A real test of willpower and stamina

Published: Thursday, 01 March 2018

NO SURPRISES that some readers are going back on the land. The rigours of what is the first real winter since about 2010 is a real test of willpower and stamina, writes Kevin McNiff.

Lower Heyford 2010KevinThat January, we found ourselves in a '15 minutes of fame' event when we were interviewed for BBC Oxford TV during the extremely cold spell which prevented any boat movement to or from the services for water or pump-outs for four weeks.  (Kevin's photograph shows the towpath at Lower Heyford in the winter of 2010.)

Totally dismayed

Thankfully we had an 'emergency' cassette toilet which helped a lot. I remember hearing of several boaters in the Banbury area who were totally dismayed that they had no access to water or toilet disposal. Seemingly the picture of tranquillity and peaceful sunny days depicted by ITV’s 'Waterworld' programme missed the bad bits out—well they would!

That programme was the start of an influx of dreamy eyed newbies to the canals and, looking at the number of boats languishing in marinas, some not visited for a long time, the bubble has burst. When visitors to our long-term mooring in Lower Heyford asked about the lifestyle, I would carefully point out both the good and the bad bits. I particularly suggested they hire a boat if not already done so and try to do it in winter, not just summer.

Our boat has a 240V generator so is fine for bringing out in the sticks, though I agree that 'big' shopping can be a bind if you haven’t set up a supermarket delivery or have no vehicle to hand. Our decision to liveaboard came after 24 years of hiring and shared ownership, the latter proving we were able to withstand winter and in a confined space of 70ft. (Well actually 48 when you discount the engine room and back cabin!).

Tim and Pru's antics

In fact, the results of Tim and Pru’s antics banging around and into anything and everything in the latest waterway programmes, combined with the air of entitlement rather than courtesy and etiquette that today’s boaters exhibit will eventually send more boats to the brokers.

After 42 combined years of boating, we are looking to split our retirement years between our boat and a new land base. Apart from the practical aspects as we get older and less able to leap about, 'cabin fever' is too prevalent in the other three seasons, much more now that climate is changing for the worse. And many canals and areas are becoming no-go because of the explosion of continuous moorers and wide beams.

When Farmer’s Bridge and Gas Street Basin were inaccessible to Joe public, that was the good time. It’s long gone now. RIP.