Wednesday 25 January 2012

On Manoeuvres (4)

This is one of an occasional series of postings about manoeuvring a narrow-boat on the canals and rivers. There may be other ways to achieve the same result. However, the method I employ has been devised or adapted by me using trial and error. (Trial and Error are two of my regular boating companions) Our boat is a semi-traditional in style and just over 50 feet long. Rosie 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 and the forgetful like me! However, if you have crew available they can still assist when things get difficult by keeping quiet and not offering their advice.

Passing another boat.

When you meet a boat coming the other way, each boat should gradually move a little bit away from the centre of the canal. Each boat should take up a position leaving a few feet of clearance. You will pass the other craft with the on-coming boat on your left hand side. In shallow water when you move closer to the edge, you can slow down the engine to reduce the risk of your propeller being damaged by any debris on the bottom. This also has the effect of raising the stern a little in the water. Do not reduce the engine power to the point where you loose steering.  You may need to make short busts of power to help with steering. Observe the bank side vegetation and try to adjust your speed and position so that you pass each other well clear of any overhanging obstructions such as tree branches.

When passing moored boats, slow down so that your movement does not cause other boats to rock in the water. It can be a bit disconcerting when moored up, to find your lunch suddenly sliding around on the table.

Sometimes you will be passing moored boats and meet another craft coming the other way. The passing will leave much reduced clearances. Sometimes in this scenario it is much better for one boat to slow down and hug the bank. In this case the one closest to the moored boats will keep moving as it is closest to the centre of the canal. The one furthest away will slow down and hug the bank and if necessary be prepared to stop.

When approaching a bridge where it is difficult to see beyond, sound one long blast on your horn. If as you approach a bridgehole you hear a long horn blast be prepared to stop. When meeting a boat at a bridge hole, the nearest boat has priority. (On rivers, the boat coming downstream has right of way.) Be prepared to slowdown or stop at bridge holes. Murphy's law states that in mile after mile of empty canal, passing boats will always meet in a bridgehole. Wherever possible I try to adjust my speed so that I don't need to stop the boat from moving forward whilst some other boat negotiates the bridgehole.

Remember a boat that is not under power is drifting, when drifting you have no steering. You are a bit like a car on ice, you can turn the steering but little change of direction if any will happen.

When passing a boat you will find that the boats will be pushed apart slightly as they pass. Be prepared to make any fine adjustments to the tiller as you pass. The amount that boats are drawn towards or away from each other will depend on how deep the water is. In shallow water a passing boat may draw away enough water from under your boat to leave you sliding along on the bottom for a few seconds.

When passing through restricted bridge holes the boat will noticeably slow down until you are clear of the restriction. You are squeezing your boat through a narrow gap and the water in front is trying to find its way past you, down the sides and underneath to get to the propeller.

Now for overtaking, because I am never in a hurry, I tend not to overtake other boats. If I catch up with another boat, I tend to slow down to match their speed. But there are rare occasions when the boat ahead is moving very slowly when an overtake might happen. I wait until I have a good view of the canal ahead and then give a toot on the horn to indicate to the boat ahead what I am doing. Sometimes the boat ahead will be encouraged to speed up. When this happens I just fall in behind again. Most often the boat ahead will pull to one side and give you more room to manoeuvre. My preferred method to overtake a slower boat on the wider canals is to pass whilst saharing a lock if there are any around. You get to meet people and enjoy a short chat. Suggest to them whist chatting that you will be the first boat out of the lock and that  you will set the next lock ahead.

From time to time check what's happening behind you. If a boat is catching you up, its a good idea to move over and reduce your speed to let the other boat pass with the minimum of fuss and minimum of distance travelled. Wave the boat behind on, when the canal ahead is clear and you are ready to move over.

Previous On Manoeuvres (1) (2) (3)


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