Thursday, 22 February 2018

falling into spring

Katie on Jessie sails past Eli's dockyard
We got as far west along the K&A canal as we wanted to go; closer to the city is very busy with boats now, and it's time to start heading towards the broad sunlit (though sometimes foggy) uplands of the Vale of Pewsey and beyond. There's an open day at Seend lock on March 10th, and we wanted to be close for that, as I may be doing some poetry stuff there.

So we chugged down to Dundas basin to empty the shit tanks and fill up with water. Eli's navy is moored up there on the garden spot; Eli and his friends are building rafts from oil drums with shelters on top like tents or benders; it's an anarchic response to homelessness, and interesting stuff, with some nice people involved in it. It's also cocking a snook at the CRT's rules and regs, and no-one seems to know quite what to do about it, as we all tumble in slow motion into our own national dystopia. Still, it annoys the folk who would prefer a Rosie and Jim on every boat, so it's got something going for it.

Chris and Jinny had to breast up on the boat that's been sat on the waterpoint for a week or two. As I passed to and fro across its foredeck, a dreadlocked head appeared from below, and told me that it was really early. I didn't think 11 o'clock too desperately early, and suggested that if he wanted peace and quiet there were plenty of places to moor a little way along the canal. He told me how unfair it was that CRT were on his case, and how nice it would be if they'd just let him stay wherever he likes. He seemed a nice enough chap, but his world view seemed myopic in the extreme, and centred pretty closely on himself...

Meanwhile, as our water tanks were filling, a couple of contractors were rodding through the sewage holding tank pipes, in an effort to alleviate the Nasty Pong that's been hanging round the basin for some time now. Then they hosed down the quay. It was a bit worrying, the proximity between the hosing and the fresh water with which we were filling our tanks. Still, we seem to have avoided any nasty bugs, so far at least. One of the workers told me that he came from Portugal, though he;s been in Bristol for six months now. 

"What part of Portugal?" I asked. 
"Lisbon" 
"Oh, I was in Lisbon in 1969. It was full of soldiers, I remember"
"I'm 40..." 

I calculated rapidly that my trip there, on the P&O cruise ship Iberia, was some years before he was even born. And felt rather old.

We sailed on, passing through a long film of oil, with nasty looking white scum in it; diesel and paint? Waste oil from bilges? -don't know. It's been a recurrent problem between Avoncliff and Dundas over the last few weeks, and CRT don't seem to know what to do about it other than conclude that nothing can be done. To be fair, removing the pollutants would be a major and horrendously expensive job, and it would be hard to identify their source. It's a worry though, with the waterfowl and otters getting it on then, never mind the fish that have been seen dead in large numbers. And of course, it's a worry that someone is evidently throwing this stuff into the canal heedless of the consequences.

The woods of the Avon valley are bright with catkins and plum blossom, and there's colour in some branches as they come to life again. It was a good day for cruising; the air still and the sun shining.

Peter works at a walking stick
At Horse Field, we saw Peter on Grey Hare, and space to moor on either end of his boat. In perfect conditions, and with help from Peter and Jinny, I came alongside, took the painter, stepped ashore... and slipped on the edging stone and fell into the canal. It's impressive how heavy a duffle coat becomes when it's saturated. Fortunately, the underwater shelf is quite broad here, so I was saved from going right under my boat, and scrambling out was easy. I've fallen in three times before, and getting out again can prove surprisingly difficult even in ideal conditions.

Oh well, still alive. And my duffle coat is finally dry, after three days of airing in front of the stove.

Here's a new picture I've just done.