I used my pedal powered boat as late as the 26th October last year so I may still have another 7 weeks when it’s reasonable to get out on the water. Cold water is dangerous so even though I’ve never had even a moment when I felt in danger in the boat, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to sail on the local canal too late into the autumn. My last exercise was a mountain bike ride of over 3 hours with plenty of climbing, so 3 days later I wanted something a little less taxing. The boat could be pedalled along gently but typically I got on the water today and put some effort in. I didn’t have a definite plan for my trip and set off northwards, deciding not to spin the boat around and passing a slipway where I often turn. I reached a famous graffito on a short aqueduct which reads “Shirley Animal”. It must be appreciated by some because at some point the original white paint has been over painted in yellow. It could do with another coat!
I briefly got out of the boat and turned around as soon as I set off again. Ahead I could see the electric blue flash of a kingfisher, speeding along the water then diving into the bushes. I approached it several times and each time it flew off before me.
On my last boat trip I noticed some very tatty fibreglass hulled boat and today some of them were moored at the Cowling Slipway, about half way along today’s route. It seems strange to see such boats, their cabins half built with pallet wood. No one seemed to be aboard. The kingfisher was no longer in view as I worked hard on the pedals. I was making sure that I couldn’t feel the work in my calf muscles which often feel stressed in the boat. As I approached the end of the sail the boat suddenly slowed. I stopped pedalling briefly and it didn’t feel like anything was wrong when I started to pedal again. I took it easy to the point where I needed to turn around to get the port side of my hull next to the canal bank to get out. I didn’t seem to be able to turn in one effort and had to reverse for a second try. I got out and could immediately see the problem in the form of a massive clump of weed which the rudder had picked up.
I’d worked the muscles hard but next time out I’ll make sure I work on my breathing on a bike ride, which the boat doesn’t particularly test. I just hope, after weeks with virtually no rain, that we still get some early autumn sunshine. Enjoying the boat is far easier when it’s sunny.