There are those who feel a winter mooring in a marina provides safety and stability. I thought so too and it was for this reason I took up the very kind offer of friends, to use their mooring for the winter. I allowed this offer to detour me from the direction my gut instinct told me to go. I have a very time difficult time making decisions. I wasn't taught how to make good decisions or any decisions at all. Alcoholics don't make great role models for such life issues. But one would think that by age sixty I would learn to trust my gut instinct. Of course this means I would trust myself and I don't. Oh, I am fine once I do finally come to a decision. I will lock in my course and proceed. But first I have to look at the institution or issue from every conceivable angle, consider every nuance, and deliberate on the information provided. I didn't do that this time, mainly because this year has been about my journey through grief, and grief is a fickle wind. The waves generated are HUGE and some days it is all one can do to hang on to the tiller and ride it out. Deliberation doesn't come into the picture and one's gut instinct is busy puking emotions all over the place, attempting to keep the pain of loss from becoming so overwhelming one simply wants to let go and slip below the surface.
My only thought when I left Cow Roast marina on April 19th was this: get up north to the narrow canals which Les and I loved. Stop along the way and scatter Les' ashes and plant a Daffodil at every lovely, meaningful spot as I went. Get to Great Haywood and hopefully finish painting the boat. Head towards the Llangollen and Wales. I am one quarter Welsh and that DNA has always sung loud in my blood. Go there, settle in an area and look for work.
Then the offer of a free winter mooring came and I thought it would be one less stressful thing to deal with--moving the boat in winter weathers. I assumed I could get a job easily and one place is as good as any other to settle in. I was wrong.
|NBV moored up at Victoria Pit Marina.|
I also know for certain that I am not cut out to live in a marina. It is simply too claustrophobic for someone like me who requires the freedom to move, as and when. It is very easy to moor up in a marina, hook up to landline electricity and find one's self feeling stuck and unable to move out again, except on a very good weather day. I need the challenge of being outside every day, checking the boat systems, and taking care of the need to locate a service point for water and rubbish, keeping a close eye on the weather and balancing it with the need to move. I was feeling a bit of fear about leaving the marina mooring, I must confess. It is hard work single handing a boat and doing the work of two people.
The week after I arrived here, I was walking to the Boars Head pub to catch the bus into Poynton. A man coming along behind me from the marina overtook me and said hello. I smiled and replied. He stopped in front of me and introduced himself. We began the light social chatter of "how did you come to be here," etc. etc. His new boat just came out of the boat builders dock two weeks previously and he was settling in. He is recovering from Prostate cancer and divorce. Four nights later there was a knock on my door at 5:30 pm. It was this same man who was calling to invite me to dinner aboard his boat. I thought, "Sure why not." I am an introvert and inclined to cocoon myself at home. He wanted to show me his new top of the line boat. He asked me to give him an hour to cook and get things ready.
I showed up an hour later, and his boat is lovely. Very posh and cutting edge. He was drinking a whiskey. Did I want one? No thank you. I had orange juice. He showed me through his boat, and as we went he kept moving into my personal space and touching me; my shoulder, my arm, my back. It made me uncomfortable. I don't like to be touched by anyone unless I know them VERY well. I shrugged it off to being in the close confines of a narrow boat. I sat at his L shaped dinette as he finished fixing dinner. He asked me to scoot over and he slid into the end space. He was chattering on about how happy he was to have me on his boat and how he was looking forward to many more evenings shared together. I looked to my left and there was a huge pile of stuff--wet weather gear, papers, back pack, etc. hemming me in.
We began to eat as he poured himself another whiskey and he told me the details about his divorce, at one point saying, "I know I am a bastard but I did want to leave my wife in our home." Warning bells began to ring for me. Oprah Winfrey has a list of twenty things she knows for sure. Number four on her list: When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. (A lesson from Maya Angelou.) On her show Oprah illustrated this point by saying, "When a man tells you he is an asshole; believe him and don't stick around long enough to let him illustrate the point."
After dinner as I was searching for a politic means of saying "it is time to go", this man put on some music by Bob Dylan and slipped back into the dinette. All of a sudden, he was sitting so close to me he was nearly on my lap and his hand was on my thigh. It was clear to me that he was drunk and not aware that he was intruding on my personal space. He was lost in the music and sharing how much certain songs meant to him. He is a man of a certain age in which it is okay to move into a woman's space and assert one's presence. I managed to extricate myself and head home as he insisted I wait for him to accompany me in the pitch black dark. I made it home just fine on my own.
Contrast this event with Les' first visit to my home in October of 2010. We spent a week together and he behaved like the gentleman he was, even though he was immensely attracted to me. Several times he took my hand to help me step down on a rough path down Kamiak Butte but he never made any moves that were overtly intimate, out of line, or which intruded into my personal space.
|High school graduation, age 17, 1975.|
I encountered this individual once more, at the marina gate on my way to a job interview. It was raining and windy, and he insisted on giving me a ride to wherever it was I was going; where was I going???? I thanked him and said no, it was a job interview and I needed to know I could get there on my own. He still insisted, reaching out to touch me, his hand lingering on my shoulder. I shook my head no and walked away as he said with a hurt expression on his face, "Is there something wrong?" He passes my boat three or four times a week, looking for me and waving as he passes. He made to stop once and come to my boat but I dropped eye contact with him and busied myself on my computer and he got the message. This is an example of the kind of issues that can arise anywhere but when one lives in a marina, the neighbors are close.
The final incident which confirmed that I was making a good choice in leaving occurred Monday. The couple who own the boat moored next to me were up to stay for the weekend. I met them several weeks ago and they were friendly and welcoming. I was taking my rubbish over to the bins as they were getting ready to leave and I told them I was leaving midweek and wouldn't be back; I was in need of employment and public transit was not reliable up here so I was heading for Nantwich. We shook hands and they wished me well. I went out for a walk after dumping the rubbish as I needed some fresh air. I came back to my boat and started baking holiday cakes. I had turned on the calorifier to heat up some water for dishes and a hot shower.
For Americans and non-boaters this is the hot water heater. As I was tying on my apron a heard a beeping sound coming from the small inverter which I use to power the kitchen range. It had never made this noise before. I opened the cupboard and looked at the inverter. It was lit with a green light indicating there was power. Then it beeped again and suddenly I realized it was telling me there was a problem with the electricity. I raced to the back of the boat and sure enough the batteries were reading a drasticdrop intheir charge to 11.99!!! 14.00 is fully charged. I went outside and quickly checked the extension cord to the landline electrics was still properly plugged in to the boat. Yes. I checked the actual electrical terminal and saw that the switch had been flipped from on to off. I flipped it back on and went back to the boat. The batteries were charging again. As I sat thinking about what might have caused this I figured it out: the folks on the boat next to me accidentally switched off my electrics instead of theirs, which was still in the on position. It was an innocent mistake which could have drastic and expensive consequences for me.
Les and I twice have had to replace our batteries because of the calorifier. The first time it happened, we were cruising through the Harecastle Tunnel and I went down the stern stairs in the dark to use the loo. The electrics panel is adjacent to the stairs and was uncovered. I bumped the calorifier switch on the way in, unknowingly turning it on. By the time we came out of the tunnel forty minutes later our very expensive batteries were deader than a door nail. We replaced them with cheap batteries and Les made a cover for the electrics panels. The calorifier is only ever used when we are hooked up to landline electricity. In 2015 we were moored up at Napton marina visiting friends. When we left, we unhooked from the landline electrics but neither of us checked to be sure the calorifier was off. Five minutes later Les panicked as the voltmeter on the boat was showing a marked loss in battery power despite the fact we were cruising. I looked down at the electric panel and the calorifier was still on! It shortened the life of our batteries considerably. If batteries suffer a quick, total discharge of energy they will not hold a full charge again.
Stressed to the max, I called Ian, the marina manager, and explained what I thought had occurred. I wondered if I could get batteries delivered by Wednesday, did he know someone who could quickly remove my old batteries, install the new ones and dispose of the used batteries? Ian replied yes but first he recommended that I let the batteries charge up over night and then disconnect from the landline and watch them for 24 hours. He thought they should be okay, as they are only a year and eight months old and have an average lifespan of three years.
|Les helping me bake holiday cakes.|
My holiday baking has been disastrous. I wanted to double the recipe and bake two
Golden Ginger Cakes at a time. Distracted by the battery issue, I forgot to double all the ingredients and two cakes failed and had to be turned out to the rubbish bin. I started over again yesterday. When I went to take the cakes out of the oven, one of the tins slipped from m hands, turned over, spilling out all over the floor, broken and steaming. I sat down and cried my heart out. Last year around this time Les was here helping me bake golden Ginger Cakes. We made ten cakes for friends and family, and then took the train down to London for our final holiday together mooching about the Big Smoke.
|The last ever photo taken of me and Les, in London this time last year.|
I filled with water, dumped the rubbish, swept the leaves out of the bow and off the roof, checked for water in the bilge (it was dry), greased the stern gland, checked to make sure the calorifier was shut off, turned off the large inverter, disconnected the landline electrics and stowed the extension cords away, lifted the fenders, and started the engine. It had been a month since I had run it. The engine turned over and purred quietly like a kitten. I filled the coal bucket and set the fire, un-moored and cruised away.
I feel giddy and happy to be back on the towpath. It is going to be even colder tonight so I've doubled the down duvets tucked into the duvet cover on my bed. The boat windows are covered with insulating plastic. I was amazed to record a difference of nearly 10 degrees in temperature inside the boat after the plastic was in place!
|Courtesy of J Paylor, Luton Museums|