• Alex

December Boat trip to Hebden

Well I'm not sure where to start. I had the sense it was time to take trip to Hebden Bridge. I was thinking along practical terms such as loading up with coal and being near the water station and my part time work at Valley Organics during the 'festive' season. It turned out to be a very challenging trip. First my phone ended up in the canal. I borrowed a net from a neighbouring boat to fish it out and amazingly everything still worked, except, the camera. I felt very disheartened by this as the camera is the only one I have and plays a major part in my work. I tried to focus on the fact that the phone still worked after half and hour underwater which was a small miracle!

The next problem arose as coolant began to spurt out of the header tank into the bottom of the engine bay. I drove slowly and tried not to worry too much. We were lucky enough to end up coming down with another boat which makes the big double locks of the Rochester Canal much easier and faster to negotiate. The boat was very tidy and huge at 71 feet long. As the last lock emptied and the gates opened the usual pattern of us leaving the lock first changed as the other boat also went forward. One of the lock gates was stuck and so wouldn't open fully and we ended up jammed between the two gates, unable to move backwards or forwards. I tried revving harder but that just caused the engine to release a cloud of smoke and another burst of coolant shot out of the header tank. I turned the engine off and slid down the side of the boats to see if I could see any obstacle at the base of the lock while the crew of each boat attempted to use the middle rope on the roof of the boat to pull us free. At this point the owner of the other boat informed me that this wasn't the first time they'd got wedged with other boats...

Eventually the crew freed us but Hyrrokin's engine wouldn't start and we ended up being towed to the water station in the near dark. I took a ten minute break to go into the bathroom and cry and swear and hit things. As my devoted and patient crew for the day pointed out we had made it to our destination! I clung to this with my all my might as I realised that now none of the electrics were working... aargh!

The next few days consisted of a cold and sore throat, a migraine, cancelling work, getting coal while nearly throwing up with pain from headache and a visit from the engineer. I also had the added sensory input of the noise of the local night venues and towpath goers. I really felt I'd made a big mistake but it forced me to slow down. There was nothing I could do but wait and slowly each obstacle dissolved. The electrics came back on as the coolant spill dried out. The engineer replaced the thermostat and hammered the wrongly fitted lid back onto the header tank promising to replace the whole system at some point in the future. I was very relieved it wasn't the head gasket causing the coolant leak. Friends came to my aid with moral boosting food packages and reassurance. The weather calmed down and the town was much quieter after the weekend. I took the time to make little signs of qualities to remind me to stay focussed on the process rather than the outcomes and I finally drew up the flyer for my event in January which I've been avoiding like the plague even though I'm clear it's now time to be reading poetry out in the world and to create alternative spaces for play and connection through art and ecology.

I feel incredibly grateful to myself for all the investment in my inner work as this type of situation would have caused me much more mental distress and collapse in the past. I am recognising that I am learning how to take care of myself and I get a lot of help with that often by doing nothing and just letting things change on their own. I was also glad to be stopped it made recognise again the extent of the force that has been injected into my system and how unsafe I feel inside myself when things are not 'going well' as though life's challenges are some kind of punishment for my spiritual/ existential inadequacy and not just part of being human and in some instants the result of oppressive/failing systems making things harder.

Below is a photo of Black Pit lock the one we ended up stuck in!

#canal #narrowboat #journeying #lifeafloat


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