Before there were railroads in early industrial Britain, goods were moved by systems of canals and horse towed barges--wool to the textile mills, Coal to urban centers, grain and produce to feed the population, lumber, stone, and other building materials. Today the canals have been preserved as a "National Trust" for recreational use. The working canal barges that survived were converted to motorized narrowboats and additional new boats have been added to the fleet--modern floating "Winnebagos" affording a backdoor tour of the English countryside at a top speed of four miles per hour.
Canal boaters must operate the hillside locks when encountered and negotiate aqueducts and tunnels along the routes. The paralleling tow paths allow for walking or biking when participants want a break from riding in the boat. Most narrowboats can sleep 2-8 people; provide a fully equipped galley, a "salon", toilets and showers, and outside deck-space fore and aft. Villages built down to the canals during their heyday and some of the best English pubs, restaurants, and inns continue to serve canal travelers. Our route would bring us from Leighton Buzzard to the medieval castle town of Warwick and back--eight to ten nights on the canal.
We planned for the summer of 2020, and then in March of that year the world locked-down for the COVID-19 pandemic. For a short while there was a glimmer of hope that our trip could take place during the late summer of 2021 but the omicron variant dashed that possibility. Now as we approach the summer of 2022 there is yet another corvid variant emerging in Europe AND a worrisome WAR. It didn't appear that there would be anytime soon that Chris and I could feel secure traveling so far from home with our boys.
And then I had an epiphany: why not a sailboat instead of a narrowboat! The boys are young enough that they can hope to visit England on their own terms someday. The more immediate concern is that the grandsons, at this young impressionable age, be able share a memorable adventure with each other and their Grandfather before the opportunity slips away. The circle has been widened to include Uncle Jon as a new plan is evolving for summer of 2022. We will rent a sailboat from a local marina and spend a week exploring the Apostle Islands. "Perfect," say my sons, no long and exhaustive air travel, a bubble against COVID, and an opportunity for us to bond more closely as family in this special place we live During these uncertain times, we will have the reassurance of being close to home, while at the same time broadening the horizons of young minds by providing an experience in a "world apart."