It’s been very strange getting used to boating without the Captain. At home, he came and went at will, pottering around the garden, and keeping his eye out for Otto, the next door neighbour villain. We came and went at will too, enjoying one-another’s company when around without paying a great deal of attention to each other’s whereabouts. Sometimes all three of us would take a stroll out the back garden and up the bridle path to the local cemetery, and at times he would honour us by sleeping on a lap or the end of the bed.
On the boat, it was different altogether. You couldn’t cast off without checking he was on board; if he slipped ashore at a lock or a bridge you had to wait until he returned after going about his business (or venture out and try and catch him if what he really wanted was a snooze in the bushes). When mooring up for the night, we were always trying to find places we thought he’d like – and got better at it over the years. When he went out his cat flap at night, one always had half-an-ear open for his return, or for an unexpected splash… He was always on our minds, apart from the rare occasions we slipped up or were distracted.
Now we don’t have any such constraints – it’s proving very odd.
Rather than being conventional and burying him in his back garden, at Fran’s suggestion we’d had him cremated with the intention of scattering his ashes somewhere suitable on the canal system. But where?
It needed to be somewhere we’d cruise past on occasion, and somewhere he’d been happy to stay.
We ended up deciding that the spot that best met both requirements was just above Wood End Lock, near Fradley Junction on the Trent and Mersey Canal. It may not look much, and it might seem odd to pick a place where he was really fed up with boating in a heatwave. But he liked it enough to chill out for two days of sunshine, just popping back to the boat totally unconcerned for a snack before heading back to his hidey-hole. Nice thick hedgerows and trees to hide in, with open fields the other side. Just what the doctor ordered.
There are boats coming and going at the lock just a hundred yards away, and a couple of residential boats on the other bank, so if he’s restless he’s got someone to haunt…
So, in very different weather to his first visit, we did the deed in cold mizzly rain, scattering his ashes in the bushes, and bidding him a final farewell, toasting his memory with a glass of Jura Malt Whisky (ironically one of the Hebridean islands he hadn’t visited).
We didn’t think he was going to be able to join us on the boat at all this year, but thanks to his superb veterinary staff, he had a pleasant final spring cruise against all the odds. We still miss him like heck: our good sport, our Brave Companion of the Road (and waterways!).
R.I.P. dear Biggles.