When I got my NCBA certificate last year, I think I was only the second female 'skipper' Tarporley had had, and the first hadn't been very heavily involved. Although two more have recently qualified, I believe that yesterday, me, Maryam and Mari constituted Tarporley's first ever all-female crew.
To be honest, at the time, it didn't feel as if much was riding on it, but as it turned out we had a relatively challenging day, and I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well. We had two separate trips - a single couple from Kings Place to Little Venice in the morning, then a birthday party of twelve (our maximum capacity) from Little Venice to City Road.
So we set off at ten sharp, and somehow managed to make such good time that we got to Little Venice with time to spare, so to give them value for money we had a quick run up to Paddington Basin and back. After dropping them off, we had lunch in the lovely Little Venice sun and while we were waiting for the next lot I did the brass... and still we waited, so I gave the birthday boy a ring... They were still in the pub, waiting for the last two guests. In the meantime Mike sauntered by en route to steering Prince Regent later in the afternoon, so we had a cup of tea. About an hour later they turned up - a lovely, good humoured bunch, but with a taste for loud music that left me somewhat frazzled by the end of the day. We set off and were still making good time - too good really, so I was quite pleased we had to turn all of the Camden locks, and we didn't rush to get them ready... Meanwhile a party was in full swing on board and a splendid time being had by all. Then after Camden, Maryam reported that she was sure there was something on the prop. Oooh, more excitement for out guests. So down the weedhatch went brave Maryam, and retrieved the usual collection of rag, plastic bags and elastic (where does all the elastic come from?) augmented with long branches of weeping willow. Then we were off again, much to the relief of the elderly resident whose flat we'd made our emergency stop under. Sadly at this point we'd left Mari behind on the bank, where she'd made an impromptu disembarkation in an attempt to push us out. She then had to find her way out of the gated community, over the bridge and catch us up on the towpath - duly accomplished. By now we were back on schedule so made all haste to City Road. The towpath here is closed around the lock, so we needed to find a way of dropping our merry band off beyond the closure - but although this is the lock mooring, it was nose to tail with moored boats. So I shouted through the fencing to ask if we could come alongside to disgorge our partygoers, and one bloke said we could come next to his boat. Coming out of the lock we did catch a Springer moored right on the end. The woman, who had previously been very pleasant, was not pleased. I was prepared to feel bad about it until she complained that it had been happening all day, at which point I just looked at her sadly and said, 'Well, you are on the lock mooring.' She didn't say anything after that - I must remember to speak quietly more often! Finally, the dreaded City Road winding, accomplished by Maryam using the unorthodox technique that I always fancied, of overshooting the basin (which we'd already done of course) and backing into it in a sort of reversing-round-a-corner manoeuvre, rather than the full revs u-turn favoured by some of the more macho skippers. And it worked!
By the time we got back to Kings Place it had been a ten hour day, but we all agreed that it had been a good one, and that we'd worked well and made a good team.
Life on the down slope
1 week ago