My boating cronies have mixed feelings about lending their craft out to friends and family, but most tend to the "not over my dead body" school of thought. I don't really share this view, but I am used to being in the minority on many things, so that's ok.
When we bought Wand'ring Bark I knew that there was a danger that I could become overly precious about the boat, so I made a pledge with myself to hold it lightly. We feel very blessed to have a narrowboat and part of that deal with myself was to let a limited number of friends and family use it from time to time. But I am not daft, this apparent generosity is limited to experienced boaters only.
So far WB has always returned largely unscathed, normally with less battle scars that when it is under my tender care.
A few weeks ago it was the turn of some close family, let's call them Oak, Hedge and Undergrowth. They travelled down from Scotland to spend a week relaxing in the Midlands which, of course, is a very natural thing to do. Having battled their way through heavy rain all the way south they were delighted to see the skies clear as they drove into the marina and then see it stay largely fine for their whole week afloat.
Oak has previous boating experience, and the pair of them even considered living on one till young Undergrowth emerged from among their roots. Based on this experience I saw them out of the marina entrance and, with about 10 secs warning made a leap for the bank and then stood there rather sadly watching them sail off into the sunset. They turned and saw my dejected face interpreting it as concern. However, by the time they got back they had really got the canal bug and realised their mistake. What they had seen as worry was in fact wistfulness and longing. No matter how many times I go out on the boat I still hanker after more, and at that moment I so dearly wanted to drift off up the Shroppie to Market Drayton and back. I will bet that there are a lot of people who would like to make that particular trip right now!
As for Oak, Hedge and Undergrowth, they had a great time. In their own words "it was fab, chilling out with some real cool boat dudes". I loved getting their nightly texts telling me of the progress achieved, and incidents encountered. Its not as good as being there, of course, but I derived a real pleasure from their obvious delight.
And WB? Well she returned materially unharmed save a graze or two which was easily rectified by a dab of paint. As a bonus Hedge gave us a framed photo of Wand'ring Bark moored outside the Fox and Anchor at Coven, which sits proudly in my study reminding me of past travels and adventures yet to come.