It was busy out there on the Lanky this weekend. The busiest I’ve ever seen it. Everything was full to bursting. The cut was full of boaters, the boat was full of spiders and my sinuses were full of snot.
Every marina along th’ Owd Lanky must have emptied on Friday at once, pouring their post-lockdown, hypnagogic, sun-worshipping congregations into the boiling ditch, leaving nowhere for us continuous cruisers to moor. Yoghurt pots and rusty bums alike were sausaged bow to stern along the pilings, from Garstang Aqueduct to Lancaster’s Penny Street, the towpaths punctuated every few feet with bulging stomachs, flip-flops and spirals of barbecue smoke twisting up into the summer’s blue haze like the joss sticks in Blackbeard’s dreadlocks.
I’d planned to take Jeanie McIntosh (whose only experience of narrow boating so far had been the dark, frozen, gale-blown wastelands of the canal in mid-winter) to the Water Witch for Saturday teatime, where I was going to moor up and buy a KFC. I realised there might be problems when I reached the crowded outskirts of Galgate around dinner and it dawned on me that what I was witnessing was actually the queue from Lancaster.
With baking heat and boiling throngs (who’d apparently forgotten that Covid-19 was still running rampant) tempers naturally start to fray. A family of beetroot-faced narrowboaters emerged from the Glasson turnoff to a volley of shouts from the nearby clanking moorings of: “Slow down y’ fat bastards!” That’s what I love about the Lanky; the laid-back friendliness of the natives.
We hit Lancaster that evening, but had to wind back at the student accommodations. The whole city-stretch of the cut was chocker with poached boaters, for about a mile and a half down Aldecliffe Road, through Lancaster’s seething rear end. Eventually we moored at Haverbreaks, a stretch of towpath that was burned indelibly into my cerebral cortex a couple of years ago when me and Carol experienced engine trouble in exactly the same spot and were stranded for two days. Watching the sheep. And the ponies. And the tree. This tree.
We’re back at Ratcliffe Wharf now, where a floating island of debris (God only knows where these things originate – somewhere part of the Lanky is losing its edges faster than the antarctic) drifted under the bridge, fooling several boaters into thinking the canal had been blocked off by the CaRT and forcing them to turn around and head home again, to whatever socially inept marina they’d emerged from.
Jeanie and I spent the rest of the night reminiscing about the old times, when we didn’t resemble grotesque muppets or ache like all our bones were breaking every time we climbed the stairs, until a bloke from the CaRT turned up at dawn and told us to shut up.