Messing about on the river

English: Building a Dugout Canoe at Basecamp K...

English: Building a Dugout Canoe at Basecamp Karuskose in Soomaa National Park, Estonia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a means of transport, boats must be among the very earliest discovered by mankind. A wandering caveman probably saw something like a log drifting down a river and had a brainwave. All he had to do was climb aboard and he could float effortlessly wherever the river went. Logs are not particularly stable, so it wasn’t long before he became fed up with falling in and had the idea of hollowing out the log to make a boat.

The form factor of modern boats has not really changed that much from these early days. With the odd departure into hovercrafts and hydrofoils, pretty much every modern boat relies on Archimedes principle of displacement in order to float. There have been advances in things such as instrumentation and propulsion but the shape of modern vessels has barely changed from the prehistoric dugout canoe.

I have always been fascinated by boats and having just finished The Voyage of the Princess Matilda by Shane Spall, I find myself pleasantly reminded of the days when we had a boat. It was a small cabin cruiser which we moored down near Staines on the River Thames. It is barely a 15 minute drive between Staines and Windsor by car, but in our boat it took 4 hours. Firstly because rivers aren’t straight. Secondly, because boats aren’t quick and lastly because there are 4 locks that lie between them.

The nicest feeling in the world is waking up early and drinking a steaming hot cup of tea whilst sat in the morning chill on the back of your boat. The swans would drift silently through the mist with Windsor Castle as a backdrop.

We had our fair share of thrills and spills and how I didn’t receive a ducking is beyond me. I came very close on a couple of occasions. The first was when I leapt from a moving vessel onto a mooring pontoon. That was when I learned the valuable lesson that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and I barely managed to keep my footing.

English: Canal boat entering Lock on the Thame...

English: Canal boat entering Lock on the Thames river. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second time was in a lock. It doesn’t matter how much practise you have at going through a lock. It is still very easy to mess it up and when it goes wrong, it causes much merriment among anyone there to see it. My brother was driving, I was on the rear rope and my sister in law on the front rope. Somehow I managed to end up horizontally with my hands on the side of the lock and my feet on the boat looking down into a rapidly expanding chasm of water. Somehow I managed to crab my way to the front of the boat.

So why did I get rid of it? Boats are expensive. A friend of mine maintains that a boat is something you pour money into until it sinks. Take any product or service and insert the word “boat” and the price trebles instantly. We just weren’t getting enough use out of it to justify the expenditure.

Also – boats get filthy. If ever there was a technological advance worth making, it must be the self-cleaning boat.


What’s in a name?

Boat shoes boat shoes boat shoes.

So why “”?

Anyone who sets up a personal blog under a domain name wants something that is relevant and obviously available to buy. Availability of good domain names has diminished as the web has grown, so it’s always a struggle to fine something that you like. I have always had a fascination for all things nautical, and this is reflected in the clothes I choose to wear. It is rare to see me out of a blazer and a pair of blue deck shoes, so I was delighted when I found the domain available.

I don’t know what it is about boats, but my fascination began at an early age. As children, we were ferried across to Ireland at least once a year in order to see the family. I found the whole journey totally absorbing. There is nothing quite like the feeling of standing on deck watching the dock workers untether the various mooring lines and see the ship ease away from the dock.

I remember the crossings were always very rough. My mum would start to be sick the second the ship passed the harbour wall at Holyhead, and she wouldn’t stop until the ship passed the harbour wall at the other end. She wasn’t alone. One thing you learnt on these crossings was to make sure that you used the toilets early in the voyage, because at the end, you would be paddling in the unmentionable.

I used to like standing on deck during the rough weather. I loved to watch the big waves as they crashed over the ship. The sheer power on the sea was awesome as massive peaks and crests appeared in the sea. The way you needed to lean as you stood in order to remain upright made me smile every time.

I carried this love on into my adult life. My wife and I have been lucky enough to have travelled on a number of cruises all over the world. We even owned a small boat on the Thames for about 4 years. At one point in my life, I very nearly joined the Navy. What a different life it might have been!

So when you look down at my feet and you see a pair of blue deck shoes – that’s the reason why!