Yes, as was commented on a post I made a few weeks ago, we all have to start somewhere.
Yesterday, I took my nephew and his fiancee for a boat handling course. They wanted to borrow Sonflower for a couple of days as they had some holiday left and had never handled any craft before.
I took a tried and trusted route. The best way to learn is to do it. Tooley's Boatyard run boat handling courses and take their pupils on a circular tour. The same circular tour that we would undertake to get water. So I did the same with my tutees. We went through the boat with the essentials of the layout and equipment, to fit the tiller, greasing the stern tube and then starting the engine and untying the mooring lines we were away. One of them steered out of Banbury to the Grimsbury Wharf turning point and back to the centre, through the lift bridge and lock then we changed helmsmen for the cruise to the Bankside turning point and back through the lock and lift bridge stopping at the water point to demonstrate this too. And back to Castle Quay. A concise tour of the essentials of narrowboating completed in three hours.
I was then happy to leave them with the keys and our precious boat for a couple of days, knowing that they had navigated between moored boats, through bridge narrows, a lock, a lift bridge, stopped to set down and pick up crew, turned and moored the boat. I was confident that they would survive.
I walked away thinking that it was a far cry from the 'familiarisation' I received from the company I first hired from. Someone came with me to show me how to steer and operate the throttle and stepped off the boat at the first bridge hole, leaving me to navigate two tunnels, eight miles of canal, a busy canal junction that evening with a cheery "don't stop between the tunnels" and the prospect of descending 22 locks the next morning without ever even seeing a hand operated narrow lock before. My only experience had been watching the lock keeper at Penton Hook on the Thames operate his hydraulically operated gates and paddles when I was a boy.
But then the best way to learn is by doing. We all make mistakes. The thing is to try not to make the same mistake too often.
Oh, I forgot to tell them where to plug in their mobile phone charger. I hope they will cope.
- The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.