Friday, 2 March 2012

On Manoeuvres (11)

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.

There are some basic rules that you need to understand when boating on the Inland Waterways. There are a number of guides on boat handling skills available, but most of the rules are common sense. However, due to the vagaries of the gift of common sense that life bestows upon us. There are a few people out on the canal for who any amount of common sense would be a challenge.  This is usually the group of young or old men who have consumed enough alcohol to float the boat. If you come across such a group watch your step and then observe the performance.

Tip :1 On the cut we drive on the right, this means that any other boats approaching you will pass on the left. The opposite way to which we in the UK drive on the road.

Like the roads we have speed limits. Four miles per hour is the maximum, for the canals network. Its not the minimum speed for everyone to aim for. However, our boats don't have speed recording devices built in. So we need some way to estimate our speed. A good rule of thumb is to never move faster than your normal walking pace. You can also use a GPS system like you would use in a car.

I chose to move at whatever speed that does not create a wash that will damage the canal banks. Avoid creating a bow wave, or creating a slight lowering of the water just ahead of the boat. These are signs that you should slow down. The width, depth and shape of the canal bottom can create conditions where a breaking wave will occur even at slow speeds.

Tip :2 If someone says that you are going to fast it not because you are doing more than four miles per hour.  Often its because you are creating a breaking wave that is going to damage the canal banks.

Like a car, fuel economy with your boat depends on how hard you drive. Our boat ticks-over at 850 rpm. on tick-over the speed is just less than 2mph. Good for passing moored boats. at 1550 rpm we are doing just under 4 mph. The problem is that your boat has to push a head of water round the boat to move. The faster the water is displaced the more energy in the form of diesel is used. At tick over, on average we use just less than a litre an hour. At a constant 1550 rpm we use just over three litres and hour. Now that the cost of diesel is spiralling ever upwards, looking at fuel saving is a good idea.

Placing your boat into the deepest point of the canal or river is a good idea. This allows the water to flow past easier. Its also good for avoiding getting the boat stemmed up. If you do get yourself beached on a mud bank you have a few options available. If the water level is variable (Tidal) you can wait for the tide to turn. If you are on a canal a flush of water from the lock above can help to free up the boat. If neither of the above options is available. Generally speaking getting off the way you went on is the best option. You will have ploughed your own furrow. Put the engine into reverse and rock the boat from side to side to ease the boat backwards. if there are other boats around you might be able to get assistance with a tow line.


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