A Link on the Chain of Destiny – Our First Week Together…..
Narrowboat Holiday-A Link in the Chain of Destiny
This is a story about love, a story with a very important link in the chain of our destiny that involved a narrowboat experience on the canals in England that would be a metaphor for the rest of our life.
In December of 2011, I only knew that I would start out 2012 with a new experience in another country. What happened whether it was fate, luck, or even divine providence can only be described as pure magic.
As the timing and throwing of the dart so to speak on “holiday’s” in England went, we had no idea what we signed up for because in the beginning it was just about “being” together.
Did I believe in this type of love? Yes.
Had I truly witnessed in real life, or even read about the kind of connection we shared? I had not.
Was I nervous to cross the big sea with a bag full of items, a head full of dreams, and a spirit wrapped up in love? You better believe I was.
Meeting my soul mate, Sunniva Helseth Stolanowska (now Ritter) for the first time at Heathrow Airport in London was the day the earth stood still. I lost all concepts of space and time.
After the long embrace that left me rattled through my core, we were off and running. Literally.
Having minutes to spare to catch the tube out of the Heathrow, racing to King’s Cross train station that would take us north, ultimately to Willington, we moved with intensity, with a rhythm only people who had shared a lifetime would understand.
Without words, we seemed to whisper to each other. A familiar glance of the eye said “stay back with all the bags while I run.”
The US card I used to purchase the tickets did not have the chip that the machines in Europe read. With only 5 minutes till the train took off and the last train into Willington for the day meant we had no choice. Our ride, our boat, and our future await.
I was weighted down like a mule and she took off like an elf in the forest.
“What is your code?” she asked turning. I yelled it out as she took off in a run.
Smiling, I knew life would mirror the calmness we experienced in the midst of what could be intense stress to others. Adventure would be something we embraced on every day of this experience.
After the transcontinental flight from Dallas to London, rushing from tubes to trains, Steve of Shakespeare Classic Line Boats picked us up at 3:10PM local time.
The energy out of the gates was contagious. Running on pure adrenaline after weeks of late night Skype sessions, two long days of travel, we had arrived.
I can’t stress two things enough. How comfortable we felt with the staff, and how unintentional this narrowboat vacation was. Looking at places in England with a unique experience was my only goal and this just “felt right.”
Besides a brief description, a look at the image of the boats, we didn’t spend much time thinking about that. How prophetic the feeling would be I had no idea.
We were losing daylight fast and Gavin, an enthusiastic and bright-eyed narrowboat crewmember was guiding us through the basic operations of the boat, as we would need to stay in the Mercia Marina Harbor the first night. This would be our home for the next week in every sense of the word. While we originally planned to spend the last 3 days seeing sites in London, our time on the narrowboat was so powerful, so important to understanding they dynamic between us, there was no question that London would still be there on our next visit and we should and would stay the full week experiencing all that life on the canal has to offer.
Dropping our bags and going over the checklist was a blur. Remember, this was the end of our first day of being physically together at this point. We were lost in locked eyes as the train sped by the beautiful English countryside. Focusing on the details of operating our little home on the canals was the last thing on our mind.
We had to focus for an hour and get in Jedi mode as we could feel the importance of what navigating a narrowboat through the locks, facing winter weather, and understanding the canal culture meant.
Basic tour of the boat from front to back. Check. How to operate the heating system. Check. How many hours a day you had to have the motor running to charge the batteries that would power your boat the rest of the day. Check. When you run out of propane gas, how and where to change that. Check. When you run out of water, where and how to fill it. Check. How the galley is set up. Check. How to moor up successfully. Check. This list was long and I will admit we absorbed maybe 50% of it when told to us, but the rest just worked out.
After plenty of laughs and some shared stories with the crew, we were ready to head out. Bare in mind the marina and some parts of the canal were covered with a sheet of ice that morning. Gavin was with us until we cleared the town of Willington and after seeing we had the boat under control as far as navigation, he hopped out without a second’s warning as we passed under a bridge.
“I guess this means we’ve got it! I hope you were paying attention during the demonstration” we laughed. And so the journey of life on the canals really took root.
One thing I learned the first day by some trial and error is don’t take your eyes off the front for long, or the boat can get dodgy fast. The lessons and metaphors of life would be woven deeply into this experience.
After an afternoon on the water and getting comfortable with what it meant to navigate and live on this boat, soaking up the changing scenery as headed south; we decided to moor up on a safe spot near an interesting village that just happened to be prior to the first lock. Locks we came to find out would be a very important part of this experience, and some of the deepest metaphors for life.
Proud of ourselves for making some distance that day, feeling the tremendous history and energy from the landscape, we headed out from the boat to explore a bit.