The Worst Journey in the Midlands (William Heinemann: $12.95) by Sam Llewellyn. The author and his lady, Magdalen, traversed the waterways from Wales to Westminster. Magdalen, an 8 1/2-foot rowboat with a pedigree hailing from Queen Victoria's navy, was no slouch but she was a bit skewbald and given to sinking. Sam spiffed her up with caulk and paint, bundled up his belongings, signed a life insurance policy and rowed her down the Severn River. They braved recalcitrant canal locks, incessant downpours, weirs and anglers . . . and one another. Occasionally the fractious Magdalen balked sufficiently to require towing. One time, she simply pitched Sam out and he coshed his head on a cement lock. Man and boat survived their differences, and 300 miles later the river-worthy pair docked at Westminster Pier. The only thing dry about these misadventures is Sam's humor in the telling.