/cont . . . .
When all the talking is done the boat is ready for the off. It is not just a case of waving them goodbye. It would be foolish if they were cast adrift without us feeling confident that they can cope with the boat. When on the way south or north any out and return trip will involve turning the boat around about the half way point, so as well as general handling between the yard and the lock, and given the yard has an onsite BW Winding Hole customers get a demonstration of turning a boat, placing the bows into the bank of the hole and using the engine/tiller to swing the stern round. The first boat south and the first north carries a member of staff to the nearest lock. His job is not simple but enjoyable because he gets paid to go boating. On the way to the lock is when the basics of learning to steer a boat comes into play.
Once pointing it the right direction the customer is handed the tiller, after all he has paid a lot of money for it we shouldn’t hog it. I stand on the starboard stern quarter with my hand on the tiller, but following what the steerer is doing, not steering. North or south the new boaters will need to negotiate a bridge hole. Newbies often dance from left to right checking that the boat doesn’t hit either side. I tell them that the boat is 6 ft 10 inches wide and the hole a little over 8 feet, as long as they miss the side they are near by about 4/5 inches the other side will get through quite happily without them dancing a hornpipe across the deck. If this clicks with them they stop dancing and start enjoying. The next few hundred yards is about them adjusting their mind set from ‘left to go left’ to ‘left to go right’. The canal bends to the right and then left then right again before the Mill Lift Bridge comes into view. This bridge is of aluminium construction, it can be easily lifted with one hand. We need to moor up in order to navigate the bridge. There is a format for mooring which can be found on the EA/BW CD. Bring the boat into the bank at an angle of about 20o/25o aiming to gently touch the bank second bollard from the bridge. Crew jump off with the rope from the front end and loop the rope around the last bollard. The tiller and engine are then used to bring the stern in. With two turns of rope around each bollard it is time to visit the bridge for a demonstration of how to lift it and lower it safely. I stand beside the chain and with one hand pull the chain and the balance beam comes down. I sit on the beam to hold it open then lower it without a sound. The crew have a go and if satisfactory I return to the boat with the steersman to bring the boat through.Back at the boat and I demonstrate a Colin Edmonds trick for the single hander mentioned in ‘Going it alone’. Untie the bow rope and push the bow out. Untie the stern rope and get aboard. Placing the boat in reverse pushes the stern out. the boat should end up level with the bank but about 4 or five foot away. From here the throttle is pushed forward and away we go! (Thank you Colin). Again we are just watching the one side of the boat and she sails through the bridge hole with ease. The hard part is getting the boat to the bank again to pick up the bridge lifters who have lowered the bridge with out to much sound. At this point if I am not the first member of staff to leave the yard I bid them farewell an they proceed to the lock without me Where the first member of staff will greet them and do the lock demo. If there is a queue of OXNB’s they get to practice mooring with pins as well. I would then walk back to the yard and it all starts over again with another boat.
. . . .cont/