Our excursion to the north eastern limits of the waterway network is now officially over. We have come back down the Selby Canal and River Aire and returned to the Aire & Calder that we left some three weeks ago.
In most respects I'm glad to be moving on to new territory. These out and back trips pose an organisational conundrum. Should one do all the sightseeing on the way out and then rush back or somehow share it between trips – and if so how?
This is particularly so on a river-based cruise where mooring opportunities are limited - pretty much Selby, Naburn, York, Boroughbridge, Ripon and that's it. Of them all only York truly deserved some extra days on the return leg.
So I'm glad to be back on the narrowboater's familiar never-ending, ever-onwards journey. But what I will miss of those few weeks on the Ouse is the camaraderie that gradually built up between us little band of boaters who were doing the trip at the same time. Bound together by mooring spots and time limits we found ourselves repeatedly meeting, separating and re-meeting as we travelled up and then back down the river. From being strangers, we became acquaintances and - in some cases - friends.
There was the woman who was single-handing her way around the system and already with some of its toughest challenges under her belt. The couple on their little seagoing boat with their blood curdling tales of offshore trips. A cheery American who we thought was single handed but it turned out actually had a wife though we had never seen her, she exited the boat so rarely. A narrowboating couple who we feared we had offended by overtaking on the river but who, when we finally dared speak to them, were friendly, jolly and not at all offended. And a likeable Geordie returning his boat to its mooring in Ripon who we said goodbye to there – only to find him standing at the lock entrance in Selby watching our return because he happened to be in the town.
Doubtless we will see one or two of them again in the weeks or maybe years to come but with a spider's web of routes and a myriad moorings to choose from on the waterways it could be a while.