May the Keys Be With You (“Lord Where’s the Keys?”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

There are many “rules” to navigating a boat. We have learned (and broken) many of them. However, there are really only two rules in narrowboating that you must pay attention to:

1. When mooring, make sure the stakes are in securely.
2. Don’t lose your boat keys.

Don’s firewood purchase comes in very handy this morning and we enjoy sitting by the fire early this morning before watching boats come through the staircase locks at Grindley Brook. It is quite a procedure and we almost wish we had taken the locks (except that the next winding hole was too far).

Staircase locks at Grindley Brook

Today marks the halfway point of our journey and we will start heading back towards Trevor. The day’s route is relatively short. We plan to moor at Bettisfield and after making a stop at the “mosses” for a little hike. I take the wheel and it starts to rain just as I am settling in.

Shades on
Shades off
No fishing! (But be careful if you do…)

Since it is pouring, we decide to moor up, hunker down and have lunch from the “picking” supplies that we have (including that same old chicken that Katie is dying to throw out).

Katie makes Don an awesome grilled sandwich.

The rain is starting to let up and we motor on towards Bettisfield.

The Mosses Trail is just ahead. Rich and I opt to take the hike even though it is drizzling and it is supposedly a pretty mucky trail. The Thalke’s opt to stay on the boat. We put in the mooring stakes and Rich and I take off through the mosses.

The mosses area is where they used to cut peat (as in peat moss). It is a beautiful, desolate area but not much wildlife seems to be stirring. When we near the end of the 1.75 mile trail we finally spot some Curlew (birds) that are amusing to watch.

Just as we turn the corner towards the canal we spy Katie and Don out in front of the Askrigg. How nice – they have come out to welcome us home. But then, something looks strange. They are both smoking little cigars! They look a bit harried and pale. What in the heck?


Katie and Don begin to explain their adventure while we were happily hiking. Don had taken a little nap and Katie was sweeping/cleaning (as she likes to do). When Don arose they decided to make a little fire to sit in front of and relax. Just as they were sitting down Katie looked out the window and noticed that the front end of the boat has crossed the canal and is now pointing into the weeds on the opposite side from our mooring! The front mooring stake has come loose and the rope (and stake) are in the water. Don and Katie go into high gear. Katie jumps off and Don continues to put on his shoes (Katie gently told him there was not time to put in his inserts because “A BOAT IS COMING!”)

Don jumps off the boat and now they both realize that there is no one actually aboard the runaway vessel. AND they have left a roaring fire going in the fireplace. Not good. They both jump back on the back end of the boat. Katie goes to start the engine, but the keys were in the kitchen. She runs to get them and start the boat. Don pulls on the rope to bring the boat in. They are both frantically hoping that we won’t return from our hike before they can remedy the situation. Fortunately, the front rope is wrapped so tightly around the stake that the stake did not sink to the bottom of the canal. It is retrieved, they re-stake and breathe a sigh of relief. Cigars are lit for both.

Ok. Here’s the thing. The Thalke’s are sure that this incident has caused us to create a somewhat “secret” blog. It’s name is “Vacationingwiththe#%&*ingThalke’ (That site is obviously password protected. Contact us if you would like to be considered for an invitation…).

We all get a pretty good laugh out of this snafu. I am sure we are not the first ones to unleash our boat. And we won’t be the last.

Celebratory Rose

Our mooring spot in Bettisfield is not actually close to any town. I had scoped it out beforehand at home and (bless Google Maps) found a pub that looks like a mere 1.5 mile walk away. I hope it is really there. We take off on the hoof.

Sure enough we finally come to the village of Northwood and see the Horse and Jockey Pub. (It seems like there are quite a few pubs named Horse and Jockey – very popular). It is also worth noting that while our boat is moored in Wales, we have “crossed the line” and will be eating in England tonight!

This pub is perfect – just what you want your neighborhood pub to be. The patrons are super friendly and eager to chat it up with us. We oblige.

I am very happy to have a Wi-Fi connection. I brough my laptop in my backpack just in case and manage to post a couple of pre-written blog days.

We linger for awhile and then order dinner. Their specialty is steaks cooked on a hot, hot stone which they bring to your table. You slice off bits and finish cooking them to your liking on the stone. We order a Rump Steak and a Fillet to share between me, Katie and Rich. Don ordered a burger.

The steaks were phenomenal! Pure grass-fed Wales beef is amazing. We could hardly believe how tasty it was. Even the chips (thick-cut fries) were the best we have had. Don loved his burger as well. Rich says the steak is in the top 3 that he has ever eaten.


The local continue talking to us after dinner and we all break off into little conversations. It is so fun. When it is time to leave (before it gets dark for our walk), one of our new friends has a little gift for us. Andy presents us with a dozen perfect eggs from his hens that he went home to gather. They are still warm.


Reluctant goodbyes are said and we take off for the long walk back to the boat. When we get about 1/4 of the way there Katie pipes up with a question for Don. “Do you have the boat keys?” (Seems like a reasonable question, since Katie and I departed the boat before the boys did and they were left to lock up.) The answer from Don is “no.” Well then Rich should have them, right? “No.” We think they are kidding until we realize they are not. “Whaaaaaaaaat?”

It is starting to get dark on this lonely road back. We all figure that they keys must have dropped out of one of the boys’ pockets when we threw all the jackets on a chair in the bar. Either that or they are still in the ignition. The decision is made for the boys to return to the bar and Katie and I to return to the boat. May the best man win.

All the way back to the boat Katie and I are discussing what in the world we are going to do when we have no keys. We are seriously in the middle of nowhere and will not have a place to sleep tonight. This does not look good. (I will have to say that Katie was pretty optimistic that they keys would still be in the ignition. I was not.) Our walk back to the boat was a lot quicker than the walk there – we did not let the grass grown under our feet.

When we arrive at the boat it is pulled away from the towpath a bit so Katie jumps on to the middle and sidesteps her way to the back. I peek around the back and can clearly see the empty igintion. My heart drops. I tell Katie that the keys are not there. She continues side-stepping and finallly reaches the back. She steps onto the boat and immediately holds up the keys that have been sitting on the bench out in the open all this time. omg


We are so relieved! Katie builds a fire, we crack open a couple of beers and sit back to relax until the boys arrive. By this time we figure that they are sitting with their new friends at the pub and having another pint. Actually, they are walking back and just like us they are trying to figure out what they are going to do when they get back to a “keyless” boat. They are considering breaking a window just so we have a place to sleep tonight.

Rich and Don show up and are so happy to see the lights on in the boat. They tell us that 2 of their new friends at the pub offered to have the four of us spend the night at their houses! The friendliness and hospitality of folks around here is unusual and we are amazed.

“This is what I am going to do to them when they get back”

Both couples spend the remainder of the evening re-living the adventures of the day and looking forward to seeing what might happen tomorrow.


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