September 3, 2010

Captain’s log day 15: Paddington to Victoria Park

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 2:56 pm

I spent the next four days in Oxford, sleeping in my ex-husband’s guest room.   He and I passed long mornings at Starbucks, sitting at an outside table and watching the north Oxford world of aging dons, pregnant women and precocious children go by.  We fretted over cappuccino about our Baby, until she breezed in – all clipped vowels, expensive scent, distracting cleavage and perfect poise – to convince us, almost, that everything was just fine.  

The following Friday it still seemed fine enough for me to take the train back to London where the crew had meanwhile been busy tourists, but they were eager to move on.

Pangolin chugged off late morning.  Turning right out of Paddington Basin, the crew and I left the Grand Union Canal (Paddington Arm) and joined the Regent’s Canal, the link built early 19th century through London to Limehouse and the Thames beyond.

We quickly left Little Venice and almost immediately came to our first tunnel.  According to my guide book, it is 272 yards long, and there is room for only a single boat.  Earlier I had puzzled aloud about how a one way tunnel on the canal might work.

Mr Crew was dismissive of my concern.  There will be traffic lights, of course.

Mr Crew does not know the Brits, or the canals.  I never thought for a moment that there would be a traffic light.

As we got near I shouted to the boat I had seen coming out of the tunnel to ask whether there was anyone following him. 

He shook his head, gesturing above the din of our engines, so I opened the throttle and Pangolin sped ahead, entering the tunnel fast, while I sounded the horn.  I reasoned that my best tactic would be to get through before anyone else had the same idea in the opposite direction.  I switched on the single headlight, but the boat is 62 feet long, and it didn’t shed much light for me, driving from the rear, though I hoped it would, like the horn, warn any other boat of my approach.  The tunnel was very narrow indeed – at one point I almost scraped the side – and terribly dark.  A few minutes later, though it seemed longer to me, when we emerged into sunlight I realised I had forgotten to swap my dark glasses for clear ones.

Soon after the tunnel we passed behind many elegant houses and the Zoological Gardens, then on into shabby chic Kentish Town and Camden.   I’d promised the crew lunch at Camden Market, famous for its food and knock-off designer fashion.  At the lock young people strolled by and offered help with gates, paddles and ropes, all the while grasping plates smelling of Jamaican, Indian, or Indonesian delicacies.  Alas, we found nowhere to moor, and we moved on further and further down the canal, until we all agreed that the market was too far away to walk back.

I am not sure how disappointed the crew were, because Mrs Crew is very good at making the best of things.  Mr Crew cheerfully ate his favourite ham, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I grumpily polished off a tin of tomatoes, dreaming of sag aloo.

At St Pancras lock I pointed out the splendid Victorian railway station where, in just over a week, the crew would catch the Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel to Paris.  At King’s Cross I gave up the helm and Mr Crew took us through Islington Tunnel (this one two way, though, again, we didn’t meet another boat) and into our moorings by Victoria Park.

We all went to bed excited.  The next day was the planned climax of the trip, when we would rejoin the Thames and follow the tide upriver, through central London.

Our mooring at Paddington Basin

Our mooring at Paddington Basin - I still cannot quite believe there was no charge for a week at this central London site.


Time to move on.

But all good things come to an end, and it was time to move on.


Paddington Basin - all turn here!

The dead end at Paddington Basin


Give me 40 acres and I'll turn this rig around

Give me 40 acres and I'll turn this rig around


Leaving Little Venice

Leaving Little Venice


Maida Tunnel, looking back

Maida Tunnel, looking back


Approaching Regent's Park

Approaching Regent 's Park


Elegant house

Elegant house


The aviary, designed by Lord Snowdon, brother-in-law to the current queen, was our first sight of the zoo.

The aviary, designed by Lord Snowdon, former brother-in-law to the queen, was our first, and best, sight of the zoo.


We hadn't seen a lock for 27 miles when we got to Hampstead Road. Camden Market was beyond, but there was nowhere to moor

We hadn't seen a lock for 27 miles when we got to the double lock at Hampstead Road. Camden Market was beyond, but there was nowhere to moor, and we carried on, past St Pancras, Islington Tunnel and on to Victoria Park, where we stopped for the night.


  1. Way cool!

    Comment by Malana — September 3, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  2. “Ham, peanut butter and jelly?” Yuck.

    Fabulous mooring in London. Like you, I can’t believe it was free.

    Comment by Tessa — September 4, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  3. This is quite a trip and I certainly hope your guests appreciate the efforts. Would you do it again? Ever?

    Comment by Midlife Slices — September 4, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

  4. Wow, it all looks so built up, and yet the canal is still there.

    Comment by Hattie — September 5, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  5. MLS — I would do it again in a minute, though, as before, only with crew. Want to join me?

    Comment by DuchessOmnium — September 5, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

  6. Tessa beat me to the culinary critique. In spite of Mr. C, what an incredible trip this is.

    Comment by Ruth Pennebaker — September 7, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  7. I don’t know; I can’t be critical when my optimum sandwich is Danish blue cheese and raspberry jam. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    Comment by T P — September 8, 2010 @ 11:23 am

  8. I’ve just caught upon your travelogue and now wish even more that I too owned a 62″ narrowboat. I’m linking to DuchessOmnium from my sidebar so I can continue to follow you (engaged and envious in equal measure) along the cut.

    Comment by Dick — September 10, 2010 @ 7:46 am

  9. the photos are wonderful, and i agree that it’s incredible there’s still a canal right through the city! we have something like this in georgetown, where the chesapeake & ohio towpath goes right through the town, but as with most of the USA, we lack the centuries of living in close proximity to such waterways.

    Comment by M.E. — September 13, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

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