by Terry Darlington
I was laughing pretty much all the time I was reading Terry Darlington’s delightful Narrow Dog to Indian River (Delta, 2009). Despite their ages (70s) and the fact that it had never been done before, Terry and his wife Monica leave their home in Stone, England to take their narrowboat, “Phyllis May” (named for Terry’s mother, who, though many years dead, sometimes reappears in odd places), on the 1,150 mile Intercoastal Waterway from Virginia down to the Gulf of Mexico, accompanied by their whippet, Jim. A narrowboat, as I learned, is also known as a canal boat; it’s six feet, ten inches wide (Jim, the whippet, is about six inches wide) and 60 feet long, with a top speed of 6.2 miles per hour. It’s perfect for cruising the canals of Europe, but perhaps not so great for the open water that the Darlingtons will encounter on their journey. Nonetheless, the trio set out, encountering — as Terry relates in hilarious vignettes — ice storms, high seas, piranhas, chiggers, the southern phenomena of sweet tea, grits, good ‘ole boys and their families and lots of that hospitality the region is known for (despite Jim’s behavior at Christmas, which I’m still chuckling about). While I don’t think I’m brave enough to ever reproduce the trip the Darlingtons made, reading this made me think about ( a) getting a whippet and, (b) taking a narrowboat trip through the canals in England.