Tour the Lapland Bunting

This is more of a photographic tour of our boat, the Lapland Bunting, so you can appreciate the dimensions and location of the features. Yes, we are messy, no there is not a lot of storage space available.

The Pointy End, or as the more nautical call it, the Bow. There is a small well at the bow and there are two doors that lead to it from the forward berth




The Arse End, or the stern








Moored up just below a lock at dusk.  Consider it a picture of the side





Engine, lights, horn and gauges at the stern in easy reach of the pilot







The little Isuzu diesel lump under the floor at the stern






Scrim at the tiller, the Isuzu lump and weed box are under his feet along with the engine batteries, blackwater tank and fuel tank







Entrance to the galley from the stern.  Wellies were important during the storm.  The shot of Scrim at the tiller was shot from the top step of the stairs to the stern




Reverse view into the diner area






We do insist on certain luxuries






The diner area that converts to Rob’s bed and the flip up and down seat that always provided Rob with amusement.  It was designed specifically to catch your kneecaps or arm with a spring-loaded latch much like a sofa-bed convertible circa 1958 before Health and Safety lawsuits





Diner area looking forward. The way forward makes you scuttle sideways like a crab and that piece of bloody trim almost always tried to rip off my right nipple






Head and lavatory.  There is a blackwater tank on the Lapland Bunting from the head only.  Greywater, meaning shower, galley sink or lavatory water goes out the side






Shower opposite the lav and head.  It is scaled to allow you to wash and rinse one ball at a time, but nothing else







Forward berth, technically a twin bed if you’re 9 years old






Reverse of the forward berth, the extra cushion is the second half of Rob’s bed in the diner.  Stowing it ‘correctly’ was a pain in the arse, so we just put it on top of the forward berth.    The doors lead out onto the smallish well on the bow.



And that’s the tour!





Food And Drink I – Pub Fare

One wag has described navigating the Shropshire Union Canal to Llangollen as a slow pub crawl on a boat.  Public houses seem to proliferate in the middle of nowhere next to the canal, ostensibly serving locals (Population of the village, 11 people, 1,400 sheep and 24 dogs) but in reality are there to provide a comfortable place for boaters to pause and refresh.

During high season when the canals are clogged with holiday-makers, business must be very good, but in the off-season, perhaps not so much.  Our trip, essential the first two weeks of October, is considered on the cusp of the off-season, as it can be cold, rainy and damp, sunny, or a blizzard, depending on the vagaurities of the UK Met. Office and their reading of the entrails.

Pub fare is the subject of much discussion among those who are self-proclaimed experts as to what is and is not actual pub fare.  Perhaps they know, or perhaps they are talking out their arse, but we do know what pub fare is not:

There are no micro-greens involved in or near pub fare

Peas of some sort must be served, or available to order

Gravy is a food group

Chips must taste like potato, not starch tubes and be served hot enough to scald

Yorkshire puddings are also a food group

No pub fare will feature a 50p sized piece of ‘artisanal’ salmon with an eggplant slice the size of a book of matches and cost £45, especially if served by someone wearing a wool hat named Campbell or Daffyd

There must be local, real ale.

You must be offered, or have readily available ‘brown’ sauce, which we know as HP

Vinegar must be malt vinegar

An appetite is required

Pub fare is not complicated food by any means.  Roasted meat, a couple of veg, potato of some sort, gravy and more often than not, Yorkshire pudding, especially if it is the Sunday roast special.  It is home-style cooking. Where else could you get cold, hand-carved real leg-of-pig ham, a small salad (instead of chips) and hot peas and carrots with palate-melting hot mustard except in a pub, or at home.  Portions are generous and you find that your membership in the clean-your-plate club is always threatened by the size of the meals.

When it comes to beverages, the most common accompaniment is ale.  Real ale, quite often brewed within a few miles of the pub, reflecting the local tastes and desires.  You will see taps for Heineken, Peroni or other commercial brews, but the most common is the hand-pulled pint of what is local and what pairs perfectly with the food.

Which is exactly what you want.

A Trip On A Real Rail Line

Our hotel in Holyhead was a masterpiece of adequacy.  Originally booked to enjoy a lovely view of the sea from the hotel, our 0100 (Zero Dark One) arrival in the depths of a cold, rainy night after very little sleep, precluded any possible sightseeing.  The view from the rooms was of a dark, wet night without lights.

The room was clean, warm, indoors and had a shower. Very kindly they allowed us a very late check-in, the capable clerk attempting to inveigle us into committing for the Full English Breakfast the next morning, was met by sleepy grunts from both of us.

Up and out the door by 0700, we taxied to the Holyhead Train Station under a sky leaden enough that it would have depressed Sylvia Plath on downers.  A convenience store awaited, offering coffee in various strengths, as well as our own free copy of The Sun  (Headline – “See Rita Ora’s Big Titties on Pg 3!”) because we had made a purchase. Rita’s pigmented areas were covered as The Sun is a Family Newspaper, but we did appreciate the first hand knowledge of her surgically augmented protuberances and did wonder if she could sleep face down without unduly straining her neck.

As train time approached, we felt obligated to find the actual train.  Virgin it said on the tickets, so we found a sleek, modern sliver Virgin train.  It was easy to find as it was the only train on any of the five tracks and it was pointed away from Holyhead. There was no conductor, or customer service yob as there would be on Via1 guarding the entrance to the car: You find the car number printed on the ticket, press the green button and get on the damn train.  Since we were a dozen minutes early, there was no one to say we could or could not enter, so we did and settled into the finely upholstered seating and leaned back.

Five minutes before departure a pleasant fellow asked for tickets and said that the car attendant would be by shortly to take our orders.  Spot on departure time, the train rolled.

Virgin Business Class is quite plush, with comfortable seats and tables, with room for your luggage.  You do have to mind your own gear, as there are no longer porters to attend to your possessions, but this is 2018 and there is a certain obligation to do some of your own work.

Food commenced shortly after we rolled out of Holyhead.  Choices were generous.  A Full English for Scrim and the first of several Bacon Sarnies for RoadDave.  A Full English, for those who are unfamiliar with the term is Eggs, Sausage, Bacon, Beans, Tomato, Mushrooms and Black Pudding.

A Bacon Sarnie, or as Virgin calls it, Bacon Roll, is no more complex than you might think: Fried bacon on a soft roll.  We were, this being the UK, offered Brown Sauce with our meals.  Brown Sauce is HP Sauce, that peculiar combination of tamarind, spices, vinegar and salt that seems to accompany every meal, at least as an offering.  There were more healthy offerings, a yogurt parfait, herbal teas and other comestibles of that ilk, but we were having none of it.  We did question the wisdom of HP Sauce with a yogurt and fruit parfait, but decided to let others investigate that culinary oddity on their own time.

Rail travel in the UK is different from Canada.  In Canada, Via does not own the tracks or the schedule.  CP and CN own the rails, ties, lights, signals, crossings, and most importantly the schedule.

CP and CN set their priorities on where the money is:  Freight.  Freight doesn’t care about a smooth ride, level crossings, or much else except get this 90 car load of double stack well-cars to where they’re going as fast as you can haul ass with the smallest possible crew, then do it again going the other way with oil cans, auto racks and hoppers of iron ore pulled by honkin’ fast ES44AC’s in notch 8.  Via trains are at the mercy of CN and CP when it comes to schedules, meaning get the hell out of the way of the freight trains.

The UK by contrast, sets the priority on passengers.  The lines are silky smooth, no jerking, rolling or pitching about for the passengers.  Speeds are routinely above 100 kph and we noticed almost exactly four level crossings in our journey and one twenty-car freight, parked off on a siding out of the way.

Two hours later, with only a few stops at intermediary places including one in Wales that seemed to be pronounced “Llanfairpzmrqzlmb” with the accent up at the end, we arrived in Crewe.


The Pace of Peacefull

When we are questioned about the pace of a narrowboat there are a few things that we can compare it to: Walking slowly.  Walking at a medium pace. Walking with a minor irritation and a dash of determination. The speed limit of the Shropshire Union Canal, for that matter all the narrowboat canals, is 4 miles per hour.  And that is about all a narrowboat can do, the little four-hole Isuzu diesel can muster pushing 4 to 5 tons of steel narrowboat and the passengers along with their suitcases, food and drink provisions.

For those of you familiar with boats, or imagining the idea of a high winding speedboat slashing through the water, a rooster-tail of spray soaking the air, and a wake flooding the shore, you are wrong. The Shropshire Union Canal was laid out by getting a dairy cow piss-drunk, then following it across the fields.  Sir Thomas Telford then said, ‘Dig the fucking canal there then!’

Actually is was more complicated than that, more of an actual feat of Victorian engineering before the railways.  The canal does meander a great deal, the longest semi-straight section we’ve encountered has been about a half-mile.  Towards Llangollen the canal is actually half the way up the side of a mountain, overlooking a valley that near as dammit looks like Mont Tremblant in the summer, the village of Llangollen falling down the hill from the canal along the river.  

Dairy and sheep farms butt right up against the canal, one side the former horse-drawn towpath, the other side unimproved scrub bush, bits of swamp and the occasional minuscule watering hole for cows and sheep.  Ducks abound, along with herons and the occasional grey squirrel grabbing up the last of his horde for winter.

There are rules of velocity of course, slow to a dead crawl passing other boats, under bridges or approaching lift bridges and locks.  Dead crawl in a

narrowboat is the pace of a leisurely stroll with no particular place to go while dragging a bale of hay on a rope. Invariably, when passing other boats there is a friendly hello, or good afternoon exchanged with the other boaters, an insider code that tells the others we know exactly how much fun we’re having and the rest of the humans have no idea exactly how satisfied we are with our lot right now.

The canal system is set up under the assumption that as a boater you have at least the sense to not look into your gas tank with a lighter and wonder if the tank is full.  This system would not work in North America, as we must be protected from all potential possibilities of using anything more than the simple brain-stem functions of respiration, elimination and an occasional heartbeat that seems to be the lowest common denominator that lawyers and lawmakers have decided we must have to be a society.  

There are tradeoffs of course.  Our boat, the Lapland Bunting, is 47 feet long, has a galley, a head, shower and a dinette that converts to a twin bed, as well as a twin bed forward.  The passageways between sections are not much more than 18 inches wide. You pass along sideways, trying not to hit your head on things like the ceiling, or a light fixture.  A certain piece of interior trim has tried, almost successfully twice now, to rip my right nipple from my body, as I scuttle along. If you have any time in a small recreational vehicle, you have the drill and the scale is readily apparent.  

Technically the boat sleeps five, but it would have to be two grownups and three children under the age of 6. For two strapping Canadian lads it is enough space but only just. Four grown up couples? Space is at such a premium that you would essentially be committing adultery every few minutes performing such mundane things as getting a cup of tea.  Had we brought out significant others along, there would have been a real and apprehended insurrection, possibly by the first lock on hour 2 of Day 1. It is not roomy. Roomy was never the objective.

Peaceful?  Oh yes. We’re not entirely certain as to what day of the week it is and we don’t particularly care and that is the true objective of the holiday.

Life on a Narrowboat

There are many people that live on narrowboats on the English canals year round and year after year. I cannot pretend to have the experience of these and folks and having watched many of them I’d say the long term effects affect both the happiness and sanity of people. In other words the experience tends to leave you slightly crazed but in a good way, one that makes you happy and allows one to generally ignore most of the rest of the world.

For myself I’ve enjoyed being on a boat, the specific type of boat matters less to me, I simply like being on the water. It calms me. Always moving from place to place like a vagabond of yesteryear meeting new people and moving on. People on the water are mostly friendly unless they are heading to divorce court like the one couple we passed the other day; another holiday boat, probably picked the wrong captain. Certainly on this boat I am happy Juudy isn’t here – she could take it for a few hours after that she would be as frustrated as the two dimensional beings in Flat Land on finding out there is a third dimension (or 3 or 4 dimensions if you want to worry about time). Our friend David was a much more suitable choice a he can be a bloke and blokes can make small spaces work. And is it a small space, I’m six foot and if there was a cross bed on this one I’d just be able to sleep crosswise.

Head space is fine but hips and shoulders are tight. Moving from the aft area which first houses the galley, small but workable, and then the L space dinette / bed. There is a flip up chair opposite the fixed seat. This has become a source of amusement and frustration for us. I am amused as David tries to get the thing open and he is frustrated with the warped and sickened mind that created such a horrible apparatus. The walls in this section are light fake wood, the type not out of place in the North American basements in the 70’s. From there the corridor is on the left and the head on the right with the door to the head about halfway along the corridor, I don’t fit. At least I don’t fit if I’m walking normally, I shuffle along the corridor crab style until I reach the door and then I can step in. Not as tight as an MRI machine, but still could be engineered better. Finally up front is the cabin where we were suppose to have two single beds. Just as well they didn’t as there would be no room for sleeping as 4-5 inches of the 24” mattresses are not usable due to the shape of the hull.

The rental boat we have has leisure batteries, in our part of the world these are called house batteries. There is just about but not quite enough charge in the batteries to keep my CPAP going all night. Other than that we charge batteries during the day and have two laptops. For me this is using just about no power. And yet I wake up in the wee small hours of the morning gasping for air that is no longer being feed by the CPAP machine. Note to self, buy the backup battery next time. Given the small number of amp hours the battery holds we leave the engine running most of the time. This is good as the engine provides power to our electronics as well as hot water. The diesel is also used to heat water in a boiler system for the radiators on board. So at 8:00 PM the power goes off and we start draining the batteries. If we need hot water – wait till morning or boil the kettle, leave the heater on and you’ll drain the starter battery and with all batteries drain, well, you could try push starting the motor but boats don’t really work like that.

In the world of narrowboats this is like the small cabin in the woods, the rustic option. But for two blokes to get away from the hectic world for a while, rustic is working just fine. The galley holds the Scotch bottles fine, there are places to make both tea and coffee and making of sandwiches. The rest of course is handled by any number of pubs with real ales and good food. And since at 8:00 PM it’s getting dark, we go to bed, waking up early with the sun and starting the engine and the heat. Pushing off down the river to meander through tremendous vistas and to find the next pub that will for a while be the best pub in the world.

As I write this the rain has stopped, we’ve seen a double rainbow and the villagers are coming out and about with their many dogs. Through the window I see some shrubs wet from the rain sparkling in the sun and past that a large green field dappled in sunlight. I think I’ll pour another Scotch and sit outside for the pipe.

Understanding English Lit

England has created some really great literature, from wonderful stories about bears named Winnie to the Hounds of the Baskervilles and to dragons such as Smaug. What has inspired these writers to create such wonderful works and build such grand worlds in which their stories take place? Stories filled with life not just people but with fairies, elves, ents and all manner of folk and beast.

I think it has to do the land. We crossed a wildlife preserve a few days ago and seeing a fairy or a even a dragon in those woods would not have been surprising. We have now have reached Llangollen and to do so have flown over a vast valley in a boat in an aqueduct. Most people looking at such a task, moving boats across a valley, would have taken the boats down in a series of locks and then backup on the other side. Thomas Telford not so much, he built a whacking great aqueduct so the boats “fly” 126 feet above the valley. Then build the canal on the side of the mountain so as people travel down the canal they can look down from the canal into the villages in the valley. Not something you would normally expect from a canal.

The woods here are somehow both wild and tame at least here outside of the major cities. Unlike bush in Canada where there is growth and undergrowth and then rot under all that, the forests we’ve seen in England and Wales along the canals are neat. They lack the same level of undergrowth and rot and seem somehow cleaner.

I know that sounds crazy but that’s how things are from what I’ve seen. Whether it is some sort of trick of nature, or perhaps there are fairies that keep the forests tidy, however it happens, it leads to places where imaginations can run and play and dream up worlds that are disk shaped  on the back of a turtle support by five large elephants. Perhaps just have things like an aqueduct in the sky lets you see big boxy boats floating overhead in exactly the way bricks don’t.

As I sit here though and peer through the window into the woods that take up the other side of the canal I’d like to think there are little folks in there, ready to inspire another great writer to wonderful flights of fancy and imagination.

Something folks on these isles are very good at.

The Fun of the Irish Ferry

The original plan was to arrive in Dublin overnight, then have some lunch at a pub and show up at the Dublin docks for an Irish Ferry to Holyhead, on a ship called the Swift. As the saying goes, in order to make God laugh, make a plan.

The day we were leaving, we receive an email from Irish Ferries saying due to rough weather tomorrow, the Swift would not be sailing the afternoon of our arrival.  Our options, according to Irish Ferries were twofold: Take the late sailing on the Ulysses, or go fuck yourself. We chose the late sailing (2055 hrs) on the Ulysses. Irish Ferries, to their credit, did upgrade us from Club Class to a free room for the crossing.

The problem became evident when we showed up at the Dublin Dock terminal for Irish Ferries five hours before our sailing, the objective being a little lunch, perhaps a pint, maybe a snooze on a waiting room bench for a little bit with our luggage stowed safely around us.  This was the plan and it was a good one to kill five hours waiting for our ship.

For those of who don’t know, the Dublin Ferry Terminal is set up like a prefabricated air terminal for a city of 2500 people.  Everything is shiny and new, stainless steel and indestructible plastic designed to handle the wear and tear of thousands of ferry passengers every year for the next 75 years.  There are ticketing kiosks and clearance kiosks, with the requisite veal-pen straps to guide the hordes to the right counter at the right time in as seamless a process as can be designed by bureaucrats taking common-sense suppressants.  There are restrooms for the usual genders and levels of ability, clean and aseptic, untouched by vandals, or footy hooligans. The Men’s sported two Dyson hand driers that could blow a 747 off the runway and we suspect the Women’s is the same. Although we did have five hours to burn, we considered investigating the Women’s bathroom as not on.

You will notice that there is no note of foodservice or other creature comforts before the ticketing and clearance kiosks.

This means you are now trapped in an industrial wasteland on the docks, next to the Bitumen plant, across the road from the oil terminal and next to the transport truck ferry with its happy load of placarded hazardous cargo being kept away from any boat that also serves regular citizens.  There was a sign that said “Nowhere At All 2 kms” with the arrow pointing at the Dublin Ferry terminal.

There were staff.  Two as best we could see, one in a high-visibility vest with an impressive ring of keys and one lone damsel behind the Ticketing counter.  We asked if we could check in early for a ship. She bashed the computer for a moment and said “No. Preboarding does not commence until 7 pm”  Is there some place we could get a coffee? More keyboarding and suddenly she burst out, “There’s vending machines over there!” as if it was the first time she had been asked about any customer services.  We rolled out luggage ‘over there’ and discovered that unless you had Euro coinage, you were shit out of luck. The fine damsel could not make change.

The lack of coffee was not that bad, but what was hideous was the actual structure of the furniture.  Humans sitting tend to correspond to a few positions, mostly within a few degrees of each other.

The designer of the chairs and tables was given a specific remit:  Make the position of the back be exactly wrong. Make the seat precisely too small for an average arse.  Make the furniture out of artificial stainless steel, as the real stuff is too expensive, but we still have to be able to pressure-wash everything in the interests of Health and Safety.  Make sure that there is no possible way anyone can stretch out, even slightly, under any circumstances, by positioning he back support exactly where the Irish Chiropractic Association (Eire dir Achinback) says one should never put undue pressure.  Make everyone want to avoid actually using the seating under any circumstances.

This remit was fulfilled in every way.

By the third hour the ostensible Manager of the Terminal allowed us to pass unescorted up past security to the ‘restaurant’ on the second floor, handing over a dog-eared “Unescorted Visitor – Not for Ship Access” pass which allowed us to get a coffee and a bacon sandwich from the sole person on the second floor, complete with hair net and white ‘chef’s’ coat. She ably reheated the sandwich.  Rob had something to eat that was so exciting he has absolutely no recollection of what it might have been except that it wasn’t vegan.

An hour later we descended and awaited the opening of preboarding.  

Precisely ten minutes late the kiosk was opened for preboarding and we were duly cleared through to wait on the second floor.  The number of foot passengers crowding around was astonishing. There were six of us total, penned into more of the ghastly furniture, waiting for someone to come down from the ship and let us in.  About ten minutes before sailing, a ship person beckoned us to ramble through a labyrinth of ramps and stairs to the check-in desk. We will give Irish Ferries their due, as the service was quick and efficient: They live and die by commercial truck traffic and automobiles, so those who want a room get one promptly.  As did we, somewhere on deck 10, a twin bed with a shower and toilet that was clean and serviceable.

However we did require food and drink, which meant a hike back towards the center of the ship where the various food service options reside.  A quick reconnoiter and it was decided that beer was more important than food. Following beer, a quick pass through the Pizza Bistro confirmed that the Irish do not know what a pizza is.  The quick service restaurant at least offered sausage and chips, which were consumed with gusto. Then, back to the room for a couple of hours of blessed sleep, the first horizontal sleep since Montreal, more than 24 hours previous.  Were there astonishing views of the Irish Sea while we were underway? No, it was a dark and rainy night, rain lashing the windows. Plus, it was blacker than a well-diggers arse at midnight, so there was nothing to see, as the Irish Sea does not have streetlights.

Things improved on the Ferry.

Compare and Contrast

I have been on boats in a canal for a large part of my life, specifically the Rideau Canal as well as the St. Lawrence and part of Lake Ontario. This was on a house boats that belonged to family friends and four different cruisers. I have some experience with a boat going through water. So the chance to boat in England’s canals as a holiday was something long overdue, something I probably inherited from Father – if one can inherit such things.

The two very large differences from a North American boat and a Narrowboat are simple – the Narrowboats are slower and the steering is more precisely vague. When I say the boats are slow, the 4-5 ton boat we are pushing further into Wales has enough power to overcome the current in the canal, mostly. When the canal narrows for a bridge, every bridge nearly (and there are a lot of them) the boat is barely able to make way all the way thru. A small child walking beside the boat would stick it’s tongue out and give us the raspberry – thankfully we have not met that child yet. There was a delighted youngster at one bridge that declared she found a boat.

The other major difference is the steering. Here I am spoiled, the last two boats I had have both been twin engine and when both are working you don’t even need a wheel as using differential thrust is enough to maneuver and dock – I know this as I lost steering once. Actually twice, the other time though was the wheel coming off in my hands with only one engine working. That was also with David … hmmm.

Steering a narrowboat should be simple; going port, push the tiller to starboard, and frequently that is enough to get you through. However, a narrowboat pivots around its center and if you are against the wall you cannot really pivot. This means having to pull out the ass end using thrust to the side and/or backing out of the mooring before pushing forward and generally smacking the ass end against the dock.

Add a complications like high wind into the mix and the process becomes a frustrating and tedious matter of making headway but in reverse until you pull the entire length of the boat from the side of the canal and then manage to get enough forward momentum to prevent the wind from pushing you back to the wall.

Believe me it is annoying.

The steering overall on the narrowboat should be simple and precise – there is a large rudder behind the prop directing the force left or right and thus pivoting the boat on its center. All the other boats I’ve dealt with once they were going straight you can sit back and relax, not for the narrow boat. We discovered this yesterday as I tried to the take a few pictures while piloting (the correct term for steering a boat). To say we were all over the place would be an understatement. It was a strange case of click, click, click and then oh dear get back on course, click, click, click, shit have to get back on course. Thankfully these boats are made of thick steel and the odd bang doesn’t really hurt.

Is the Llangollen better or worse than the Rideau? In a word no, both have there charms, we are running from postcard level beauty on this canal and if the other 2,000 or so miles of British canals are as lovely then simply by volume the British Waterways would win. I still haven’t done Trent Severn and hope to someday. But I think I will have to plan more trips on the UK canals.

Rescue By A Cab

Trains in England are a little different from Canada. In Canada if there is a station there are people there and there are cabs and phones etc. At least for the parts of Canada I’ve seen.

In England this isn’t always the case. We catch the train from Holyhead to Crewe and manage the change to the Wrenbury train – more of a truck on rails serving the smaller communities.  Three cars, comfortable enough, with a diesel engine that they wind up to 1200 rpm, then release the brakes to roll away.

Getting to Wrenbury there is nothing there, barely a station, no people and no phones. So we are two Canucks stuck in the middle of Nowhere with rolling luggage.

Cell phones point the way and we begin to walk, I’m fat, I don’t like walking, I complain a lot. We carry on for short while and I being looking on the phone for a cab from Wrenbury. Nope. There are no cabs in Wrenbury. We continue the walk, there are cabs in Nantwich and in Whitchurch that service the area but, as optimists, we figure we can cover the rest of the journey. Plod, plod, plod one foot in front of the other moving slowly forward. I scan my phone again, should we just call and have a cab get us. Plod, plod, plod ever on like true Canadians without complaint.

A car passes and then another and finally a taxi enroute somewhere else.  We flag it down, it is divine intervention. No. The cab has a passenger and is on it’s way from A2B – can we share for the short while? Some discussion and then a discussion. Rescue, they will take us up the main road to the marina. A few quid pushed in the hand of the passenger at the end ensures all are happy and we’ve made it to the marina.

Just in time for the health and safety briefing we are duly trained on what to do at locks and where to find things on the Lapland Bunting.  It isn’t any more complicated than a recreational vehicle that floats.  We will post more later about life on a narrowboat, but for the time being, we find the pointy end and the arse end, two somewhat informal nautical terms.

Our next stop, since we’re both running on only a few hours sleep, is to regain some strength for our mighty toils on the waterway.  A short stroll into Wrenbury and we find The Cotton Arms Freehouse, a CAMRA-award winning Pub and Kitchen.  The sign outside says it all “Children and Dogs Welcome”.  Real ale and roast beef dinner with some of the locals who welcome us to their village.

One small issue we had the foresight to plan for was provisioning.  The marina provides you with fuel, water, a boat and the equipment to operate the boat.  They do not provide provisions, meaning things like food.  We both like food and consider food to be almost as important as drink, air, or spouses.  You decide which order these should be in.      

We wander a little further into Wrenbury, finding the local convenience store and obtain important things like coffee, milk, bacon, bread, cheese, hummus, croissants, butter and crisps.  And liquor, specifically a blended malt scotch whisky called Sheep Dip.  Neither Scrim or I are abstemious, so yes, there is drinking on the boat, but both Scrim and I are responsible boaters.  Drinking is only permitted after we dock for the evening.  Or if it is really, really chilly.  Or if the name of the day of the week has the letter Y in it.  

A long walk back to the boat and we sign off the documentation adding our own uniquely Canadian touch to the registration number of the boat.  Lines off and the Lapland Bunting is pointed in the direction of Wileymoor Lock. 

We are underway.



A Pipe, a Fall and a Whiskey Tasting

Being in Dublin there are certain things that must be accomplished, especially when one is only slightly strapped for time.  Rob Scrimger is a pipe smoker and he enjoys a good pipe.  Peterson’s of Dublin makes good pipes, world renown pipes if truth be told, and we would be remiss if we didn’t go to the source of all goodness.  Just off Grafton Street, their shops stock a stunning array of samples of a pipe-makers arts.  Scrim knew what he wanted and in less than a handful of minutes, a Model 999 was obtained from the manufacturers.  A few moments later a bowl of tobacco was ignited and was duly enjoyed by Rob.

The Fall is not just a season, it is also an action.  The two of us, looking lost and confused on Grafton Street after sampling the wares of McDaiid’s Pubic House (Have a Guinness in Dublin they said, you’ll enjoy it they said) we were walking along when the ground suddenly leapt up and bit one of this party.  There were no injuries aside from a momentary feeling of stupidity, but many offers of assistance and concerns for our well-being from the nearby inhabitants.

There was another retail requirement:  A black wool turtleneck sweater from Marks & Spencer to join others in my drawer.  An M&S was duly located and after a route march to the Men’s department, two examples were obtained with only a moment’s hesitation.

In order to get over trans-meridian circadian disarrhythmia, it is important to get your body on to local time, meaning eat the meal that the local time says to eat.  It being close to noon local time (but still 0700 for our bodies) we had to attend the Porterhouse Pub in order to have lunch, a chicken thing and some IPA.  The photo mural in the Gentlemen’s was worthy of the visit, as well as a sensible selection of beers.

We then availed ourselves of the Whiskey Museum, an hour long tour of the history of Irish Whiskey history and manufacturer, followed by a tasting of four types of Irish Whiskey with an almost-learned tutor guiding us through the nuance and subtleties of Irish Whiskey.  For the uninitiated, or the uncaring, you can always use the term ‘notes of vanilla and caramel’ in tasting as you stare off into middle distance, pausing thoughtfully, perhaps swirling your glass to examine the whiskey-equivalent of legs (called the ‘tears’) in a nuanced manner.

If you are served a glass of Pumpkin-spice intimate wash, you can still use the thoughtful pause and the hesitant “I get notes of…hmmm..vanilla.  And a hint of caramel flavours..with spice, and warm notes…”