Thursday, 24 November 2005

Learning about canals and boaty things.

So where to from here. I decided that I was going to own a boat. It was going to be my home. What do I know about boats? Well I knew that they floated on water. I knew that they used to be pulled by horses, but what did I know about boats? Nothing!

How do I find out about boats?

Research! And..................................????????

Research is a good word. Google provided me with the tool to search the web for "Narrow Boats" and "Canals UK". There are myriad finds on the Google net. Take your pick.

I started out reading Waterways Interactive. A lot of information but not much traffic (a year or two down the line a few of us tried to resurrect it, but it was hard going). My next 'site' was Canal World Forums. Again a lot of information, but this time a lot of traffic too. Ask a question and a dozen replies from very knowledgeable boaters would appear over the next few days. Not knowing any thing about boating I did not know what questions to ask, so I set about reading all, yes all the posts. A new site on the up is Canal Interactive. Mostly aimed at CCer's and live aboards. It's slow starting but I have an idea that it will take off.

The good thing about CWF at the time was the level of experience, from crusty old 'sea dogs' to those like me who knew just enough to get there.

The important thing was to glean information. I have a lot of info on my hard drive. A lot of it was very relevant to me and a lot not. I have learned a lot. I now know a lot about boats. I also know quite a lot about the canals and the organisations that control them. What I do not know is what it is like to be a boater. You can't get that kind of ethos from the net, but everyone has to start somewhere.

I imagined a life living in a boat with a couple of 12-volt batteries and reading by the light of a hurricane lamp, was I in for a surprise!

Learning about boats is only part of the process. Learning about the system, the controlling bodies and the 'rules' is very important. For those that haven't caught up with me yet I live in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh to be exact. Learning about the mechanical aspects is relatively easy for me, I am an aircraft electrical engineer, have been for nearly 35 years. Whilst learning the mechanics was easy I did miss out on 'hands on' experience due to my location. The nearest canal to me was the SUEZ about 500 miles away, I think, so the chance of me getting hands on experience was non-existent.

Rules are not the same. If you can read and have a reasonable standard of education most can understand the 'rules'. I have always been a 'rules man'. I can learn rules. I can interpret rules and I can apply rules. You still need a bit of 'on board ethos', but owning a boat is not a pre-requisite to understanding the rules. Usually if someone says to me that 'this is a grey area' I tend to know that they do not understand the rules. I don't know all the rules yet, but I am learning fast.

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