Two of the blogs I'm following at the moment are journeys home. Lucy Belle is on her way from the Soar to Bugsworth on the Peak Forest, and now Willow has left Langley Mill on the Erewash on the way home to Cambridge. Both of these are the journey home for a new boat - in Lucy Belle's case, a first ever boat, with a baptism of fire for her owners, who seem to be taking to it like the proverbial ducks to water; while the Ducks themselves of course are ducks no longer, having swapped Lucky Duck for their dream working boat, Willow. There's something very special about that first trip, bringing home a new (to you) boat; working with it for the first time, getting to know it; beginning - and I don't think it's too fanciful - to form a relationship with it. A partnership which, just like a human one, will no doubt involve a great deal of shouting and swearing, and possibly violence, but will also reward you with incomparable moments of sublime pleasure.
Such thoughts led me to look back on Chertsey's journey home - a short one, accomplished in a day, and under tow - but oh what a day it was. When we brought Chertsey to Stretton that first time in September 2009 we didn't know that that would end up as its home, but I'm glad it has. For one thing, someone (and I'm afraid I forget who) worked out that it's the second best place on the whole system in terms of the number of different waterways you can get to within a certain period of time (and here my memory for figures lets me down again, but it was something like two days). As the top place was probably somewhere like the middle of Birmingham, that's not bad at all.
More comparable to Willow's journey, however, and the experience of steering a new (and big) boat for the first time, was when we left Stretton with Chertsey travelling under its own power for the first time in something like thirty years, heading to Braunston in June 2010. This was a rather more fraught and hair raising journey, but it too had its moments of pure joy - successful turns both into and out of the Coventry, as I recall, the latter never so far repeated.
I'm getting quite frustrated now about the lack of boating so far this year - and comparatively little last year as well. Let's hope we can make up for it soon.
I just had to go back and look at the photographs of that wonderful day - September 24th 2009 - to select a new one to illustrate this post, and lost myself in them for quite a while....