Over eight years I have been a single hander. I enjoy my boating. I like being around people, but value those times of solitude when I don’t see another boat for days on end. There are times when it is nice to have help, usually at places like the Hatton flight, but more often I don’t want help. I find that if my routine is ‘invaded’ then things go wrong.
Last night, wanting to spend the night in the country, I slipped my ropes and chugged slowly up to Shipton Weir Lock. Arriving at the lock I gently nosed up to the gate, danced down the gunnel and stepped of with my windlass to work the lock. Once through I reversed down the river and moored just there alongside the lock.
I never expect anyone to help here. Its a slow lock. Most people say it is a hard lock, but that’s about being impatient. Shipton is an easy lock. What makes it hard is trying to open it before its ready. It’s a ‘tea’ lock. Open the paddles and go make a cuppa. When you come back you will be able to open the gate easily.
So after mooring I lit the fire (well it was a bit chilly) did the washing up then got a shower. The rain started. In my dressing gown I opened the side hatch and watched as another single hander worked the lock.
It was a big boat that I had seen over the weekend with crew, but he was on his own now.
“Just watching then?” he said.
Did he expect me to help?
“Yes, I‘m not dressed for locking,” I said.
Why did he expect me to help? He never said another word, just ignored me. When he opened the top gate I said I would close it for him. I can’t think for the life of me why I said this! It was only as I walked to the lock, in my dressing gown and slippers, in the fecking rain, that he got chatty. As he pootled off up the river I closed the gate.
If you are a single hander you will never learn your ‘craft’ if you keep on expecting others to help, and expecting half naked crusty old boaters to help is just going to scare the wildlife!