10th June 2006
Grand Union Canal and Northern Oxford Canal
Wand'ring bark was purchased from Whilton Marina in late May 2006 under the name Piccolo but a family trip to America delayed the inaugural journey to her new home mooring at Calf Heath, on the Staffs and Worcester Canal. Due to pressing OU assignment, Belle's role was confined to taxi driver and the first two days were undertaken by the Captain, supported by Tilly and Jeff.
Whilton Marina had held Wand'ring Bank (nee Piccolo) pending our return from America and we found her lying on the main line, just outside the marina entrance. The location is sandwiched between the M1 and the busy Westcoast Mainline and a mixture of the traffic noise and the excitement of finally owning our own narrowboat resulted in a very broken first night aboard. Saturday 10th was the start of England's 2006 World Cup campaign, with a match against Paraguay. We were keen to watch this match if at all possible and after close reference to our trusty Pearson's aimed for the Old Royal Oak pub at bridge 73 of the Northern Oxford. We made it to the pub with 20 mins to spare, secured excellent seats and settled in to watch a very satisfying England win.
After a 2 hour footballing hiatus we pressed on, finally mooring in a quiet area of parkland near Brinklow (bridge 35) under a clear blue sky. Whilst Wand'ring Bark had performed perfectly during the day, this first trip had highlighted some profoundly irritating features which were deemed unacceptable and demanded rectification before travel resumed. The Capt unpacked his toolkit and removed the TV ariel in an act of constructive vandalism (we never watch live TV on the boat). More significantly, we also took a hacksaw to the tiller arm. The tiller arm was so long that it it threatened to sweep anyone on the rear deck into the cut and was a good twelve inches longer than it needed to be. Ten minutes of sawing addressed the problem and having reattached the wooden handle, the new configuration was a major improvement. The provision of an oversized tiller arm appears to be a feature of Floating Homes, the hull manufacturers, and may suggest that whilst they are metal fabricators of note, that are not boaters.
All in all a memorable first day and one which proved that although the boat needed some significant modification / upgrading, it was fundamentally sound and without significant fault.