Eco Mooring – Where There’s Brass

My seven days in Little Venice were over and it was time to move on again. I had booked an “eco-berth” in Kings Cross and was curious to see what that actually meant. I had an early breakfast and got the boat ready to move, enjoying watching the character of the boat change as I did. Away from the solar panels, the roof has been wiped clean, the engine chimney is restored to its position, the brushed brass, the aft deck and wiper blade, the tall pole placed on the deck, the propeller shaft on its small rug at the top of the cabin, the vital rubber ducks are repositioned Previous lamp base. Chaos is hidden and the boat assumes an air of pervasive readiness, everything is in place. I woke up with Scooby Snacks from The Fun Lovin ‘Criminals’ in my head, a song I haven’t thought of in years and don’t particularly like, but it provided a decent stimulus to work.

I started the engine and launched Spy from the dock. The boat I was in showed no signs of going forward despite having it before my arrival. Lots of boaters push the scheduled time for a few days, waiting for a break in their work schedules. I headed back down the line to Little Venice itself where the water was wide enough to turn around. Going backwards is a skill I haven’t fully mastered yet. Working boaters used to take Clayton tankers back under the locks in Wolverhampton to the gas plants halfway down and I’ve heard many accounts of how they skilfully operated backwards in complete control. It did a reasonably good job, I only need to turn the motor forward a few times to straighten it out. When you do anything impressive with boat control you can guarantee no one is watching to appreciate it, and when you totally screw it up there are sure to be hordes of people filming it on their phones.

Polish fuel boats were on service mooring at the dock, waiting for a new generator belt.

My new friends on Polish fuel boats

“It’s good to see you!” Their leader shouted, his enthusiasm was unaffected by the setback. The huge dog sleeps on the roof spread like a meat quilt. I swung the front end of the Spey Tour and headed into the Maida Hill Tunnel, running the engine hard enough to generate a barrage of red sparks as old carbon from the diesel days continued to purge itself from the exhaust ports. At Camden it was raining profusely, and there were as yet no empty places at the moorings for visitors.

Working the locks myself in the rain was slow. I didn’t want to leave the boat unattended, so I couldn’t move forward. The rain became heavier, and I was more careful when crossing the gates. The weather had reduced the number of bombers to a handful, though one of the men yelled “Smelly diesel engine! Must be banned!” at me as I was on top lock. I cheerfully told him that he was on green biofuel and that he might want to think about the fuck and he just fiddled and spun away without further comment.

In the middle lock, the miserable security guards stood in the rain doing nothing. I tried to strike up a conversation with them, but they gave me one word answers and I slipped away. By a somewhat strange coincidence, the tape they were guarding was playing “Scooby Snacks” on the speaker system.

He does it slowly in the rain. Lower lock in Camden.

Under the lower lock, I paused to lubricate the motor round, make some tea, and take a pee. Having completed the third of these vital activities, I opened the engine room doors again to find a man with an expensive camera pointing his lens directly at me. Always perform.

At St Pancras I hooked up to the service point and started adjusting the lock. A large, cheerful bearded man appeared from inside the sailing stick on his short arm and said hello. He looked no different than Phil Bear and remembered when I darkened Steve Knightley during my trip in England, I presented myself with caution.

“I’m Andy.” Show, and take my lever to run me through the lock.

“Lovely boat. You should come to the night club on Wednesday, meet the members. I will log you in. “

I reached the eco-berths and found my place occupied by an unattended boat. It was really raining, so I tied up after the last boat in the no-docking section, hung my coat in front of the range, had lunch and thought about my options. I called the anchor guard, who seemed subdued by everything.

“Try and get in where you can. We do allow double berthing, even outside the wide beams.”

I asked him about the reservation system application.

“There is not much I can do. I can ask people who are overstayed or who do not have a reservation to go ahead but if they don’t then I have no authority to enforce it.”

After a few hours, the space became available, and I directed Spey to it. I was out of a live house and had just started hooking up with Spey when a lady came out and told me she was about to go ahead, so I left the lines and let Spey out again. Finally, I rushed into space and tied up. The next task was to connect to the power base. I ran my wire and just reached the only socket left. I am logged in to my account. The service was outsourced to a company called Meter-Macs, I had created an account and had charged a minimum of £10 to it beforehand. There was no option called “Treaty Street”. I called the guard again.

“Yes, they think it’s called York Street, I was trying to get them to change it. I know it doesn’t make sense.”

I thanked him and promised during the process. I found York Street and after realizing that the outriggers were nicely numbered in contrast to the docking site numbers, I set the correct base, but my socket was not listed. I called again.

“Hi, I’m back. It looks like my socket is not included.”

“This is strange. I will call the supplier.”

Half an hour later, it was available and I was able to connect.

An hour later, at dusk, another boat appeared, looking for a place to be booked. I helped him tie the boat off another boat and explained my experience of it being a little fight. Rain fell all around us.

“What’s the damned point then?”

He was very wet and angry at the situation. We found another boat that was about to move and didn’t need its socket anymore. Gradually get ready. He was a professional boatman, helping people move boats around the southern waterways.

“People with no knowledge of the waterways buy boats, the marina pushes them out the door and they have no idea what to do. Especially those big guys. Many boats never go further than the nearest pump out and back. People are afraid to move, so I do That’s for them. We have all kinds. Dutch barges landing on the tidal jetties on the Thames, barges moving up the country.”

My place was at the end of the Battlebridge Basin, across from Kings Place, the Guardian headquarters and cultural centre. Years ago, I was doing a gig in the smaller hall when my band was a passing brush with success. Across the water it seemed so far away now, with a very expensive wine bar called “Rotunda” full of wealthy drinkers, their voices carrying water to our pool of filthy houseboats as they enjoyed their after-work drinks. Once again, we were intrusive, and a sliver of rough life intersects this upscale seaside destination.

“Baby, there are boats in the canal again.”

“How appalling.”

How awful, smelly old boat.

Eco-friendly mooring seemed to mean no motors or alternators, and certainly no burning used diapers in the range, so I could just burn smokeless fuel which reduced my cooking options to single meals, as I would struggle to make the oven too hot without Wood . I cooked a sausage stew and removed everything for the fleeting storm that was rocking outside all night and kept me awake. In the morning, a floating island of mats and reeds appeared beside and between the boats. A little bird stood on it and faced me as if it were all my fault.

I wandered around the area again during the week, up the hill to what became my usual Islington music session, and pieced it all together. The Weapon Box, where one can get rid of unwanted weapons, still comes as a surprise to a northerner like me. At Waitrose, I was doing the know, trying to buy a bottle of St Emilion at 38, showing all the signs of a particularly difficult paper tour, was a surprise.

“Because that’s exactly what teens are after, that kind of thing. You see them all hanging out on street corners with Saint Joseph and Chateau Neuf de Papis, doing crossword puzzles for the Times and comparing portfolios.” I said cheerfully, producing my driver’s license. In fact, I was flattered.

On a Wednesday, I made my way to the St Pancras Cruise Club for a member’s drinks night. I was locked into what was promised by Andy who pitched himself in what was clearly his place at the end of the pub and then the Commodore himself checked in. Their club is called “The Waterpoint” and it’s the old water tower from the gas stations. They took me straight to the roof, through a large hatch. It’s an exciting sight in every direction, from gas carriers across the canal, now expensive apartment packs, across the dock, railroads coming through what used to be Coal Square, Eurostars and regular trains, huge train canopies at Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, and then the Google HQ building The mighty new, a construction site of gigantic proportions with no less than 7 cranes dancing above it.

View from water point – gas holders now carry flats instead.
View from the water point – the arm holding the St Pancras Cruising Club
View from Water Point – St Pancras Station

I first came here with Spey 20 years ago when I was 18, and Kings Cross had a good reputation at the time. As a naive country boy coming from the shires, I was somewhat overwhelmed with the whole thing. I remember calling my parents from a call box and it was getting dark when I shut the door behind me, like whore card numbers in the windows, blocking the light.

The entire area had spent the past two centuries as a city floor, and the transformation from an industrial waste zone to an ultra-modern ZIP code was terrifyingly fast. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the pace of change, the Sailing Club became entrenched in its own little patch, adopting something of a siege mentality, keeping the tides of change out of its surroundings. The tractors were moved from their old position and erected on the wrong side of the canal, the water tower was pulled up the hill and placed at the end of their arm, and gas plants, flats and offices were demolished and cleared. Coal Yards are now restaurants and boutiques. The world has moved around them.

An Australian couple had just bought a closed cottage and were also attending the evening, fraternizing with their new neighbours. They kindly put a large amount of money behind the bar, which was enthusiastically set by many members. The closed box containing the good spirits was suddenly opened and a joyful atmosphere developed.

As night drew near and people began to leave, I congratulated what I thought was the Australian man in his new padlocked cottage, only to discover it was a case of wrong identity and I congratulated the wrong man. After he left, the Commodore spoke to me softly;

“Yes, he wouldn’t appreciate it. He has very Nice place in Notting Hill.”

Having made enough mistake one evening, I headed home to Spey.

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