Today was handover day! Smok is ours and we’re back on a boat at last! Everything on our snagging list has been dealt with, all the paperwork has been signed, and all the bills have been paid. In the morning we spent over an hour with John Drinkwater at Hilperton Marina, going over how Smok works in minute detail. Just like everyone else who has looked after us at Hilperton, John was incredibly kind, patient and helpful. We’ll be quite sad to leave them all behind, but it’s a bit too much of a commute for us. Devizes will be much more convenient, and we have to admit, it’s rather more picturesque too.
This afternoon we took Smok out for our first cruise. It went pretty well, considering I haven’t owned a boat for ten years, and everything I’ve steered since has been under 40 feet. Smok is 60 feet long and I’m finding that just a little bit daunting. Nevertheless, we pulled out of the marina with only a teensy bit of drama. A boat was approaching, but we were nowhere near colliding, and I reversed pretty skillfully (if I say so myself). We let the oncoming boat slope past before having another go, incident free this time. It could have been a lot worse! I found out later that the locals beep their horns before pulling out.
We didn’t have time to go far today, so we cruised for about an hour towards Semington, then turned in a winding hole. (Winding is pronounced like the breeze, not the bobbin). Turning such a long boat was a little nerve-wracking. I didn’t quite get it right, but shhh! Nobody saw, and thankfully we didn’t ground the boat. I’m sure I’ll do better next time.
We moored up near the winding hole for a sandwich lunch. Here we discovered another problem unique to longer boats: finding a long enough piece of straight-ish bank to moor to. A silty rushy patch stopped us from pulling the boat flush alongside the bank, so our back end stuck out like a sore thumb. If we’d been stopping longer we would have moved along a bit, but as it was just a ten minute stop, we decided to swallow our pride and stay like that. On the subject of mooring I must credit my hubby Mike with some very agile leaping on and off the boat. I was pretty impressed by his nimble crewing!
Sandwich eaten, and with a bit of a shove from our boat hook, off we went again. It was a pleasant and uneventful cruise back to Hilperton. We phoned ahead to the marina to check where they wanted us to moor, and they suggested we pull straight onto their mooring so that they could fill up our fuel and water and put Smok in a convenient place at their leisure. That should have been the end of our adventures, except for the unexpected arrival of a moorhen, who we named Kevin.
Kevin (or possibly Kevina) had the cheekiest attitude and possibly the largest feet I have ever seen on a waterbird. He hopped onto our stern (Smok is a semi-trad) and investigated it thoroughly, pecking noisily at the steel to make sure they were all watertight. Once he was satisfied, he stuck his nose into the cabin and had a good look around. He was incredibly confident, and would have come inside if we’d let him! We managed to get some good video of him before we shooed him off.
It was a great way to round off our journey. In a couple of hours we’d seen ducks, moorhens, swans, a water vole, sheep, young cattle, dragonflies, and a varied collection of lesser spotted liveaboards, leisure cruisers, and hirers. We are thrilled with our decision to come back on the water, and delighted with our choice of boat. Here’s to many more happy days afloat! Cheers!
I first hired a narrowboat with two school friends in 1978, and I have loved canals ever since. I live in Royal Wootton Bassett, and I am a professional genealogist, building family trees, and conducting WW1 research. I am also an expert on the history of teasmades.