The team - Columnists

Published: Monday, 09 March 2009

Victor Swift—tells a tale

WITH us since day one, and in fact way back from the old newspaper days, Victor is one of the old style journalists, yet brings a breath of fresh air to the writing of the waterways, really telling it like it is, to the consternation of many, which is now being copied—though obviously not so well—by others!

His boating? Not a boater for so long as most of the other columnists, but from the early nineties, after an impromptu three days on a hire boat from Grebe Canal Cruises on the Grand Union, and being hooked. He has now cruised most of the system.

The picture shows Victor on his Bermudian mode of transport riding down Front Street in Hamilton, an island he often retires to, usually whilst we suffer our winter cold.

David Hymers—Idle thoughts

DAVID'S contributions are very much of the waterways, and entertains us about his many and varied experiences, and tells us:

"I first became interested in the canals as a result of a summer job in 1970, when I was supervising a user survey being done for British Waterways in the Braunston/Buckby/Napton areas. I lived in a caravan at Buckby Top for a couple of months, and learnt how to work locks acting as unofficial lock keeper at Watford.

"Once I started teaching I organised twice yearly school trips, which usually had ridiculous schedules that these days I would not contemplate—the Avon Ring in a week for example. But it kept the kids busy, which was the main point—some of them are still boating.

"We usually organised an adult trip over Christmas/New Year, back when you could find hire boats at that time of year. These usually involved a lot of night cruising, getting iced up (once for three months—the boat, not us) and so on. It was on one of these that we went through Dudley Tunnel, just getting under the low bit and then getting stuck in the exit.

"I first bought a share in a boat (with some friends) in 1988—it was one of Gordon’s hire boats from Napton. We replaced that in 1997 with a second-hand Mike Heywood boat and sold that in 2005. We then ordered a new boat fitted out by Napton Narrowboats on a Colecraft hull to our own design, which largely replicated the successful layout of the previous boat. So far we have been very pleased with it.

"It is my slightly arrogant boast that I have cruised every part of the connected system, except the Lancaster (not connected for long enough), the Basingstoke (always shut for low water whenever we get there), the Leeds & Liverpool beyond Aintree (never got round to it and now waiting for the extension) and the Yorkshire Ouse (frustrated by 2007 floods)."

Keith Gudgin—Contributor and Stoppage Advisor

I decided to retire early due to the incompetent benefits system and employment attitudes in this country so I sold up and bought a 40ft narrowboat to live on.

Most of my life was spent as a marine radio operator and electrical test engineer. I am an active Radio Amateur now.

I am a live-aboard and I'm trying to be a proper continuous cruiser and work within the rules, which is becoming harder and harder due to the stupid rules being imposed by all and government etc.

I have to say I do not like incompetence in authority or high office and detest anyone who tries to gain privilege from their position in authority. I also detest those who try to pass the buck when it is clearly their problem or come out with ill-thought out excuses that clearly shows the speaker thinks everyone they are talking to is either stupid or illiterate.
The winter has  just been spent on the southern Grand Union but I think I like the narrow canals better. I avoid most of the rivers in winter for obvious reasons. I do enjoy having a smile when I see some of the antics and hear some of the excuses by those who think they can handle a vessel competently only to demonstrate otherwise. I also share the concerns of some of the other contributors about the ‘don't give a damn attitude' not just of other boaters but also those who are supposed to be in authority etc.

I like photography and I'm an enthusiast for old engineering structures. I liked the Kew Steam Museum, well worth my visit and I'll be visiting a few more museums up and down the country as time allows.

Well the sun's shining and the engine's running so it's time to cast off and go and find summer—see you all further down the cut.