"Narrowboating is a Contact Sport" The first time I heard these words were when a boat owner forgave me, a boat hirer on his first cruise, for bumping his boat at the entrance to a lock while he was coming out. I was glad of his forgiving attitude. Unfamiliar with the way the water eddies when it rushes out when emptying a lock and I had got sucked too close trying to be clever and keeping the boat 'on station' instead of using the layby.
Yesterday though I heard the words again. Not referring to my boatmanship but concerning the crew of Anglowelsh hire boat "129". They managed to make it look like boating has more contact than a game of snooker. As I looked back before leaving the town centre mooring, I saw this boat coming through the lift bridge about 100 yards astern from me. I might have expected them to give way and allow me to pull off the mooring but their speed indicated that this was not to be the case. They had posted a lookout in the bow. Possibly to look for a mooring but he ignored the space behind my boat (at least 70 feet) and that I was leaving the mooring (another 60 feet) and headed for a space under the footbridge. Pulling in very fast the helmsman was shouted at because he had a rope dangling from the stern. Pulling in the rope he lost sight of where he was going and crashed into the back of the next boat obviously aborting any attempt to moor and cannoned across the canal against another boat whose crew came out to see what the first bang was about. The lookout fended off with his legs from a seated position in the bow, a very risky thing to do with 17 tonnes of narrowboat behind you. They doubled back to the other boat clipping both of the boats again. The owner of the first boat wished he hadn't pointed out the dangerously dangling rope in the first place and the owner of the second boat resignedly made the quoted remark!
I was priviledged to follow them at a distance out of town and past the Spice Ball visitor moorings. Here they had to avoid another boat coming the other way. The canal is not particularly narrow here but they managed to hit another moored boat during this manoevre. I quite expected them to moor on my mooring, which is on a bend, but they passed that. My neighbour was on his cruiser stern chatting to his wife and watched agog as they failed to make the bend missing them but scraping the next moored boat. I had to wait at the winding hole and watch them turn. To make the turn the helmsman was replaced by the forward lookout who presumably had turned a boat before. It didn't show.
I made a perfect turn but no one was watching- isn't it always the case- and returned to my mooring glad that I didn't have to follow them back. I expect they moored where I HAD JUST LEFT! At least they now had 130 feet to aim at.
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