Saturday, 13 July 2013

Joyful Times

Last weekend saw the wedding of two of our friends, the lovely Kate Morley and Julius Rix.

I've held off [publishing this post] while I waited for more photos to be emailed to me......

Our friends Julius and Kate are boaters. They live aboard nb Nooksak in Cambridge and keep a mooring out here at The Parish too.

We've known Julius since he was looking after Simon and Alex's Dutch Barge and saw him buy nb Nooksak from Rhian and start to refit it.

Just at the point he'd rendered the boat almost totally uninhabitable (amongst other things, the bathroom was missing), he started to see rather a lot of a young Australian scientist called Kate.......

Well she must have liked him lots, because she put up with it all until it was fixed, at which point Julius promptly upped and offed to Antarctica for three months.......


But never underestimate the Antipodean gift for tenacity...........

(And never, ever get into a drinking contest with one. It will end in tears, I promise you...... though it has to be said, their blokes are much easier to beat........ , but I digress......)

.........for, this Spring, they announced their engagement.

Now that's a pretty cool invite, isn't it?

 Actually, this weekend wasn't their wedding wedding, they did that last week in Gibraltar........

"Why so?" I hear you cry.....

Well, Julius's late father was English, his mother is Malaysian, and Kate's folks all hail from Brisbane, Australia.

Faced with such a diaspora, the happy couple took the very wise decision to marry in Gibraltar, thereby inconveniencing everyone to a more or less equal degree.

(And yes, I know somewhere more in the middle, like Singapore, would have made more sense, but it isn't a Crown Colony. This increases the paperwork by an order of magnitude, raises all sorts of legal issues, and increases the number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through by a truly ridiculous amount, apparently...)

Anyway, here's 'The Ceremony in Sixty Seconds', taken by accident when Julius set up his camera for a test time lapse shot, then forgot all about it in the way that nervous grooms do.........

Brilliant, isn't it? Talk about serendipity.......   :-)

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, this weekend's celebration......

They decided to have another reception in England for friends and family who couldn't make the festivities in Spain which followed the ceremony in Gibraltar....... (as I've already mentioned, those Aussies don't half know how to party.....)

Which is where we came in........

The reception was to be held at The Maltings on Ely Riverside at 19:00hrs, Saturday 6th July 2013.

Julius and Kate wanted to arrive with the majority of their guests in a flotilla of boats. Thus, a convoy comprising Nooksak, Pippin, Malus (our friend Rhoda's boat, also moored at The Parish), the hire boat Platinum Fox, which some guests had taken for a week around the event, and a boat borrowed from Andy Rankin of Midsummer Energy assembled at Bottisham lock to meet the guests due to arrive at 15:00.

Now, the best laid plans of mice and men do often come horribly unglued.......... and so it looked when, at about 11:30, Rod and Emma, the guests who had been given charge of Andy's boat, phoned to say they were having trouble with the drive belt which was slipping badly and couldn't make more than 2 knots.

At this point, several things need explaining:
  • Andy's boat is electrically propelled and solar powered. Andy is a quiet genius who not only runs Midsummer Energy, supplying domestic and boater solar needs with the best panels, he is also a brilliantly talented engineer who has built his boat's propulsion systems from scratch, using bits of old spin-dryer, most of a redundant milk-float and copious quantities of baling twine.
  • Rod is a serving officer in The Fleet Air Arm. He not only pilots the Lynx helicopter for a job, he flies a 1940's vintage four seater fixed-wing aircraft, which he maintains himself, for a hobby.....
The latter is a very good thing indeed, for when the main motor's wiring loom started to smoke as much as the slipping drive belt, Rod coolly killed the power and stood by with an extinguisher, (which wasn't needed in the end), then got the boat to the bank by using the kind offices of a convenient towpath walker, and bow-hauled the boat the remaining 1/4 of a mile to Baits Bite Lock.

Three cheers for Rod!!!

However, as regular readers of this nonsense will know, if any boat is in trouble or danger on The Cam, there's normally only one boat and one man for the job!

Yes, The Mighty Pippin and Boat-Man!

Er, no.

Not this time.......

I had arrived back from Tesco laden with goodies for the forthcoming cruise, and, having been appraised of the situation, was hopping across the floodbank, half-in and half-out of my spandex Boat-Man suit, just in time to see Joss, skipper of Platinum Fox, putting his helm amidships (having executed a rooster-tailed emergency turn) and set course to assist.

Well, really......!

Actually, I didn't feel at all miffed, as he seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Besides, Jackie needed me to help put the finishing touches to Pippin, which we had been preddying-up to the nines all morning............

Guests began to arrive. First Julius's Mum, Grandmother, Aunts and Uncle. They were coming with us on Pippin, so were met, greeted, then sat in the shade under the willows while we finished hosing-down the interior with Mr Sheen (nb. Non-English readers, that's a brand of aerosol furniture polish, not a person......)

Joss returned from his rescue mission with Andy's Boat strapped securely to the side of Platinum Fox. He was in good time to meet the rest of the guests, who seemed to all arrive at once. They were all on the same train from Cambridge to Waterbeach, whence they walked across the fields to Bottisham Lock where the flotilla was assembling.

And so it was that the five-boat flotilla set sail for the festivities in Ely!

 Seen from Pippin's stern, Malus, Andy's Boat/Platinum Fox and Nooksak.
(The lone canoeist wasn't part of the convoy!)

Despite having three pregnant women and a party of five other tee-totallers aboard,
we managed to drink our way through an unconscionable amount of prosecco......

Malus leading Platinum Fox/Andy's Boat

 Malus, left, with Rhoda at the helm (doing a very good impersonation of Huckleberry Finn)
Nooksak to the right, partying in earnest. Both viewed from the bow of wb Pippin
(Photo courtesy James Rix)

We duly arrived at Ely Riverside at about 19:00hrs. Pippin was in the vanguard and thus was first to moor up.
As we turned in to the space reserved for us on the mooring outside The Maltings, my ears were assaulted by the shriekings of some numpty on a re-cycled yoghurt pot.

"You can't moor there! Read the signs!! READ THE SIGNS!!!!"......

Doubtless, he felt aggrieved that his natural right to moor wheresoever he chose in his nasty little plastic thing had been over-ridden by Julius and Kate's wedding venue (who have a legitimate lien on the mooring there), and was seeking to vent a little spleen.

I had guests. Some of them elderly.....

So I refrained from telling the little prat exactly where he could park his objections, and moored up in an elegant and efficient silence.

The fact that Pippin was swiftly followed by four other narrowboats, all bearing guests in wedding attire, seemed to put paid to any further nonsense.

With her passengers disembarked, Pippin, with Jackie at the helm, followed Malus to moor downstream next to the Fun Fair for the next day's Ely Water Pageant.

I took the helm of Nooksak and took her downstream of all the traffic, turned, then bought her back to moor snugly in the spot so recently disputed by the lobotomised owner of fibreglass.

Nooksak went as beautifully as she did when I last had a go when Rhian owned her. (Though that air-cooled Lister three-pot must have been a bugger in the heat.....)

No further objections to my mooring Nooksak up were raised.

(Though one wonders whether the couple of Large Australian Men seen walking towards the source of the earlier commotion could have had anything to do with that...... No bodies have, so far, been found, so we will never know.......)

The wedding reception was, by now, well underway: glasses of champagne had been offered around and guests ushered in to dinner,

The crews of Pippin and Malus were, however, showering, changing, and doing their level best not to look like the dirty river travellers of legend.

I have to say, I reckon we scrubbed up pretty well.

(Jackie and Rhoda especially, though I did make a point of pressing my Dress No1 Overalls and washing behind my ears......)

The reception was a sheer delight: great food, lovely company, and a photo booth with a fancy dress box attached!

Run by, it could only be fitting for the cast and crew of The Mighty Pippin...

Rhoda, John and Jackie

The Happy Couple

Grandma Jackie and Grandpa John

I feel I should add, that, at this point, drink may have been taken..........

Then we decided to decorate the newlyweds' boat..........

Okay, by the time we came up with Nook Y Sak, we were really quite pissed.....


(Worriers please note: no permanent harm was done to Nooksak's paint. T'was but shaving foam and water, easily polished out with a good dose of Mer.......)

The next morning dawned far too early for sense, civility, enlightenment, or even good manners.

Yes, we were up and at 'em at 07:30hrs as we had to be off the moorings near the pump out to allow the Ely Water Pageant raft race contestants a chance to form up.
Headsplitting hangovers notwithstanding...................

We were next to the Pump-Out point, so while we were there, we pumped out Pippin, then Malus, then woke the slumberers aboard hire boat Platinum Fox (bleary eyed? ooh yeah......even the whiffs and wafts of holding tanks hadn't stirred them from their hammocks) so we could relieve them of the towing of Andy's Boat.
This involved them turning Andy's Boat round to face Cambridge .......

It was about halfway down to the turn point north of the railway bridge that the ever-so-slightly wan faces of Rod and Emma appeared from the stern hatch of Andy's Boat.  (Still, at that time lashed firmly to Platinum Fox.)

This nearly frightened Joss, Platinum Fox's skipper, to death........

Yes, we had cast then off their mooring, tied them to an other boat, then sent them on their way. All unbeknownst!
None of us had any idea that anyone had stayed aboard Andy's Boat overnight!

Fortunately, Rod and Emma are lovely people, possessed of both sang froid and a fully functional sense of humour.......

Bacon butties were bought, tea brewed, Andy's boat was lashed to the side of Pippin, and we cast off.

Cambridge Ho!
Brian of nb Harnser caught a lovely snap of us passing his boat at Fidwell Fen. Have a look at Harnsers blog for details.

Rhoda and Jackie had gone ahead on nb Malus, leaving me with Andy's Boat and the lovely Rod and Emma for company.

Much rehydration took place and yarns were swapped.

(Though it was actually quite late in the voyage by the time Rod 'fessed up to being a serving Fleet Air Arm officer, and veteran of many a canal boat holiday.

At which point I let him take the helm....... :-)

We reached Bottisham Lock in the glorious sunshine at about 13:00.

Jackie then took Rod and Emma to recover their car from Cambridge station and head off to the wilds of Kent to visit with Emma's mum.

Rhoda and I carried on, with Andy's Boat in tow, toward Cambridge.

Jackie caught us up, having returned to the mooring and picked up her bike, just before Baits Bite lock.

We man-handled Andy's Boat through, then re-set the lock for Pippin. Then it was a case of re-attach the tow, and onward to Cambridge!

Andy moors his boat in a field next to an impenetrable bank of vicious stinging nettles.

We were all clad in shorts and T-shirts.....

Small wonder, then, that we moored him up at the last available Cambridge Mooring License slot on Midsummer Common before the stretch of "Don't moor here or you die" bank opposite the old Pike and Eel pub.

Sorry, Andy! Best we could do in the circs....... :-)
I took Pippin into Cambridge proper.

We were all tired and making silly heat-related mistakes.

I'd tried to set Baits Bite lock against our little convoy.....

Rhoda did something silly with a mallet while trying to moor up Andy's Boat in the Stinging Nettle Place.

Jackie bonked Pippin against the ample sides of Cambridge's resident Disco Boat, but sadly failed to do it any lasting damage.

Look, it was hot. we were all hungover, and getting rather tired.......

What antidote could there possibly be?
Jackie was on it like a tramp on cold chips:
"Why don't we all go and have a nice steak at Cote restaurant on Bridge Street?"

Top idea!

And so we did........

After a good meal and half a bottle of very acceptable House Red, I turned Pippin at Jesus Green lock.

Jackie then took the helm for the trip home while Rhoda found three half-empty bottles of prosecco from Saturday. Stoppered, and in the fridge, to boot....

( I can't have been that pissed, after all.......)
I decided to take a glass of fizz and a deckchair to the bows, where I sat in some splendour, waving regally at all and sundry, as we chugged out of Cambridge and headed for home.
Truly, "Joyful Times"........
Bless you, Kate and Julius, and thank you so much for having us along for the ride!

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