Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Canal Virgins

Hire boaters come in for some stick from boat owners. Often because they only have a limited awareness and knowledge of what they have embarked upon. But to a point boat owners could be a bit more friendly and welcoming.

Last night, it was quite late in the boating day and the light was fading quite quickly.  There  are trip boats frequently passing by, which often ply their trade late into the evening. I could here a boat engine being gunned hard a look out of the back doors and I saw a boat trying to get into the side.  I went out and caught a thrown centre line and helped to haul the boat into the bank. It was a couple of around retirement age. Today was their first day out in charge of a hire boat. They had been looking for a mooring, but each time they had attempted to get into the side they had been thwarted for one reason or another. There was a look of relief as there were on the last available mooring and would have either had to turn the boat or keep going into the gloom.

I demonstrated how to moor up the boat - at the same time, explaining what I was doing and why. It seems that they are a crew on a mission. Trying to 'do a ring' of about 80 miles with about a hundred locks to pass through along the way. All this relaxing new adventure to be completed within the week. I chatted  to them about the handover of the boat. They said that all the controls had been explained to them. Then the boat had been manoeuvred out of the base. Then off they went. They were tired and hungry as it had been a very long non-stop day. They had broken up the whole trip into six equally spaced sections. Without making any allowance for the locks. I was about to offer some advice about changing the trip from a mad dash round a ring into to a more gentle three days out and three day return cruise. When they said they were not looking forward to their first lock. I kept stum. So here they were - a pair of canal virgins. Not knowing the basics of how to tie up a boat, not sure about steering, aiming to do a canal ring in a time frame I would not consider. Was this going to be a relaxing holiday or was it going to turn into an ordeal.  

The next morning I was up bright and early. I wished them good morning when they came out. They were stood on the back deck for a while intensely studying a canal guide.  I think that it was already dawning on them that they might need to change their plans. A new route out and back was planned with a huge reduction in the numbers of locks. I travelled with them a short distance up the canal to the first of three locks. Explaining how to use the lock landings and the centre rope.  I worked the first lock explaining what I was doing and what to keep an eye on. The next lock, I let them tackle it on their own whilst keeping a watchful eye. At the third lock, they were feeling much more confident. I waved them goodbye I think today will be the first day of a relaxing holiday. Do you know what, I never did catch their names.

I got back to our boat to find a privately owned boat stuck across the canal while attempting to turn around. The wind was pinning the boat in place. I suggested lifting the back button as the front fender was above the canal edge. Grabbing the front line I was able to pull the boat round with a couple of inches to spare. Did not even get a smile, wave or nod! A few moments later a hire boat passes at high speed - I said to the helmsman 'its good boating manners to slow down when passing moored boats.' He said 'oh, thanks' and slowed the engine down. I gave him a wave and a thumbs up - he gave me a big smile and a nod!

Well, its time for breakfast, I'm wondering what the rest of the day will bring. 


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