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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Vestal Voyages, King's Cross


"Fancy a cruise around King's Cross?' asks nice PR lady. Cruising for what, I wonder? Dodgy weed? Skunk? Smack? A five-bob-a-nob-job aff some gummy auld granny? An accountant from PricewaterhouseCoopers, pretending to be a scally, on-the-pull at Central Station, in full footie kit - one of that establishment's special interest nights, Im told? Negative. It transpires I am invited on the maiden voyage of 50ft Gdansk-built, Liverpool stern, classic canal cruiser, Disco Volante. The imaginatively refurbished craft is owner/ captain/ ex-Storm model turned purveyor of premium Polish potato vodka, William Borrell's pride and joy/ big boy toy. All summer long, twice daily (four times at weekends), you and up to nine others can also join William and his cool and slightly kooky crew in the shadow of St. Pancras International for Vestal Voyages - a Regent's Canal booze cruise that's a lot more entertaining than watching a pair of gannets from Thanet on a day-trip to Calais trying to cram more lager than Lidl will shift in a month into the back of an old Ford Focus. Glasses charged with Nautical Nonsense - one of various  themed 'tails that also include dangerously guzzlable vodka, white wine and green tea-based breezer, Sips Ahoy - we cast off. £8 each, two ship-shape cocktails are included in the £25pp cost of a 90-minute trip along what I'm assured is one of the more picturesque sections of Regent's Canal. Although, given the amount of crap floating in the water - chucked in by the kind of slacker that will happily donate to Friends of the Earth - I'll not bother with the grittier stretches, thank you, Captain William. It's all great fun and the sense of canal-life camaraderie is palpable. Ducks swim up to say hello, towpath strollers wave, and one grumpy dude on a bike shouts out "middle-class wankers!" Our floating gin palace, or vodka palace to be precise - although other spirits are available -  progresses serenely towards a long, long tunnel ahead. This is my favourite part of the trip. Clammy; claustrophobic; silent; Stygian: it's fabulously eery. Ere long, a golden light at the tunnel's end can be glimpsed. "This is what dying must feel like" muses one jolly Roger aboard. As we emerge into a sun-dappled, bucolic, watery idyll as imagined by Raoul Dufy, I can see what he means. Who knew the arse end of Islington could be heaven on earth?

Granary Square, Camley Street NC 4AA bookings 07941 117 553 www.facebook.com/VestalVaults?fref=ts