We were introduced to narrowboating in 2007 when we hired a boat for a few days. We were amazed and very pleasantly surprised at how friendly boaters were – even to a pair of inexperienced Aussie hirers.
Our first evening we moored at Stoke Bruerne and wandered down to the Navigation Inn to have dinner. While standing on the towpath deciding where we would sit, Mick bent down to pat a gorgeous border collie that was stretched out at the end of one of the tables. The owners said hello and when they heard our Aussie accents we got chatting. Before we knew it we were sharing their table and ordering our dinner.
Their names were Ann and Alan and were a lovely couple (we've since lost touch with them - I wonder if they'll ever see this blog). They were heading in the opposite direction to us to take their narrowboat back to the marina where they kept it. After dinner they invited us for coffee on their boat – the first privately owned narrowboat we’d ever been on and the first we’d heard of semi-trads. We felt like we’d had our first narrowboat lesson.
Early next morning we were faced with the 7 locks leading out of Stoke Bruerne. Having never worked a lock we thought we’d wait for another boat to be heading in our direction so we could share the lock. We waited, and waited, and I walked across to ask the man on a coal boat if he was heading off that morning. He said he’d gladly share the locks with us but wouldn’t be leaving for more a couple of hours.
Impatience got the better of us and we bravely decided we’d take our time and give the locks a go by ourselves. The man from the coal boat saw us wave as we headed off and he yelled out that he’d walk down to the first lock and help us through. We were grateful for his kindness and went on with confidence.
The following night I was in the galley preparing dinner when I heard Mick talking outside on the towpath. I poked my head out to see a friendly face and another invitation for coffee on a narrowboat after dinner. It was Leon and Rae on their narrowboat The Old Bovine. They were the first people we’d met who actually lived on their boat and we went to bed that night thinking how nice it would be to have a long term holiday living on a narrowboat. It was the planting of a seed in our minds although we didn’t know it at the time.
By the time we returned that boat to the base we knew those few days were to be the highlight of our trip. We took every possible opportunity in the days following to lurk around locks and check out boats for sale.