Life on board

Shadow box image of watering can adorned with canal art roses

Last night you moored just when dusk was falling. You ate dinner at a pub, a 17th-century building you learned was in a scene from The Remains of the Day. In the next booth a pleasant obviously retired couple from Kidderminster had their border collie curled up at their feet, but that’s allowed because you’re eating at the bar.

You discovered it’s the couple’s first time on a canal, even though they’ve lived most of their lives a few miles from the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. You asked why they’re on this canal instead and they said they’d moved to be closer to the grandkids. Your meal was excellent and the service was excellent, even though you were in the bar because the restaurant was full and you had to give your order to the barman after looking at the menu chalked on a board.

You stumbled back in the dark to the boat, using your smartphone as a light because you stupidly forgot to bring a flashlight. The smartphone’s battery gave out halfway (because there were too many devices to charge and two few plugs on the boat), which was unfortunate because the pub is a short walk from the towpath along a one-lane road where cars whiz by at 40 miles per hour.

Nightime photo of the front of the Hop Pole Inn, built on a hillside, with cars parked in front
The 17th-century Hop Pole Inn

Back on the boat, you opened another bottle of wine and everyone got a little tipsy and you talked politics because everyone on the boat is of the same political persuasion. You actually had to talk because there’s nothing else to do: no television or cellular reception. Everyone was a little hazy what day it was and no one knew the latest headlines. After thirty minutes, it was obvious everyone except you was tired, even though it was only half past eight. Someone’s sleeping on the dinette double, however, so you couldn’t linger and had to help put up the bed.

Most of the lights were soon extinguished because you worried about running down the batteries. Once in bed, your spouse was asleep before you. The only thing you could do was read, but long before 10 o’clock, you switched off your light.

The next morning you wake up an hour after sunrise, primarily because you went to sleep so early and secondarily because of the annoying duck outside your window. You have to stay in bed until you hear sounds of movement from the rest of the crew, however. Once the others are awake, you go into the kitchen to light the cooker, trying to remember the sequence to light a burner.

  1. You have to turn the burner knob to the light position and then press and hold it in
  2. Press the igniter switch (or apply a match or lighter) until the flame catches
  3. Release the igniter switch but keep pressing the burner for the required amount of time (which varies). You’re heating a flame safety device (a thermocouple or thermoelectric valve) that only permits gas to flow while the burner is lit. Once the flame goes out, the valve will close, preventing the buildup of gas in the cabin.
  4. After a few seconds (again, the time varies depending on cooker model), you release the burner knob and can now adjust the flame intensity