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The Boat

Goodbye Lexia: Queen of Regents Canal

After two months as a trio, it was time to send Lexia out of our lives. But how?
Once we’d made the decision to switch boats we pootled more happily through our London times, gradually getting our legs under us again, shooting interviews and hooking up with friends. We started coming to terms with losing Lexia over the days, and getting cautiously excited about Joker- though we still hadn’t run the engine and had only paid a deposit. But as Sam heard nothing back from the ad on the sailing websites he became convinced we were going to have trouble selling Lexia. October is the time many sailors get their boats lifted out for the winter. That’s why Russ reduced Joker’s price- it’s tough to sell a boat on dry land. Being on a canal in London wouldn’t help with finding likely sailors. All the options we thought of for getting her anywhere fast, whether to sell or put back at her Bristol moorings cost at least a few hundred quid.
One morning along the towpath, Sam had noticed an intriguing and ramshackle arrangement. Two boats joined together, the front one an open sailboat 10ft long or so called ‘Scoundrel’, full of useful looking scavenged bits of pole and rope. The one behind it was a 17ft cabin cruiser called ‘Beryl Burton’, sitting low in the water and built up from the deck with a patchwork of wood and tarp in the shape of a Wild West covered wagon. But the part that really caught Sam’s eye was the cycle-powered propeller mounted on the back.
Sam had looked into cycle power for Lexia as we planned our journey, and if we hadn’t been planning to sail her I think he’d have tried to rig one.
A couple of days after Lexia went on sale, Sam was passing as Beryl’s owner was leaving- a tall man with a dark topknot and far-out eyebrows called Rob. He was proud to show off the propeller but said she was sinking and he had to bail her every night. They got talking. As a fan of low impact travel, Rob had done a lot of research into sailing and was interested in junk rigs. He needed a boat that was dry and safe, and what with the extra 5ft of room, he was excited to meet Lexia. He looked her over, and offered us a “great classical guitar” as part payment. Sadly we don’t need one.
We offered her for £1500, the break-even price for what Sam spent on her including the original purchase, but not including the hours he spent working on her. Rob took it on the chin and left to consult his friend Jules who’d helped him design the propeller.

In the meantime, Jamie from the Apocalypse Gameshow dropped by to collect a DVD of our films so far, to project at the show. (It’s a hilarious and cathartic exploration of the spectrum of apocalyptic myths and scenarios, in which audience members compete to join the Gameshow’s post-apocalyptic Dream Team. Another post and video to follow on that.) Jamie has an incredible store of tales from his 14 years living in the area. Apparently a bridge we passed under along Hertford Union canal was where the first ever train murder victim was shoved off the train.
When we told Jamie our battery had gone flat and the problems it was causing he suggested we visit his friend Jules who’d be happy to charge it for us. Turned out to be the same Jules who designed Rob’s bike propeller.
We drank tea at Jules’ place, a thoroughly hacked co-op house with food growing on the valley roof and healthy, ripening grapevines descending to the back garden. A nest of workshop and storage spaces were stuffed with tools, stacks of broken bikes and waste wood. When Jules was ready to leave he jammed on a bowler hat, grabbed a bike and summoned his yellow dog Spike. Five minutes later we were back at Lexia. Our sleeping bag, spread out to air on the roof, had been drenched in a heavy cloudburst. Before we could feel crushed, Jules had it bundled in his bike basket and the heavy battery strapped on the back. “I’ll dry it off in my bathroom. I’ve converted it to a sauna”.
Feeling more chipper, we went to our friend Petra’s house to take up her offer of washing and drying our clothes. On our tipsy return at midnight, Rob called us to say our bedding was ready. We went back to Jules’ house and gathered it up from the hot bathroom, fitted with a wood burner. It was soft, toasty warm and faintly woodsmoked. We went to bed feeling very well looked after, and hoping that Rob could get together the money for Lexia.

A few days later it was a done deal. We spent the rest of the week planning the next phase and hanging out on Lexia and at friends houses. I shot an interview with Emily James about activism and optimism, organised another with Mark Stevenson about technology and optimism and tried to document the moving out process while also packing, lifting and moving out. Sam planned, schemed and researched. And we both did lots more lugging of course.
In the meantime, at least 3 other people expressed a serious interest in buying Lexia. One guy was going to take her sailing in the epic race The Jester Challenge, which gave us a vicarious thrill on Lexia’s behalf. But in the end, Rob really needed somewhere to live, the circumstances were too perfect and he was too nice a guy to disappoint.

On the day, Rob and Jules spent hours helping us pack and fill Mum’s car. Mum made 2 heroic trips to take our stuff back to my parents’ house in Portsmouth.

As we left Lexia moored and empty on the canal, Rob was dancing from foot to foot with excitement, waiting to move in.

Goodbye Lexia. Sorry it didn’t work out.
And thanks to all our dear friends and new friends who fed us, helped us and made us laugh on our unexpectedly long stay in London. Like most places, I think it’s better by water.



5 thoughts on “Goodbye Lexia: Queen of Regents Canal

  1. Great story, how many adventures are you going to have?! You haven’t even left the country yet!

    Posted by Michael Wray | October 18, 2012, 2:25 pm
    • I know- it’s been an interesting trip already. Lots that I haven’t even written about yet. A bit low on adventure currently as we’re staying at my parents house- but starting to take Joker out more often and get her ready for the Channel. She’s a beaut.

      Posted by naomisurvive | October 18, 2012, 10:32 pm
  2. One of my favourite posts yet, particularly uplifting! Glad to hear both you two, and Rob, got an upgrade. Lovely photo of you together at the end too. 🙂

    Posted by Elizabeth Mizon | November 16, 2012, 5:11 pm


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