Monday 2 August 1971

1968 , Time and Distance

Yorkanaught boating holiday, 1968
Nuneaton to Llangollen and back
January 2009

Time and distance seem to have changed with the passage of the years.

A strange phenomenon has occurred on the canals. Travel has actually got slower, and it isn't on account of poor dredging.

Yorkonought 1968 (probably Staffs and Worcester)

These days I moor near the northern end of the Shropshire Union and would consider a cruise to Llangollen to be a good week's journey, possibly six days if I pushed it a bit. Now consider this, in 1968 we took a frail prywood hire boat called Yorkonought from it's base in Nuneaton all the way to the end on the Llangollen Canal and back again, plus a diversion to mooch through the BCN all in two weeks. Now that is going some.

Captn's Snr and Jnr with Matilda

I sometimes wonder about the improbable journeys we undertook, at a time when a crowbar was as essential as a windlass. Some of the one week trips we completed are now billed as a strenous two week cruise, so what has happened?

I put this question to Matilda (mother) and Dr D (brother) and the answer was, it seems, quite  simple. Good old Captain Snr was a boater in a hurry, who didn't know the meaning of a lazy week on the water. Most days started soon after seven am and concluded when the light failed, and even longer if a mooring to his liking coldn't be found. Even now I can hear him saying "I cant stand bump, bump, bump all night - lets try again a bit further on".

But it wasn't just the hours, we fairly flew along. Those little lightweight boats didn't draw more than eight or ten inches and rather than the plodding progress made our new deep draughted boats, the old cruisers got up on the plane and skitted over the surface. I am not saying that this sort of travel was a good thing, nor was it good for the banks which were already in a bad state of repair, but it did make huge distances possible.

Horse drawn trip boat at Llangollen Wharf

The problem of this two speed traffic was that the Captain Snr frequently came up behing slow and heavy ex working boats, who found the shallow waters of the Llangollen far from satisfactory. I distinctly recall one excruciatingly slow boat which was struggiling to reach 2mph near Chirk. We followed this old smoky tub for hours without any opportunity to pass, so imagine our horror when we were about to set off back from Llangollen only to see the "Old Moo's" as they had been uncharitably been dubbed, making ready to cast off themselves.

We were up and off in an undignified haste, trying to get away in front of them. But so fast was our departure that Dr D lost his footing and ended up waist deep in the cut!

Things are uniformly slower these days, and a good job too. Canals are not racetracks and if you want to get somewhere fast try catching a bus. However, If I see a lightweight ply or fibreglass cruiser coming up astern, I remember that they can travel so much faster and let then through as a matter of course.

Matilda with Dr D

It's a bit like golf. The slower your boat or the worse your swing, the more time you get to spend doing the thing you like!

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