Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Us and Them

When we were in Ely recently, we moored for the weekend next to Barry, a GRP cruiser owner. At first he didn't seem to be all that pleased to see us and made the odd (polite) remark about the Ouse not having enough moorings to accommodate all these narrowboats. I decided on a charm offensive and over the course of a couple of days we chatted a fair bit. Suffice it to say that by the end of the weekend we were the best of pals, and he told us to look out for him waving as we passed his house in Upwell the following week.

Cruiser owners see the river in a different way. To Barry cruisng was a bit like caravanning. Tootle out for a couple of hours in his covered driving seat (avoiding locks if at all possible), then find a nice mooring, preferably alongside other members of his cruising club, and have a nice day or two sitting in his deck chair reading the paper and enjoying a BBQ. Its a comfortable social event. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it ain't how the narrowboater sees it.

The narrowboaters in general are a hardier lot. They travel further, more slowly, stand or sit at the tiller in the open air and see the journey as more important than the destination. There's something about standing close to the water on the back of a slowly moving boat that brings you closer to nature.

You would have thought a 25 ft cruiser could go all sorts of places a narrowboat couldn't reach, but in fact it's the reverse. Barry couldn't take his boat to his home in Upwell because he couldn't get under the bridges. We met another couple in a beautiful big cruiser that couldn't get down river from Buckden that day because the river was up a couple of inches and a bridge was in the way. I couldn't even get Barry to cruise up Wicken Fen because he said it was too shallow. Then of course the cruisers can't get into narrow locks.

So I suppose it's not surprising that the two types of boater have a different idea of what their boat is for.

Then there is the third category, which Barry refers to in hushed and sinister tones. The Liveaboards (shock horror!). Now it's true that there are non licence paying new age traveller types in decrepit boats making a life on the water and many of them do make a lot of mess and a lot of noise with their generators. Most are very friendly, but I can see that Barry would prefer to keep away from them when he wants a nice quiet weekend on a visitor mooring. The problem is that he lumps all liveaboards into that category. What about the Sue and Vics ( No Problem) of this world who continually cruise, living on their smart and and lovingly cared for narrowboats. Barry, I fear, sees no difference.

Now we met a lot of cruiser owners on the Ouse and Nene and to my mind there were all just as nice as the narrowboaters - just different. Why we can't all get on better beats me. I suppose the narrowboaters all have some degree of gypsy in them . I'll own up to that. The cruiser is rather like a nice car and the narrowboat more akin to a lorry I suppose.


Anonymous said...

Hi Neil & Cath
I was born in Peterborough and my mum and brother live in Cambridge. Small world. Tony Robinson

VallyP said...

Unfortunately, it's the same here, Neil. We who live aboard are regarded as something akin to tramps by the cruiser brigade. I think they would be genuinely surprised to find that all of us in our community are either in highly respected professions (eg doctors, psychologists, lecturers) or are skilled craftsmen and that we live on board because when we go away we like to take our homes with us!

Okay, we all love our historic barges too and the history of Holland that they represent. But as you say, we (and I in particular) can go many many places that they can't, and so we have the best of the waterways in general. We see our barges in terms of long distance journeys, and they see their cruisers as weekend spuddle abouts!

In the end, we all have as much fun as each other, but I guess it's true that they have less to worry about in terms of maintenance!