Sunday, 7 March 2010

Not all narrowboaters are crazy

When I tell people that our narrowboat has been in France since 2000, the first question is usually 'How did you cross the Channel?' with an implied 'Surely you didn't sail across?'

We may be strange but we're not totally crazy. Some narrowboaters do sail across the Channel, the busiest shipping lane in the world, usually for a media stunt that earns them enough money to take unpaid leave from the day-job.

We had ours shipped across on a low loader. Here is MWNN greeting the lorry driver on the quayside at Calais.

How did we get her into the water? An amazing Frenchman, Monsieur Eugene, brought along his travelling crane and lifted her into the inner harbour, where we waited amid storms and high tides for the all clear to cross the outer harbour to the lock that leads to the Inland Waterways. We spent the next 6 months aboard with our two dogs, a German Shepherd and a black and tan Terrier.

We've learned a lot in the 10 years' cruising the French and Belgian waterways mostly about the dangers that lurk waiting for the unsuspecting narrowboat, the joys of the rivers and canals and the French who live far from the tourist spots, deep in the heart of rural France or the small towns that are struggling to survive in the 21st century when traditional values and family life are under attack. Our spoken French improves each year and then declines again while we're back in the UK.