It’s now been a month since we ‘set sail’ onto the canal with our new family member in tow – Jemima arrived 2 weeks late on 22nd April – and what an ‘adventure’ the first week was!
We purchased a 21 day pass for the Wey Navigation (this river – managed by the National Trust – will only allow visiting boaters on there for 21 days at a time) and set off towards Guildford and Godalming. We went back towards our ‘home’ towns for two reasons; to spend some time with Ed’s girls and also to be in familiar surroundings while we were ‘learning the ropes’ (see what I did there?!)
The afternoon of 6th June was our first voyage. We departed Pyrford for Send, a village towards Guildford where we would moor up for a couple of nights. I regrettably wasn’t able to take too much advantage of this journey as Jemima was very demanding of my time that day. As a result, Ed navigated 3 locks by himself and although slow, the journey was successful. The view was pretty, though not the prettiest we would see during the course of our voyage on the Wey.
We arrived at Send around dinner time. Ed scoped out a place to moor and set us up for the evening by pinning us with our front and back ropes. (On rivers and canals, unless there are signs prohibiting it, you can moor up wherever you like in the towpath and secure the boat to the bank using ropes and ‘mooring pins’, scary giant nail-type implements that stick into the ground and hurt when dropped on one’s foot!) We then took Jemima in her buggy on the 200 yard walk up the towpath to The New Inn and sat in the garden where we had some yummy burgers and chips for tea. I would recommend the burger at this place, I was really pleasantly surprised at how good it was.
We then made our way back home for a good night’s sleep as Ed was working the next day and needed some rest. I was to stay on the boat for the day and had plans to go and explore Send with Loki and Jemima. Ed departed for work early the following morning and Jemima and I settled back down to our morning nap.
This nap was was rudely interrupted by the first ‘learning curve’ I was to encounter on our journey; the neighbouring canal boat owner was knocking on the window to tell us that our front pin had slipped out of the ground and we were diagonally adrift across the river, blocking the whole thing! Naturally I panicked, because my boating skills were very much in their infancy, but our kind neighbour and his wife managed to pull the boat back in to the bank and tied us back up more securely. He also added a pin to the ground at the centre of the boat and tied our middle rope up too.
Needless to say Ed was informed of the situation by phone and came home that evening with a bottle of wine for our neighbours to say thank you, but sadly they had already moved on by then. Thank goodness for those kind people, because my word I wold have been scuppered without them!
The next day we got up early and moved onto our old haunt, Guildford. The journey between Send and Guildford was not the prettiest, but there was something charming about entering the town by boat – the world looks so different.
Ed was due in Lingfield for work that evening and needed to leave mid-afternoon so we moored up on the outskirts of town and off he went. We found a spot near the beautiful landmark of Ladymead Retail Park (anyone who knows Guildford knows I am being ironic here) and Ed moored us up extremely securely before reconfirming with me about 20 times that we weren’t going to float away again and departing. Jemima and I walked into town for a look around and got completely drenched by the most torrential rain I have seen in a while. We abandoned ship and came back to Crystal Clear to snuggle up for the evening in front of the iPad.
I must point out that during this whole time, the inverter on our boat has been broken, so there is no power being transformed from the batteries into mains power. So we had no mains except one charging point that Ed fashioned for us for the purpose of charging phones and my iPad only.
The following day saw us move to the other side of Guildford, around Millmead, near the lovely waterside pub ‘The Weyside’. This area was much prettier and easier access to town for shopping – always a bonus! Looking at Guildford from the river, the town I have spend many years in since being a student there, reminded me why I love it. It is so pretty and I really do feel lucky to have lived there.
Our journey then took us to Shalford, a small village between Guildford and Godalming. This stretch of the river is particularly beautiful, with trees and plant life aplenty. We had no real intention of mooring in Shalford, as we were heading straight to Godalming, however the torrential rain we had been experiencing had other ideas. It turned out, the river level was so high that there was one particular bridge (Broadford Bridge) that we were unable to sail under. Therefore we had to moor up for the night on a very muddy towpath. This was actually nice because we walked into the village to the local shop and admired all the pretty little cottages on the way to get some supplies.
We settled down and went to sleep that night, enjoying being all together and on our way…then…
I was awoken by Jemima at 3am and stumbled like an exhausted zombie into the kitchen to make up a bottle when I saw a rolling pin make it’s own way off the kitchen side. ‘Weird’ I thought. Then I noticed a couple more things in the boat had shifted. And it hit me. We were tilted (listing) massively to the left, because the water level had dropped so much that half the boat was now grounded. So I woke Ed and he had to go outside at 3.30am and run the engine full whack to attempt to get us corrected and then moored us to a neighbouring working barge until the morning. Poor Ed.
However, when the light of day came around we could see that we could then get get under Broadford Bridge and sail on to Godalming. We literally made it under by what felt like millimetres and away we went. We continued along the absolutely stunning Wey to Godalming and arrived at Godalming Wharf where we stayed for a couple of nights.
We planned on staying in Godalming for a few nights as Ed was away again for work and I wanted to be somewhere accessible with Jemima. However the first morning alone was quite dramatic (again) for me. I awoke to the smoke alarm going off and what looked like smoke filling the boat. It was terrifying; I had to get myself (in my PJs at that point), Jemima, Loki and Mittens off the boat and call Ed. To cut a long story short, the boiler had overcooked itself and was burning up the antifreeze which masqueraded as smoke and so it wasn’t anything major to worry about but nonetheless Ed was required to come home from work early to fix it.
As you can imagine, by this point I was at my wits end, as it felt like everytime I was left alone on the boat something went wrong – be it drifting across the river, torrential rain leaking in or the boiler packing up – and I was powerless to fix them. This was not a high point for me, I have to admit it. But the day we departed Godalming to go back towards Guildford and beyond was so beautiful and the landscape so pretty that it put a huge smile on both of our faces and reminded us of how fun it really was.
I can honestly say I have never had a week with as many emotional ups and downs as this one. One day something challenged me and I was ready to pack it all in, the next I was completely relaxed on cloud nine. The first week was a blessing in disguise as it taught both of us important lessons on things such as Crystal Clear’s inner workings, how to tie a rope, and the good nature of other boaters. I feel it was a baptism of fire that equipped us both for the next step: the journey towards the Thames.