After an eventful start to our 2020 season (see our previous Blog), we were pleased that it didn’t take us long to receive bookings and we soon had guests booked on every trip. We made the decision that it would be safer to take bookings from a couple/family or people from within the same bubble. It was important for us to keep our guests and ourselves as safe as possible. We put extra cleaning practices into place, took everyone’s temperature twice daily, sanitized whenever any of us had been off the boat and so on….
We wore a visor or a mask whenever we were around our guests, and guests did likewise and we all did our part in the unprecedented times.
We are keeping everything crossed for a better 2021 season, and with recent news of new vaccines, hope that boating life can get back to some form of normality. We will certainly have the inoculation as soon as we are able and hope that others act responsibly by having it whenever they can.
As for the 2020 season itself, we enjoyed many trips with good weather – a few which were quite breezy and luckily not many rainy days. Guests enjoyed the tranquility of the River Thame, especially on the upper reaches in the open countryside, but also the busier areas with all the lovely houses and places to see and visit. On the hot sunny weekends it was noticeable how busy the river became, and on some Sundays, an hour waiting in a lock queue became normal!
One lovely sunny weekend on our cruise down to Windsor the river was very busy, so we had to wait at most locks to get through. It wasn’t helped by most of the locks being on Self Service, which we found the new normal this year. One day we had to carry on cruising over lunchtime, which we very rarely do, and even then, arrived in Windsor much later than expected.
Then one misty morning around 7.30am we were moored near Hurley lock close to the wooden footbridge, when a rather large cruiser came steaming past us, heading for the lock. All passengers on board were with the skipper on the fly bridge. They ducked to get under the bridge but forgot to take down the gantry holding various equipment, including aerials, radar and something else looking important and expensive. Seeing what was going to happen, we watched…… As they hit the bridge, the engine screamed into reverse with a cloud of smoke, then the radar, 1 aerial and the expensive-looking thing fell into the river and disappeared. They then had a devil of a job to get unhooked from the underside of the bridge. We could not believe what we had just witnessed but we all commented “that will cost them” when they come to get it fixed. The real disappointment was that none of us had been quick enough to take a photo! We informed the next lockkeeper we came across about it and they said that they would get it checked out for damage to the bridge. Apparently it wasn’t the first time someone had done something similar at Hurley.
This year we missed the Paddington Arm, the Regents Canal and central London areas, having made the decision to steer clear of these busy areas. We know it was the right decision for 2020, and are looking forward to being back there in 2021.
The 2020 Season ended with our last trips returning us to our winter mooring at Napton on the Grand Union Canal. The boat was bedded down and winterised and we headed back to Louth for the winter and the hope that 2020 will be a one-off and the new normal in 2021 will be a happier time for boaters, guests and onlookers alike.