Wednesday, 15 February 2012

On Manoeuvers (9)

This is one of an occasional series of tips about manoeuvring a narrow-boat on the canals and rivers. There may be other ways to achieve the same result. However, the method has been devised or adapted by me using trial and error. (Trial and Error are two of my regular boating companions) Our boat is 50 feet long and has a keel depth of twenty five inches and weighs in at a tad over eighteen tons. The techniques described are intended to help new comers to boating.

Leaving a mooring.

We do this by first of all starting up the engine and leaving it for a short time to warm up. The first job will be to ensure that any power cables and other items are removed and stowed away. The engine must always be running before any mooring ropes are untied. You don't want to cast off and then find that the engine will not start. I always give the prop greaser a half turn at the start of the day.

Your boat could be moored up to a wharf, bank or even a lock mooring pontoon. The method of setting off will be much the same. You will want the bow of the boat pointing out towards the centre of the canal. You can after pushing off the bow, do the same at the stern. Centre the tiller and the engine power set to slowly drive the boat forward. When forward power is applied the back of the boat will sit down in the water. As the water is shallow close to the bank it is possible to foul the bottom. Only use enough power to get clear of the bank before increasing power to get under way.

If there is a flow of water, you can use this to your advantage. If the flow is from the front of the boat. Untie the stern line and coil it up. Then untie the bow line and coil it up. Now loosen the centre line to allow enough slack for the front of the boat to come clear of the bank. Once the bow is a few feet out quickly coil the centre line and trail the end towards the stern so it can be retrieved for later use. The stern should still be in contact with the bank and you should be able to easily push away and step on board. Have the tiller centred and the engine power set to slowly drive the boat forward against the flow of the water.

Stopping the boat.

This is achieved by placing the engine control into the reverse position. Then gradually applying reverse power. The boat will be slow to respond at first. But most boats can be made to stop in their own length. I prefer to slowly glide the boat to a stop when very close to the bank. If there is no flow of water or strong wind it is possible to pull the boat to a stop and into the bank at the same time.

Bringing the boat into a mooring.

As you approach the mooring point, move the boat closer towards the bank at a shallow angle. Let the speed drop off by putting the engine into reverse, but use a slow engine speed. When the boat is just creeping forward put the gear into neutral. At a very slow forward speed manoeuvre the nose of the boat until it is about three feet from the bank. Put the engine into forward gear and set the tiller to push the stern into  the bank. Just before you are parallel with the bank put the engine into reverse to kill any remaining forward movement. Step ashore and moor up.

Like all things in life, practise makes perfect - unless you are like SWMBO the Memsahib. In which case according to her, that was her starting position and she got better from there.


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