Fenced in…

Boaters with a serious interest in what the Crick Boat Show 2024 offered will find reports in Waterways World  and other publications.

This, though, is a report from behind the lines, or, more accurately, from behind the fences…

Email instructions to Crick moorers intending to stay in the marina over the course of the (23rd) Annual Crick Boat Show were frequent during the run-up to the Show’s opening…

  • All cars to be moved off the car park by 5pm Sunday 19th May. (By then a fork lift truck was pirouetting about moving bins, skips, ballast, kit, etc while event teams were constructing marquees and exhibitor stands)
  • Moorers’ cars were to display a Boat Show permit
  • Moorers were to collect wrist bands and wear them at all times for inspection by security stewards

 

Aware of the above, Boatwif and the Captain arrived back at the marina on Thursday evening. It had rained interminably for the previous 24 hours. Access to the designated Moorers’ Car Park A looked grim.  The entrance was a slippery, muddy mess. “Yeah, some of the vehicles have been getting stuck,” said the car park steward, “best try the other moorers’ car park…” And the Captain, duty driver, set off, alongside Marquee City, part on track and then on a metalled temporary road.

“Here, this is where we park,” Boatwif explained, remembering her trek a few days previously to find where the car had been relocated by the marina staff – and the Captain bore left, pulled in, parked up and squidged through the mud to open the car boot.

Despite “travelling light” it took two treks to move overnight bags and essential groceries the 300 metres or so between car and boat…

“You must display your car pass, you must have your Moorer Wristband,” had been the insistent advice.  Ever played one of those computer games where you have to progress through a maze and you keep meeting a dead end…?  As preparations for Trade Day were ramping up security fences were being moved constantly and access back to the small boat basin became a game of trial and error.

That so many information tents and exhibits had been installed in the usual car park was somewhat of a surprise: boat engines and batteries, propellers and brass tiller pins, diesel and electric hybrid engines, tents for marina and waterway associations  – and more. Views of the boats down at the quayside were obscured by all the exhibitors’ tents…

For the next few days a tall metal gate, wheels at the base, separated Show visitors from Cleddau and the other boats in the small basin. Between 8am and 6pm Lou, a personal gate guard, opened and closed the gate for those entitled to pass through.

Friday dawned: Trade Day. There were voices, intense faces and earnest discussions. Sales folk were geared up and ready to capture their audience and potential customers.     Light folk music close by was coming from behind the Aquavista Tillers and Tankards hospitality tent.

Saturday: Public Day 1.  A slow queue of cars crawled along the road from both directions.  Volunteer stewards were doing a magnificent job, taming the traffic flow and directing vehicles to the appropriate car park. From 10am the site’s loudspeaker voice was crisp, and clear.

Visitors, moorers and would-be boaters swarmed around the site – queued to inspect the boatbuilders’ show boats,     peered into the back cabins of historic narrowboats,  clambered into C&RT’s new welfare and work boat,     waited for a free boat trip,   gawked at the size of the wide beam boats,   clambered up flights of metal stairs to see inside land-based boats.

Elsewhere there were marquees to investigate: Crafts and Food (jewellery, cheeses, handicrafts, decorative items);  Canal and River Trust (information); Waterways World (customised boat furniture, boat windows, BCF, boating organisations),

  Festival Clothes… There were stalls to buy ropes and fenders from,    a food court,       stalls for cool and freezer boxes, charity stalls, two “theatres” for talks

and the vast Crick Tavern (beer, cider and gin tent) where afternoon and evening music performances created a festive air. 

 Conversations between Show-goers inevitably focus on life afloat, whether as a boat owner, as a potential buyer or as a boat holidaymaker. Top boating topic is always (wait for it) Toilets.  And though queues at the many portable toilet blocks on site were not observed, there were always crowds around and in the Compoost Toilet tent  (waterless separator toilet for the uninitiated). This is a business that attracted a lot of interest all day and every day! (For balance sake, and for buyers with big money, £3850, an alternative toilet, a modern incinerator model, was on display on the LeeSan stand).

 

There’s plenty of information to access at the Show: chats with the Anglia Waterways staff revealed the sheer scale of the silt problem on the tidal Great Ouse between Denver and Salter’s Lode locks. Elsewhere a C&RT volunteer hydrologist spoke enthusiastically about the issues of water extreme events.      For those who like a sit down while listening to an informed speaker there was plenty of choice. Vast funds are needed to fulfil statutory protections of Canal and River Trust’s assets (docks, reservoirs, waterways, locks).The Waterways World publisher spoke with passion and vision about the future while the needs of disabled boaters were considered by speakers from the Accessible Waterways Association.

Down at the quayside Kate Saffin’s one-woman show regaled the tribulations of trainee boatwomen during World War 2. 

For many Crick Show’s music is a massive attraction.    By 10pm on the Saturday evening the crowds had swelled, inside the huge beer tent and outside too. Those in the know arrived mid-evening with their own chairs, clothing layers and blankets.  During earlier sets young girls had cartwheeled in front of the stage and small boys had kicked a ball about.

Then the headliner appeared, a fully camp Young Elton…

Crick crowds surged closer to the stage  – and this was the state of the grass the morning after the night before…

Public Day 2 was more of the same – with the additional attraction /distraction of a fierce mid-afternoon rain and hailstorm accompanied by a roll or two of thunder. Some stall holders were stranded inside their tents as ponds formed outside them and the once grassy surfaces grew into soggy brown quagmires.

So what are the over-riding memories of being resident at Crick during the 2024 Show?

Lots of shiny boats, plenty to look at and listen to, some familiar faces, a non-stop brilliant atmosphere, miles of metal fencing  – and no shortage of mud!

 Fenced in Show Stats: 0 miles; 0 locks; 1 pedestrian bridge;  50 fascinating conversations, 30+ display boats, 1000s of people, 100s of dogs!                                                            

 

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