4th July in the year 2000 was Independence Day – for me. As a young twenty something I became a proud home owner for the very first time, and that home was a 45 foot red narrowboat called Emily Rose. I knew very little about boats but I’d met some friendly boaters on the towpath and they introduced me to their mates, and they were all glad to share their boating wisdom and advice with me. I learned to steer a boat, tie knots, check the oil and recognise the sound of a loose fan belt. And yet other things beneath the deck-boards remain a mystery to this day; some things are better left to the experts!

How did I know I would like it? I didn’t. I’d never even been on a hire boat before. But at the end of the day, I reasoned, if I didn’t like the lifestyle, I’d just have to sell the boat again.

Twelve years on, and although Emily Rose did get sold and found another owner to love her, I am still in love with the canals. So today I celebrate twelve years of living on a narrowboat. I thought a good way to celebrate it would be to think of my top five boating moments of the last twelve years.

Steering my own boat . The day I collected her from the brokerage marina and began to cruise down the Grand Union towards London I felt brave, happy, amazed and afraid all at once!

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct . I was lucky enough that one of my friends once travelled the Llangollen canal and invited me up to visit. He even allowed me to steer his boat across the aqueduct; what a stunning view: Truly a wonder of the waterways.

The London Ring I ‘did’ The London Ring as part of a flotilla, a group of about six narrowboats. We went out of the Grand Union at Brentford and down the Thames to Limehouse. The river got a bit choppy as we headed towards Tower Bridge and my little engine nearly over heated. I was a little bit scared, but also exhilarated!

Marsworth and the Tring Reservoirs . When I first saw the Tring Reservoirs I just loved the feeling of calm that seeing so much water all at once can give you. I love the swans, ducks and other birds that all gather there, and a cosy fire in a local Marsworth pub.

The River Stort . A secret part of Essex that meanders and wiggles through golden fields and quaint villages and towns, past wild flower meadows and renovated old mills, a pretty picture of ancient England.

I was going to put the top five into some kinds of order but I couldn’t decide which moment was the best. Maybe it was buying my boat, without whom none of this would have been possible.

What are your boating highlights? Are there places you dream of going?

Peggy Melmoth

You may also like:
Living on a Boat: The Boatshed Guide / I Love Historic Narrowboats! / Canal Diary 2012 / A slideshow of our boat of the moment./Blog Archive

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