Canal capers

boatBoats… not really my thing, to be absolutely honest. Rowing boats and pedalos are just too much like hard work – all blisters and breathlessness, and whilst kayaking can be great fun, it tends to lose its charm a little with every near drowning and dislocated shoulder that you endure in pursuit of ‘fun’. Bigger boats aren’t much better either: ‘pleasure boats’ will almost certainly turn out to the exact opposite; whilst ferries, without doubt, are the single most boring thing that anybody can choose to inflict upon themselves. The only time i’ve even had fun on ferry was a particularly memorable crossing from Fishguard to Rosslare in gale force winds, where the only way to stay upright was to drink so much that it didn’t actually matter where the floors, walls and ceiling happened to be at any given time. As for cruise ships – i can’t imagine anything in this world that could persuade me to waste a perfectly good holiday sat beside a pool, on a boat in the middle of the Med, knowing that every time a crew member looked in my direction was a step nearer to bankruptcy in tips!

However, even i can – on occasion –  be wrong.

Canal barges: a definite non-starter with me. There are reasons why railways were more successful – faster, more convenient, more comfortable and far less danger of drowning, to name just a few. Yet somehow i allowed myself to be persuaded to join a bunch of work colleagues for a ‘fun day out’ on a narrow boat.

Things started pretty depressingly: “The speed limit is four miles an hour, don’t upset the fishermen and the alcohol limit is the same as for driving – you can be breathalysed, so don’t do it!”. Well, what a barrel of laughs this trip was promising to turn out to be. Things did improve a little when my companions started unloading enough supplies, blankets and additional layers of clothing for a six-month sojourn at sea – we certainly weren’t going to starve or succumb to frostbite – i looked at the mass of bags, suitcases and boxes piled up on the quay, looked at the barge and then, in a moment i never expected to occur in my lifetime, in all sincerity uttered the immortal line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”such opportunities rarely come along!

SAM_0523It turns out, to my complete surprise, that i’m a natural when it comes to driving a boat. Whilst my nautical assistants, (Roger, the cabin boy, Master Bates and Pugwash – c’mon, you’d have done it too!), proved to be hopelessly inept – at one point piloting us, completely out of control and sideways, towards a panic stricken family on a boat coming the other way – i took to the helm with an ease that Popeye himself would have admired. More than that, after the first few minutes, i found it to be an immensely enjoyable and rewarding experience. There is something incredibly relaxing and worthwhile about chugging along at a sedate walking pace in charge of 40ft of olf-fashioned craftsmanship and, even after a full day’s cruising, it was disappointing to have to return to dry land. It seems that sometimes our preconceptions can be misconceived, and this causes me to wonder whether my rl experiences of boats and all things nautical may have coloured my opinion about their sl equivalents.

Sailing and other water-borne activities are one of the longest-established organised pursuits in sl. There is a considerable ocean-going fraternity, with a well-defined infrastructure and events, along with an enthusiastic community. Why then, in all my years travelling and exploring sl, have i never had the urge to visit the Blake Sea or even attempted to try any of the boating, sailing or underwater activities that are possible in sl? (Apart from a brief flirtation with a pedalo, which didn’t go terribly well).

soft linden bear1_001The short – and somewhat unforgivable – answer is, i’m afraid, that it’s always struck me as boring. What has happened is that i’ve based my perceptions of sl on my real world experiences and, since most of those have been somewhat lacklustre, or at times downright painful and disappointing, i’ve assumed that sl will be no different; but is that really the case?

Since my day messing about on a barge, it’s dawned on me that there may well be a whole chunk of sl that might actually be quite enjoyable, especially since my subsequent investigations reveal that the inworld physics of sailing and boatmanship, (is that a word?), are pretty complex things – both challenging and demanding of skill. Maybe it’s time i branched out and tried my hand at something new?

The only problem is, one thing i do know for a fact: there is no way that i’d take to the controls of an sl boat anything like as naturally as in rl. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that i’ll manage to capsize, sink, run into an iceberg or be boarded by pirates within moments of stepping on board… but i guess that would be fun too!

And at least i can have a couple of drinks without being arrested for being drunk in charge of a vessel!

s. x

I see double up ahead
Where the riverboat swayed beneath the sun
Is where the river runs red
Ocean Colour Scene – The Riverboat Song

 

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