The weekend began with the arrival of Mike Hickson from Goldwater Boats at Shardlow Marina around lunchtime on Friday. We began vital preparations, we had coffee and something to eat. Having lowered the wheelhouse and mast, and done a few final checks we set off in the direction of Trent Valley Sailing Club with the sun shining. On the way down in the wider stretch before the flood lock cut, I did a few pirouettes with and without the bow thruster to get the feel of how it handled. I would have done this on the maiden voyage, but I had my daughter with me and didn't want to frighten her as she was a bit nervous to start with.
We arrived at Trent Valley Sailing Club at around 2.30pm and were helped to tie up and warmly greeted by the barge crews that were already there, invited aboard Actief with a welcome cup of coffee and a half hour or so chat. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking over various barges and getting all kinds of ideas for future projects, this was repeated several times over the course of the weekend.
At around 7.00pm we adjourned to the clubhouse for an excellent buffet and an evening of stimulating and friendly chat over a few drinks. We were also treated to a slideshow of old pictures of the area on an original brass magic lantern projector Mike and I retired at around 11.30pm as I had been up since around 6.30 that morning making sure we had everything we needed for the weekend, mostly food and a few beers etc. As it turned out I needn't have bothered as everything we needed for the weekend had been amply laid on by Trent Valley Sailing Club.
We arose at about 08.00am Saturday morning, feeling surprisingly good despite the previous evenings alcohol intake and had a very nice cooked breakfast in the clubhouse. We spent some of the morning aboard sorting out various odds and ends that had become apparent over the preceding weeks, then wandered around chatting to whoever was around.
Later on Mike and I decided to take a walk into Long Eaton to find a cash dispenser. We set off taking the track and road route, arriving at Long Eaton about half an hour later. A cash machine was found and we headed back via the canal path, this is when the heavens opened and it poured down. By the time we arrived back at the club, where all the sensible people were nice and dry on their barges, we were thoroughly soaked to the point of dripping. Back aboard the Iron Dutchess we lit the stove put the kettle on and dried ourselves.
The evening was supposed to have be spent enjoying a barbeque in the sunshine, but due to this being England the weather had other ideas. Undaunted we all made our way upstairs to the clubhouse where more than enough food was waiting for all, during and after which we indulged in more drinks, chat, story and joke telling, not forgetting the all important raffle half way through the evening. Shortly before midnight we said goodnight and went back aboard for coffee and bed.
Sunday morning we were up by about 09.00am and up to the clubhouse for another of their excellent cooked breakfasts. Later there was a bring and buy sale on the lawn outside the clubhouse. After which some of the crews said their farewells and cast off for home and who knows where? Sunday's weather was good, but we spent most of the rest of it in the clubhouse trying to finish off the beer they had ordered in for the occasion, and eating healthy food like sandwiches, scones, cream, jam and strawberries, after which the numbers began to dwindle to the few pictured left.
After the clubhouse closed that afternoon all but one of the barges set off for home. Mike and I settled down aboard with a coffee to talk and watch TV. We went to bed around 11.00pm.
Monday morning we got up around 09.00am had coffee, made our preparations and set off for Shardlow waving goodbye to the one barge left.
All in all despite the sometimes dodgy weather, it was a most enjoyable weekend. I would advise anyone who didn't manage to get there this year to make the effort next year, I certainly will be. I got to meet a thoroughly nice crowd of interesting people, and had an inexpensive and memorable time at a really nice venue. My thanks to everyone, see you all next year if not before.