We’d had a loose arrangement to moor overnight with Excellence Afloat at Valley Cruisers’ wharf just on the outskirts of central Stratford (IYSWIM), but had failed to get back in touch with the chap who’d said it would be OK. So, with some trepidation, on Sunday morning we moved less than a mile down to their wharf, where the place looked closed, there were loads of seemingly permanently moored boats, a few unoccupied hire boats, and the only space seemingly available was on the public water point. We tied up, and deciding that if nothing else we’d take on water, even though diesel was a more pressing concern, let alone catching up on the laundry.
Wandering along the line of boats, a friendly chap with a paintbrush came up and said “Can I help?”, so we did the “David said we’d be able to moor here tonight with an electric hook-up – is he around? He’s not answering his mobile.” routine. “That’ll be because he knows I’m here…”
Seemed he was in Coventry, but our new friend said, “Anyway, I’m sure it’ll be alright… just wait a bit while I move that boat there, and that one down there, and that one into the covered dock… then you can slide in there and…” and after some considerable shuffling involving several other chaps who appeared, we were tied up, hooked up, the washing machine was running, and there was a promise of diesel in the morning, so all seemed well. Except that our friend, who’d run around sorting all the moorings out quickly so he could watch Lewis Hamilton in the Spanish Grand-Prix then spent the afternoon looking miserable because Hamilton took out Rosberg and himself on pretty much the first corner. So we’re told.
Meanwhile Biggles seemed quite happy, despite the fact that there were seven dogs running around the wharf, including a lurcher, a recently retired greyhound, a whippet and a bichon frise. Definitely time to practice his whippet baiting techniques. The sizeable mongrel that smelt his food, jumped aboard the front from another boat and rapidly emptied Sir’s food bowl got a shock when Sir, asleep on a chair near his food, woke up, stretched out and smacked the dog around the head with extreme prejudice.
A quick wander later on to get some milk found – less than ten minute’s walk away – a pleasant looking Balti House with a special offer: a starter, a main course, a rice dish and a nan all for £9.95. It seemed rude not to eat there! It was a different menu to the full a la carte one, but perfectly comprehensive; the food was excellent, we felt more than stuffed, and still had a Peshwari Nan left over to take home for tomorrow’s lunch. The Maître D admitted that the portions on the special were slightly smaller, for which we thought “Thank Heavens” before tottering off back to Song & Dance to sleep it off.
The next morning Mr & Mrs David turned up, along with some returning hire boats to turn round; it was all a bit chaotic but we were diesel-ed, pumped out, bought some new fenders, had managed to get most of the washing dry, and were ready for the long haul (1 mile and 2 little locks) into the middle of Stratford by lunchtime. Although his diesel was a bit expensive, it was only after we had left that we realised he didn’t seem to have charged us for the mooring and hook-up. Excellence Afloat indeed!