The title of this post is a chance to sum up the trip and answer the question that you are always asked by people who have heard of the trip. It can’t be a one-word answer as no trip is ever perfect in every way, all the time, in every context.
Would we fly Business Class both directions? Hell yeah, if only to avoid being on a 737-MAX H8te ever again. That aircraft is just horrid in Economy. Even SeatGuru.com says the “Premium Economy” seats are as bad as seeing Death Himself walking backwards out of an outhouse reading MAD Magazine with his pants down and shit on his shoes.
Boat. The Lapland Bunting was a fine boat, perfect for two blokes, but converting Rob’s bed each night was an annoyance. Perhaps a slightly longer one, that has two berths that we could leave as berths and a sit down ‘salon’ as the Brits call it. Maybe even the womenfolk would come along for at least part of the trip. We know them well enough that the day and half going through the Mere district wildlife reserve might bore them a bit, but then there is always wine to be consumed before it goes bad. One does not want wine to spoil and we know the womenfolk would attack that task with their usual devotion and dedication. We did ask them about participation in another adventure of this ilk and their consideration is that going two days without a shower is not going to happen. There would have to be hotel rooms on the route and a ‘wider fucking boat’ to quote one of the spouses.
We’d probably skip the Irish Whiskey Museum tour in Dublin And skip a hotel in Temple Bar. There were a couple of hotels we eyed near Grafton Street in Dublin that looked appropriately plush, yet modest in price and near all kinds of things like pubs.
Taxis. No walking from Wrenbury to the Marina. Book a taxi at Crewe to Wrenbury with a stop at the local provisioners before reaching the marina, so one can take the training, sign the papers, load up and get motoring to Wileymoore Lock for opening time and a pint of real ale.
Weather. I think we chose the right time to go. We both opined that in the high summer season that traffic on the canal would be near-oppressive and unpleasant. Off-season was just right, with exception of Storm Callum.
Storm Callum. Yes, it was windy and rainy for two days or so. We did get soaked to the eyelids, but it was a challenge, not a bad thing.
Provisions. We would know more about our consumables habits and provision appropriately with an emphasis on things that can be consumed with one hand whilst piloting.
Bacon Sarnies: Yes, yes, yes, ohgawd yes!
Dogs in Pubs. Eminently Civilized. We ate well, especially the Sunday Roasts, but also Gammon and Chips, Yorkshire Puddings the size of a cat’s head covered in lovely gravy and steak at the Tomahawk Restaurant finished over a wood fire on our last night in Dublin.
People. To a person they were polite, friendly and often curious why two blokes from Canada would make the effort to come this far to drive around in a narrowboat in October. A common theme we did hear was “Ahh, Canadians, so you’re not Americans then. What do you think of the Yanks down south?” Our answer was usually, “The neighbours? Oh well…”
One trick we learned many years ago from work travel to foreign climes was that a very modest Canadian Flag pin on your collar opens a lot of doors when they recognize you’re not American. I always has a half-dozen in my pocket and would give them to folks who engaged with us, especially if they said they had family or friends in Canada. You can get them, free, from your Member of Parliament and they are only available from Parliament.
One little girl of perhaps six was with her grandpa at Wileymoore and she had never seen a narrowboat, or a lock. Grandpa was explaining how it all worked and she was fascinated. It turned out that Grandpa was in the Royal Engineers as a sapper, as was Rob, in the Canadian reserves, so the doors of welcome were opened and Grace got to see the boat with her Grandpa. Both walked away with a tiny Canadian flag pin as a memento of their impromptu visit.
Walkie-Talkies. If you have two, testing the flotation abilities of one of them makes the other one of no use, when you discover that a walkie talkie does not float. That and a tea cup were the only victims of our adventure. The broken tea cup was kept as a place to put tea bags when the brew reached the correct potency.
Dublin. Probably an extra day there, mayhaps even a bus trip down to Cork, if only to see the place. Trinity College, housing the Book of Kells is a tourist spot that we semi-wanted to see, but then again, we also wanted to hit other places, so it was left off the list.
Company. I couldn’t imagine doing this trip with anyone else but Rob. We both mesh in attitudes and tasks, getting things done and enjoying each other’s company. Adding the spousal units would be the only thing that would have made it better. Trip of a Lifetime? No trip, except the last one to the hereafter is a Trip of a Lifetime, but this was most certainly in the top five.
And not flying on at 737-MAX H8te ever again