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Learning the "ropes " !


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Hi all, after years of research (and saving hard ! ) I have finally purchased a steel boat which was made for me to fit my limited mooring on the Thames. ( I managed to purchase the mooring a few years ago ! ) Having had some lessons with a very experienced boater I am very conscious that some of you make it look easier than it is !  I am also conscious that the phrase " Teaching an Old dog new Tricks " is probably very apt, but for some of us its not always possible to find the time ( or money ! ) to take up boating in our younger years. 

Buoyed up by the performance ( or perceived performance ) of Sheilagh Hancock  on the new series of great Canal journeys I was just wondering how many others on here started the process of learning to handle a boat after the age of 59 ? How long did it take you to get used to your boat ? Who helped you ? etc.

I do have 2 people that can "crew" for me ( neither of which is an experienced boater ) but feel that it is my responsibility to learn how to handle my own boat and in many ways this is my journey and I want to learn as much as I can.

My boat is 36ft long by 11ft 6in wide and has a fixed wheelhouse ( to enjoy sitting and looking at the lovely view all year round ) with hydraulic steering ( I have already decided I need a "rudder meter " ! ) She will be used mainly on the stretch of the Thames between Abingdon and Windsor ( once I have gained enough confidence )

Oh and she does have a bow thruster ( which I thought would be essential !

Sweet Freedom on her home moorings.jpg

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My boat is 36 x 14 and has hydraulic wheel steering, it is far far easier and more 'natural' than havig a tiller where you have to remember to move it the opposite way you want to turn.

 

If you can drive a car you can steer your boat.

 

The main difference when steering into and out of obstacles is to remember that the boat 'turns' around its centre (a car follows its front wheels) so when turning the front moves one way and the back end turns the opposite.

Get hold of a pencil, lay it on a table, and hold it with finger and thumb in the centre of its length.

Now, push one end, you will see it pivots around your finger/thumb and the other end moves in the opposite direction to your 'push'.

 

This is important to remember when (say) moving away from your mooring, you steer the front end 'out' but the back end will spin and hit the bank.

 

You are on a big wide River - get out and try it. It really is as easy as it looks.

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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At 36 ft it should be easier to handle than many much longer boats.

 

On the rudder angle thing, you could make a mark on the wheel spoke at the top when the rudder is centred, (a piece of tape, or rope tied round, or something more fancy). Then work out how many turns of the wheel it takes each way to reach the end of the rudders travel. Not as precise as a "rudder meter", but a good start, and easy to apply. If the number of turns each way is more than one, there is a danger you lose count of where you are, but you would get used to this with practice.

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Thanks Nut ! I have been doing a lot of research using these forums but only just joined as a member. I realise that with all things in life not everyone has the same taste ( and it would be a boring world if they did ! ) but some things are driven by necessity and our own individual circumstances. I am certainly looking forward to gaining more experience of river cruising as it can be a bit daunting when it is very busy !

 

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27 minutes ago, Newtricks said:

Hi all, after years of research (and saving hard ! ) I have finally purchased a steel boat which was made for me to fit my limited mooring on the Thames. ( I managed to purchase the mooring a few years ago ! ) Having had some lessons with a very experienced boater I am very conscious that some of you make it look easier than it is !  I am also conscious that the phrase " Teaching an Old dog new Tricks " is probably very apt, but for some of us its not always possible to find the time ( or money ! ) to take up boating in our younger years. 

Buoyed up by the performance ( or perceived performance ) of Sheilagh Hancock  on the new series of great Canal journeys I was just wondering how many others on here started the process of learning to handle a boat after the age of 59 ? How long did it take you to get used to your boat ? Who helped you ? etc.

I do have 2 people that can "crew" for me ( neither of which is an experienced boater ) but feel that it is my responsibility to learn how to handle my own boat and in many ways this is my journey and I want to learn as much as I can.

My boat is 36ft long by 11ft 6in wide and has a fixed wheelhouse ( to enjoy sitting and looking at the lovely view all year round ) with hydraulic steering ( I have already decided I need a "rudder meter " ! ) She will be used mainly on the stretch of the Thames between Abingdon and Windsor ( once I have gained enough confidence )

Oh and she does have a bow thruster ( which I thought would be essential !

 

What a tidy looking boat.

 

Any more pictures?

 

As to learning. Well the only 'formal' training we ever had was as hire boaters and the 15 minute trial run before being let loose on our own. It did actually help us as it covered operating one of the large double locks on the Leeds and Liverpool.

 

After that every thing was by reading on here and getting tips from other boaters along with self teaching and adapting to our own boat, which we no longer own.

 

 

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Hi @Newtricks - lovely stretch of the river where you are! I visit the pub reasonably frequently with friends who sing in the choir at the college.

 

Your boat has pretty much exactly the dimensions of mine, and mine handles like a dream. With a bit of practise you should be able to take her most places between Osney and Teddington. Single engine and a thruster is an awesome combination for manoeuvrability, and you will soon get used to the rudder position by feel.

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Thanks everyone for all your comments and suggestions so far. I think the most daunting part for me is the locks as there are a lot of GRP boats that tie up near the entrances when its busy and I am conscious that its not easy to avoid collision in such close quarters if you haven't got it right first time ! At 15 tons ( unloaded ) I would not want to hit one --or graze past it. ! On the open river its a lot easier , except in high Summer when there are paddle boards, canoes and wild swimmers to try and avoid ( I plan to make most of my trips outside of the peak season )

I think that having a "flat bottom " ( if you will pardon the phrase ! ) makes it a little less easy to turn than the standard v-shaped hull and I am having to get used to the fact that it takes a short while before the bow starts to turn ( by which time you have probably oversteered and need to correct again ! ) I have learned that when turning her around a bit of reverse thrust at the halfway point will swing the back around and tighten the turn ( at the moment I always feel that I am closer to other boats than I actually am )

My instructor was very good and we used the method of counting the turns from full lock left to full lock right ( about 5 of them so hard to really get a precise "straight ahead " guess )

The only other thing that my instructor was very good at was telling me all the things that could go wrong, which while very helpful did not help to ease my nerves !

Due to Covid we were late launching ( late July/ early August ) so I am really hoping to make the most of things once the days get a bit longer again.

My main point really is ----how long do you think it will take for me to get a bit more proficient ? In terms of engine hours, how long did it take you all  ?

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34 minutes ago, Newtricks said:

 

My instructor was very good and we used the method of counting the turns from full lock left to full lock right ( about 5 of them so hard to really get a precise "straight ahead " guess )

The only other thing that my instructor was very good at was telling me all the things that could go wrong, which while very helpful did not help to ease my nerves !

Due to Covid we were late launching ( late July/ early August ) so I am really hoping to make the most of things once the days get a bit longer again.

My main point really is ----how long do you think it will take for me to get a bit more proficient ? In terms of engine hours, how long did it take you all  ?

Maybe you need a different instructor, one who can give you confidence

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A steering knob at the top of the wheel in the rudder middle position is helpful.

Also very useful when doing three point turns,when you can go from full lock to full lock quickly.

A couple of hours,and a couple of locks,and you will be as incontinent as the rest of us.

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One thing to remember when turning, particularly when doing a 180, if you give it a burst of power at the same time as turning the wheel, the boat will rotate quicker on a much reduced turning circle - as previously mentioned, you are on a wide river, so ideal to go out and have a good 'play'!

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1 hour ago, Newtricks said:

My main point really is ----how long do you think it will take for me to get a bit more proficient ? In terms of engine hours, how long did it take you all  ?

Having reached the dizzy heights of 3rd Officer with a shipping line, and having been sailing for over 30 years, I found the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsmans Course extremely useful when I did it in 2006. I didn't actually need the qualification - we did it to give my wife a feel for boats and handling, prior to setting off from UK to Malta on our seagoing yacht. Pretty sure this was where I actually learned reversing with any particular methodology, rather than "winging it" :) 

 

A couple of days with an experience RYA instructor, with a structured programme, will teach you loads that could take years to pick up by boating without instruction.

 

I'd say you should feel comfortable with things after your first year of boating, but be aware that there is always something around the corner waiting to bite your bum.

 

I cant argue that hundreds of people manage a week or two of hire boating with only 15/30 minutes of "instruction" at the start... but I don't think that is the question you are asking. 

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3 hours ago, Newtricks said:

I am also conscious that the phrase " Teaching an Old dog new Tricks " is probably very apt...

 

...in our younger years. 

 

Buoyed up by the performance ( or perceived performance ) of Sheilagh Hancock....

 

... learning to handle a boat after the age of 59 ?

I read the first, second and third statements expecting an octogenarian at least, possibly Captain Sir Tom, and then I read the forth...

 

59? 59!  Fifty'kin nine?!  C'mon, it's an inland waterways boat - you're not learning to be an astronaut!  Get on with it!  :D

 

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 Still working on the inside and planning to build a cabin at the bow. Also going to install solar panels over the winter as decided I wanted to be "gas free" and don't want to keep running the engine while it's not under load.I have a compost waterless toilet which is great as I only have a small water tank ,(350 litres ) I like the idea of a "bull bar " to help me turn quickly from full lock to full lock as at the moment I need to get my hand on the spokes and  that means bending a bit so I can't see out of the window.!

20201012_132758.jpg

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2 hours ago, Newtricks said:

My main point really is ----how long do you think it will take for me to get a bit more proficient ? In terms of engine hours, how long did it take you all  ?

The first time I hired a narrowboat I reckon I was reasonably good at the basics after 2 days. This translated into about 15hrs and 10 narrow locks.

 

By ‘reasonably good’ I mean I could routinely get the boat in and out of the lock without bashing the sides on the way in, stop the boat where I wanted and navigate very narrow parts of the canal without hitting anything! The best lesson I learnt on that first hire was that you don’t rush things on a narrowboat...ie don’t rush into a lock/mooring and go hard astern to stop, slowing down well in advance makes your life much easier.   

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3 hours ago, Ianws said:

The boat is gas free but you have a portable gas stove onboard. 

Isn't a gas free boat with a gas stove not something of a major contradiction.   It's a bit like saying "I went for a swim in the local water free swimming pool."

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16 minutes ago, Bod said:

Would those camping gas stoves pass a BSS check?

 

Bod

No,not according to the link to the bss site.

It does say that if you just need a hot drink,then a spirit stove is ok

It does say'install' a spirit stove .I would guess from that,it needs to be fastened down.

However,different bss inspectors opinions may differ.

 

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