Saturday was going to be yet another very warm day and the trip boats at Oxford Open Doors were going to be very busy - especially as they were free, but a donation appreciated. This is an event that the IWA supports with the free boat trips, but there are other canal related stalls in the Pocket Park drawing attention to the restoration of the Oxford canal basin (now a car park) etc.
We began at 9.30 with the first boat of three leaving. The trip normally took about 40 mins, but with various other boats also wanting to use Isis lock, it was impossible to predict a consistent schedule and often the trip would take and hour and stack up at the top of the lock, so that we then had to try and stagger the boats, so that we didn't all return to the landing at the same time. I took a rather longer detour up part of the Thames to do that and turned ahead of a large trip cruiser, which had stopped for no obvious reason. As I turned back into the Sheepwash Channel, I noticed the skipper giving me the evil eye as the boat went past - what was he thinking, I wonder?
In the afternoon, Oxford Cruisers hire boats were showing the new boaters how to operate a lock and of course, Isis Lock was the nearest, so that also clogged up the works. Then there were the boats that wanted to wind below the lock to return up the canal, like the Pirates on an Oxfordshire Narrowboats ship, who seemed to take forever. There was lots of banter though, on the lines of "Belay there, you skurvy sons of dogs!" and associated pirate bollox!
It was in all, a very busy and enjoyable day, without a hint of boredom. Just how I like it and I am very tired and now have to go for a lie down!
Sunday was going to be another scorcher and the first trip boat had already left without me as crewman, that is the person responsible for the safety of the passengers as well as the mooring up part of the trip and the fount of all knowledge of anything to do with canals or boats. Only ten persons are allowed on each trip, along with two crew and I would guess that about 70% of them spoke a foreign language, so the majority were tourists. Very few wanted to know much about the English canal system, but they were nearly all interested in how people lived on boats in the present day.
It was a shorthanded day for IWA members, so it was a quick dash to get some lunch and continue working with food in hand. At one point when Peter Darch was steering out into the Thames to wind the boat, another narrow boat approached the entrance to Sheepwash channel and started to turn into it, but with insufficient speed to combat the current and they were being swept downstream whilst they hesitated. Peter shouted at them to speed up, which they then did, but they struck the cabin top on the underside of the bowed footbridge, which pushed the boat lower in the water, but seemed to do little damage. When we came back to the lock they were on their way out, as it appeared that they had taken a wrong turning. Funny people!
All in all, it was another exhausting day, but enjoyable meeting and talking to other people. We collected about £340 in contributions for the IWA, which surpassed the previous year, so it was also a very satisfying weekend.