From our vantage point we observed the wide variety of watercraft the Norfolk Broads have to offer; wooden sailingwherries, fiberglass Broads Cruisers and steel narrow boats all of varying pedigree, age and condition mingled together daily in great number. It was a daily water parade that kept our interest high.


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Three horses pub Rob and Lock Ducks and Swans B&W building Canal view
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Most of the Broads Cruisers were hire boats and full to the brim with many holidaymakers enjoying themselves enormously judging from the happy faces and tans. The sailing wherries are privately owned and are part of the history of the area, many are close to one hundred years old, very picturesque with tanned bark sails and varnished wood hulls. Narrow boats were not as common to see and tended to be older models and privately owned. The open waters in the Broads allow for larger boats to travel; the tides and currents discourage narrow boats.

We took a couple of field trips to visit brokerages in Horning and Wroxham, very charming river towns utterly packed with tourists, swans, stone bridges and ancient stone houses. The boats available for sale are varying fiberglass models, generally 30-40 feet long with carpeted interiors, pilothouses and beamy. Most were over 30 years old, many even older and in need of extensive refitting. They did not tempt us with their chilly and damp interiors. Thus, our decision was sealed in the Norfolk Broads. We firmly settled on our new home in our hearts; the labor of getting our bodies there still remained.


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Yvonne Locking pals Locks Boat painter Lockhouse
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Upon return to Braunston our boat was put on dry dock and we crawled around and under it with the surveyor measuring plate thickness, checking the systems (heat, electric, engine,plumbing) and the interior fit out. He stoutly declared it the best interior joinery work he had ever seen, music to our ears. His main task, however, is to confirm the steel plate thickness is within acceptable range, i.e., 8-10mm for the bottom, 6mm for the sides and 4mm thickness for the roof (10/6/4). Friction on the boat from the canal bottom wears the steel down and is a gauge of the age of the vessel. Older boats are often replated.

As no defects were found we proceeded with the sale and settled in by the end of the first week of September, less than a month after disembarking in Southampton. It was a happy day, especially as our hotel was fully booked the remainder of the week and we had no place to stay.

The big bad bags were ordered from Southampton storage and delivered within a couple days. My heart sank upon their arrival. How was I to get all this stuff on the boat? Then I recalled a riddle How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite. Thus the elephant was consumed over the next two days.

It was time to drive. Unfortunately the wind was blowing hard and steady for the past couple days and we were loath to attempt the tight manoeuvring out of the crowded marina. Past experience as sail boaters taught us to be careful about grazing other vessels since the gelcoat was usually tender and difficult to repair once rendered. We didn't know the narrowboat etiquette yet. We were in for a surprise.


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Oo-La-La profile * * * *
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On a breezy Sunday morning we untied the ropes from the dock and pushed off for the first ride on Oo-La-La. People and boats moved about and crowded the canal; we were nervous. Cheerful talk and laughter rang out around us, there were many enjoying the beautiful fall weather and we chatted to some boaters as we glided along. Along came a boat coming toward us and we realized there was going to be a bit of a squishy situation with so many double and triple rafted in the narrow spot. As Rob delicately steered the boat so as not to scrape any other, one of the boaters said, just give it some throttle, lean over on me if you have to. He shrugged as we rubbed gunnels. It became a bumper-boat as the canal passed by, a local inn and there was even more boats. People just gently bounced and banged each other with never a shout or rough word said. Not sailboating to be sure. After a few more jostles I inspected below decks expecting a broken glass or two. Nothing had moved or fallen to my delight.

We bade Braunston farewell a few days later and left the safe haven of the marina for cruising grounds on the Grand Union Canal and beyond. We faced several flights of locks and the longest tunnel on the canal system. We had not yet worked a lock and our last tunnel passage had been on bicycles in France, not the most enjoyable experience but an adventure; we hoped this next tunnel, the Blisworth, would be an easier passage. However, it would prove to be an even greater challenge right in the beginning of our cruising life on the English canals. Adventures ahead we celebrated day one with champagne as the sun set in the warm September evening.

.....on to October 2001

 


 
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