Locked down . . . on a narrowboat
Gisborne couple Sandra Walsh and Barry Teutenberg had to radically alter their plans when Covid-19 struck the UK. The ‘continuous cruisers’ have been exploring the canals and rivers in England and Wales by narrowboat since 2009. Sandra tells us about life in lockdown on their sixty foot by six foot ten inches floating home.
Having severely limited our cruising to a short distance in the northwest of England over winter, we'd been anticipating venturing to new waters in the spring. In the second week of March, I'd enjoyed a week-long ‘holiday of a lifetime with girlfriends' in Barbados and was surprised to discover I loved the country and its people almost as much as Gisborne and New Zealand!
Meanwhile, Barry headed to a small market town called Nantwich, to meet me on my return. Our itinerary was then to cruise slowly towards Liverpool for a booked passage into the docks on 13th May. We've not moored there previously, so it was a bucket-list-treat.
Flying back to Birmingham, and during two subsequent train journeys, I was acutely aware of the risk of exposure to coronavirus. Living on a narrowboat, sixty foot long and six foot ten inches wide (18.3m x 2.1m), it would be a huge challenge for one of us to self-isolate. Keeping well and staying away from others, became our goal from March 16 . . . a week before the UK was officially ‘locked down'.
To be honest it hasn't been a big hardship for us. As a handy Kiwi, Barry's caught up on all manner of odd jobs. My online work continues, albeit reduced. And I found writing a daily blog from March 18 helps — a therapeutic distraction to reflect on our Covid-19 journey.
One positive was selling Barry's floating and online business of six years, The Home Brew Boat. Nothing to do with coronavirus, it had been ‘on the market' since February 9 and we had accepted an offer. The new owners live on land -— which turned out to be extremely fortuitous given the impending challenges of courier deliveries!
On March 17, they collected all stock from the back third of our boat. By March 23, my youngest daughter had left Nigeria where she's worked for many years, with minutes to spare before their airport closed. Having the space meant our cosy boatman's cabin was shipshape for her to snuggle in and self-isolate for two weeks. Well, a sort of isolation — as good as it gets in our tiny space. She's still with us five weeks later, teaching online.
We left Nantwich on March 28 due to persistent pedestrians and cyclists passing uncomfortably close to the boat along the towpath — definitely not the advised two metres away. We found a perfect countryside mooring near a place called Hurleston Junction and have remained there, moored with two other boats in a self-confined ‘bubble'.
There we enjoy a semblance of a garden, below the path next to our boat, and have three different directions available to take our allowed ‘daily exercise'. There are far fewer folks walking past. The sun rises one side, and sets the other. We stargaze, satellite-spot, and notice the changing lunar cycle.
We have to move every couple of weeks or so to fill our water tanks and diesel, empty the toilet, and do a grocery shop.
If we time it right, there's a ‘Fuel Boat' who'll fill us up with diesel, empty our loo (it's known as a ‘pump-out'), and top us up with coal for our stove. Thankfully the British weather's been unseasonably warm and sunny recently.
Like most people living on land, we've communicated more than normal with family and friends around the world. The inability to make a journey to meet up with family, to commemorate my dad's 100th birthday on March 30, was a sad consequence. A holiday to Scotland at the end of April, with my younger sister and brother-in-law, was disappointingly cancelled.
However, most important of all for us, are our tickets to fly back to New Zealand on August 16. We had planned to arrive in time for Barry's son Tom's 30th birthday. There remains a faint hope Air New Zealand, and its partner airline Cathay Pacific, will get us back ‘home'. A 14-day quarantine would mean missing the big day but I'm sure we will find a workable way to delay the celebrations!
• If you're interested in following our journey on and off NB Areandare, go to www.barryandsandra.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter @nbareandare