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24 September 2014
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Terry and Monica Darlington

Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

Terry and Monica Darlington from Stone were the first people ever to take a narrowboat across the English Channel after making an epic journey from Staffordshire to Carcassone in France.


Rather than settle for a comfortable retirement, Staffordshire couple Terry and Monica Darlington one day decided to sail their canal narrowboat all the way from the Midlands to southern France!

It's a journey of sixteen hundred miles and includes the navigation of the busiest shipping lane in the world - The English Channel!

Terry and Monica took advice from waterway specialists - most of whom said they were mad - but decided to go anyway.

Faithful whippet

And for the whole of this incredible journey, they were also accompanied by their faithful whippet, Jim.

Starting out from their hometown of Stone, Terry, Monica and Jim sailed Phyllis May (the name of their narrowboat) towards Ramsgate with their top speed of 7mph!

Along the way, they stopped to go rabbiting in Oxfordshire before being swept by the current beneath the bridges of the Thames.

Six foot waves

Narrowboat 'Phyllis May'

From there, they eventually went out to sea at night where they braved six foot waves and weaved in and out of tankers, ferries and freighters in The Channel before reaching Calais. 

From there they drifted through Champagne, dined out in Paris where Jim was bought a meal in a silver bowl, floated down Saone from vineyard to vineyard and got swept along by the rampaging Rhone from Lyon to Avignon.

They also sailed across island seas among the flamingos of the Camargue, nearly loosing their lives in Etang de Thau, before reaching Carcassonne.

On their return Terry Darlington wrote a book about their experiences entitled 'Narrow Dog To Carcassone'...

*******

Excerpt from 'Narrow Dog to Carcassonne':

"I don't want to spend my retirement on holiday, I said.  We can drink ourselves to death, bore ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure.

I know, said Monica, we'll take our narrowboat through France to the Mediterranean.  Jim our whippet will help us make friends.  You can write a book about it - you always wanted to be a writer.  We can sail across the Channel.

But narrowboats don't go to sea, I said, they fill up and go straight down.  And Jim would have convulsions - he hates boating even on the Trent and Mersey.  You're scared, said Monica.  Yes, I said, I'm terrified.  It's the lorry, and the crane into Calais, and that's final.

I didn't know what fear was until the day we left Canary Wharf to sail round Kent to Ramsgate, a seventeen-hour voyage.  The pilot stood beside me and the current swept us past the great flood barrage, under the Queen Elizabeth Bridge, and out to sea.

Jim was on the roof with the geraniums.  He put his nose in the air and passed the air through his cheeks so he could see what had happened before and what would happen next. 

He could see it all - the publisher's advance, the film option, the TV coverage.  He already knew about the storms, the hangovers, the poets, the vandals, the trolls, the aliens, the flamingos, the killer fish and the dancing dead. 

He could see the six-foot waves outside Calais harbour, the canals under Paris, the terrible Rhone, the vines of the Minervois full of the warm south, and on the Mediterranean sea the morning sun in his glory.

He walked along the roof and licked my face.  He grinned, stretched, and farted."

*******

'Narrow Dog to Carcassonne' is published by Bantam and The Darlington's adventures are portrayed on ITV's programme 'Waterworld.'

A film of the extraordinary journey is also in production.

last updated: 25/07/05
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