Once upon a time the intention was to have Song & Dance launched at Thames & Kennet Marina, (because it’s close to home, and Piper Boats launch most of their Dutch Barges there), then spend our first season exploring the Southern canals, which we don’t know at all. But as launch date approached the Thames was still a bit up and down, and learning the new boat’s ropes on a volatile river didn’t seem that smart, nor did the chance of getting stuck there for weeks appeal much either.
So we launched in Longport – closest point to Piper’s factory – and stayed close by having a shakedown cruise on the Caldon Canal, before heading south for what remained of the summer. Good job we did, as it happened, as there were a number of problems with the boat that needed urgent attention. We had originally intended to do the Upper Thames, Kennet and Avon and Wey Navigation before heading back north for the winter, but as a result of the change in plan we were at Kennet Mouth / Thames & Kennet Marina some 2-3 months behind the back-of-an-envelope schedule!
So: down the K&A to Bristol if possible before turning round, or down the Thames and Wey to Godalming? The latter would mean we could go to the Piper Boat event/meet in September, but given the ongoing unresolved issues with the boat and Biggles’ unfortunate tendency to say what he thinks I’m not sure Song & Dance’s presence would have been entirely helpful or welcome! It’ll be no hardship coming back down the Oxford Canal again next spring.
So Bath and maybe Bristol here we come… an early start (for us, anyway) soon found us at the traffic lights controlling boat traffic through the Oracle Centre in Reading… Westward Ho!