It can be very hard work

Published: Wednesday, 26 April 2017

I HAVE just read your article about those thousands of people enjoying a taster trip on hire boats at the various boat hire centres throughout the country, promoted it said by the television programmes, writes Helen Cripps.

So I feel I ought to tell those who, as the article says, have been attracted by the television programmes about our canals that all is not as it seems, as two friends who took up such an offer last year discovered.

Very hard work

It was the television programme featuring Timothy West and Prunella Scales that gave the man the idea to take a canal holiday, as to put it bluntly he is not one of the world's workers, and obviously fancied himself sat at a tiller whilst his wife, like poor Prunella Scales, did all the work. My pointing out to my female friend that the actuality is nothing like what the television portrays, but can be very hard work, for the woman.

rochdaleThe man had his way and a week was booked on the Rochdale Canal, which I strongly advised against, telling it was a broad canal and they would be better on an easier narrow canal as beginners, but he fancied the Pennines, so it was booked.  As expected, he just sat there at the tiller and sent his wife to do the locks. 

We have done this waterway from East to West, as they were doing, but we take turns with the locks, but the husband would not, she telling me that he maintained the television programmes always showed the man steering, and it would not be right for her to do that!

Collapsed through exhaustion

I don't rightly remember the base they started from but soon into the week they hit a stoppage and were held up, but I take it only for a day, but this threw his plans out of kilter, and so wanted to make up lost time doing a 12 hours day, but as they climbed up the Pennines with lock after lock—seven within one mile at Todmorden—she literally collapsed through exhaustion!  Then we received a frantic telephone call.

So we went and rescued them, and by using taxis in conjunction with our car, we turned the boat around and accompanied them back to base, as the lady, rightly so, completely refused to do any further locks. I took over the tiller, showing the man that we women are quite capable, and to take no notice of those television programmes, and make sure your man does not 'lord-it' at the tiller like Timothy West, but gets off the boat and does some work.

Abrupt end

So it was a rather abrupt end to the 'holiday'.  Needless to say the two have not set foot on a narrowboat since, and I'm sure never will!

I should point out that we have been boating. like many others, for many years, enjoy our cruises, but know exactly what to expect and are prepared.