We’d not long finished tying-up at the new mooring when along the Cut from the Banbury direction came this boat:

The Captain of this fine clinker built  ‘barrow’ boat came across to us to enquire whether Malc, who owns the next paddock, was around.

We said he’d gone down to the Canal Day. Nonetheless we fell into talking. It turned out that Peter, as the Captain was called, regularly made a trip up to see Malc whenever he was local.

As we talked, Peter took from his bag a laminated A4 sheet of photographs, and explained, movingly, that he’d previously owned a narrowboat with his wife and they’d explored the canal system extensively together and had planned to explore much more. However, tragically, she died of cancer and he’d found he couldn’t face traveling on their narrowboat alone. He’d therefore decided to sell up, and use to proceeds to buy a larger estate car and the ‘barrow’ boat and was now on a solo mission to complete the journeys he’d planned with his wife.

What a fine craft! The ‘barrow’ boats are so called because they’re designed with a wheel under the bow, and the two holes in the transom through which the oars are fitted to turn the boat effectively into a wheelbarrow when moving it on land.
Everything you’d want for a day on the water, sandwich bag, spare batteries, oars and umbrella… Peter has added a copper nose-cone to reduce wash in the occasional lock he passes through.
With a cheery wave Peter slipped silently away, to continue his solo voyage… This photo clearly shows the holes for the oars.
We came across him later, just a little further down the canal on the way to Banbury, he’d stopped to have lunch.

I’ve got to admit the chance meeting with Peter had a profound affect on me, the romance and heartbreak of his story  resonated strongly. Despite his obvious frailty, his determination to finish what he and his wife had begun together moved me powerfully.  And in an odd way, I saw a little of myself in Peter. As an old bloke, in love with the waterways still, I hope I’d still be as determined as he is to enjoy the water for as long as I can, and whilst my body physically allows.

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