I looked forward to my walk to the Leisure Centre every couple of days. Once I was able to fight my way through the tourists snapping photos of swans (I, of course, was not a tourist when I did the same thing), and maneuver around the tourists who stopped abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk to consult a map, and make a wide berth around the tour groups queuing at the boat landing waiting for their tour, I dropped down to the level of the river and was home free. No tourist was interested in going to the Leisure Centre, but the route was one of the prettiest in Windsor.
Over the period of my month there I rambled all over. I’ve never been one to take the same walk over and over, and this part of the world offered a different path every day—across meadows, along each bank of the river and its tributaries, and through quiet parts of Eton and Windsor—yes, they do exist. These are views from the south bank of the Thames. You can see Eton College buildings in the background.
I passed three narrow boats (or canal boats as they are also called) on my way to the Leisure Centre: Theresa Jones, Liberty Bell, and Ratty’s Retreat. Also a gratuitous swan photo.
I went on a very long walk one day and caught all kinds of narrow boats.
There was a boat yard with a bulletin board full of boats for sale.
Naturally I started daydreaming about buying and living on a boat. “Edwardian Launch,” “Swedish Weekender,” “Gentleman’s Launch.” The types of boats sounded so romantic.
The biggest one was 35 feet long. But how wide was it? Did 6’ 9” beam mean how high the ceilings were? What was a Kubota Nanni diesel, 4cyl 36 hp—ah, presumably a motor. Was that big, fast, and good brand? “Pump out WC”—that didn’t sound like much fun, although my sister has described the process of sewage sucking from her camper and it’s not as bad as it sounds.
I looked at houseboats in St. Paul once. I was enamored of one that was quite spacious, with a deck and a hot tub. For only about $25,000, I could have had her. Then I would have had to install a new engine ($10,000) and replace the composting toilet with a suckable one ($2,000).
I wouldn’t have to pay property taxes! My view of the city would have been fantastic.
However, my neighbors’ views of me would have also been spectacular, since the boats were berthed with only about 10 feet apart. When winter came, I would have to place bubbler$ around the boat to prevent this from happening:
And in spring when the ice melted, there was the risk of this, and having to have your boat towed back to the marina ($$). Or maybe just sold for scrap.
I barely know how to check the oil in my car, and in the end I decided I wasn’t a great candidate to live on a boat. There’s a saying among boat owners, “The happiest day of your life is the day you buy your boat. The second happiest is the day you sell it.”
There’s an outdoors club called The Minnesota Rovers. A member is organizing a boat and hiking trip in England next spring. If you’re interested, I can send his contact info.
Video about canal boating: Boater’s Handbook
TV show “Great Canal Journeys”: Stratford-on-Avon canal
“No one is obligated to keep to the same schedule as me, although I would enjoy the company for any or all of it! For the hiking part of the extended trip, I’m planning to take the English “Gentleman Hillwalker” approach, where we set up a base in some central location, like Stow on the Wold, and walk circular day trips along the high ridges and through picturesque villages, using trains and buses to reach trailheads when needed. This would be immediately after the boat trip, in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.’