Experience makes a difference

Published: Monday, 18 November 2019

VICTOR brought home to me just how difficult it is for beginners to cope with narrowboating, writes James Henry.

I too can associate with his comments of how long it takes to cruise when you are new to it as compared when you have a few years under your belt, and it was at about the same time, over 20 years ago when my wife and I took to boating, and like Victor have learned as we go along.

Tying all the time

It was the use of a hire company before we had our first boat that drilled into us about tying the boat securely whenever we stopped, that resulted in tying when we come to a lock and waiting until it was opened, tying in the lock then again whilst waiting for the one doing the lock to get back on the boat.

Yes, I have heard only too often that you should not be in a hurry, but there is a limit to the time available and the distance you have to travel, but our first attempts really took too long and like Victor we ended up doing very long days and being worn out in the bargain.

No need to tie at all

But how different after a bit of practice when you realise that there is no need to tie up at all, as a little use of the engine holding the boat, that after all is already going, makes it so unnecessary, and tying up in locks is a fool's game as having witnessed one boat hung up as the rope was not slackened when the boat rose in the lock.

[Our proof reader Ted Sedman pointed out this can be misconstrued, so I will explain. This can happen when the centre rope is tied tight when the roof is level with the ground, and as the boat rises the rope pulls the boat over and allows water to enter its sides and the boat can slip down on its side, as I once saw at Sawley Lock but quickly pressed the emergency button to close paddles so stopped water entering the boat—Editor.]

There was another boat being caught on the cill as the middle rope tied towards the back of the lock pulled the boat back onto the cill as it descended and sank, though I was yelling at the person on the paddles to drop them, but was ignored.

Like your good-selves, we have a good system knowing exactly when the lock will be empty and going forward, keeping well at the front of the lock in most circumstances and picking up the 'locky' at the gate entrance without pulling in to moor.  In fact it is rare for us to use a rope at all.

Making work for yourselves

Perhaps I should not say this, but how easy it is to recognise the beginners or those who do not seem capable of learning how to make it all so easy, as it certainly can be, saving all those hours making work for yourselves.

But a word about single handers, as the above just cannot apply, and that I appreciate.  Having no one on the boat whilst locking means they have to make sure their boats are safe, so ropes are a necessity in their case.