It’s been forty years since Jim and Karen did their first OE as a couple of 20 year olds. For more than 20 years they planned to head back for another OE, and after kids, mortgages and careers they’re finally doing it! In this blog, Jim talks about the beginning of the adventure canal boating in the UK.

We have arrived.

Who would have guessed it’s 8.15 am on Easter Sunday morning – Happy Easter by the way. The sun is shinning and I have the regulation cuppa sitting beside me while I sit on the front of our canal boat writing this blog. It’s really peaceful but I am getting slightly nervous about firing up the boat and heading downstream.

The journey from Christchurch to Stone

The flight over with Emirates was great. We were in with all the regulars (remember we have a budget) but I have to say I was impressed. Christchurch via Sydney to Dubai, a one night stopover there, then onto Manchester. 

The Christchurch-Sydney leg had Hannah and Margaret from Harcourts both on the same flight, off to Sydney for their respective breaks. It was great to see some old work colleagues. By the time you get to Dubai you have had close to 20 hours of flying and a stopover, so to get out there still feeling remarkably fresh at my advancing old age says something for the airline. Good seats, good food, and close to 1,400 movies to watch: outstanding.

We arrived in Manchester around noon yesterday and went straight through immigration. The customs man asked us if we were now retired because we were there for so long – take what you like out of that. We had no trouble finding the train and getting ourselves tickets to Stone where we picked up the boat.

Carryon luggage and Carey Ginger

Take note fellow would be travellers thinking you might like to follow in our footsteps. Think carefully about your baggage. I’ve got to say Emirates allows you 30kg of baggage so we packed accordingly. Along with the fact we are away for 12-18 months some of you will be thinking you need more than that to carry your life around with you. Well I can tell you, you don’t. Carting two bags each plus a few carryon handbags and man bags is difficult when you get to British train stations. It was just a down right pain.

But eventually we got to Stone and the boat yard. Carey Ginger is the boat’s name. You can Google it to see more details of the beast: 60ft of narrowness and close confines. I took one look at it and thought … we have to steer this thing out onto the canal, and as soon as we leave our mooring in less than 30m we hit our first lock. Another 100m past that is lock number two. Now this second lock has a pub on either side of it, both with beer gardens so the punters can enjoy the sport of new boaters experiencing their first locks – what joy.

Needless to say I chickened out of heading out late Saturday arvo following our briefing while the pubs are full. Instead we thought Easter Sunday would be quiet before the pubs are open with the traditional Sunday lunch crowd. So we are heading off soon while it’s peaceful, quiet and no one is around except a few joggers who don’t like Easter eggs. We definitely feel the need to beat any watching crowds for our first locks.

In reality there is not even enough space to at least get a wee feel how this thing steers, stops and moves before we are in the lock. I feel a few bumps coming on, so it’s a good job this is a steel boat me thinks.

From nervous novice to canal boating pros

Fast forward five hours and we are now semi experienced boaters! Four locks down, multiple bridges plus other boats passed … However, have to say this is a beast at 60ft long. Lesson number two: Get a shorter boat.

Carey Ginger boating down the UK canals.

We just have to hope the wind doesn’t, come up while we are boating because it really will be a hand full.

We stopped around 2pm at a lock with another boating couple Geoff and Karen. After helping each other through the lock, we got talked into visiting the local pub for a Sunday arvo tipple. I was adamant we should continue but Karen said no. Needless to say we are still here. I think we will park up for the night and just look to continue on tomorrow.

Parked up at the pub on the bank of the canal.

Day one and I am in love with UK canal boating, even if it did cause a bit of nerves earlier today. Stay tuned.

3 thoughts on “Canal boating in the UK: The journey begins

  1. Jackie Geary says:

    Love your blog already. We are heading away next week and your story is similar to our (except for the length). I met Philip on my oe 40 years ago. I always said we would do a trip for our 30th but didn’t happen. So now we are off and our first stop is a ‘small’ canal boat at 48’ round Warwickshire ring. 9 Days! Our whole trip is 9 weeks can’t imagine 9 weeks on the canal boat. Have a great time! Cheers. Jackie & Phil Geary. Gore, NZ

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