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A Beginners Reflection on Narrow Boating


atgordon
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Very good to see the experience from the perspective of a first timer (and first time post here - welcome!) Too often those of us who have been around for a while forget which things can faze a newbie. Hence the advice to listen to the whole chat from the hire company is well-made.

 

For me, I can understand your concern about the security of mooring spots but we find that there are really many fewer places that must be avoided than the doom merchants suggest. Much more frequently is the problem you did have of avoiding unwanted noise! Whilst we have had one or two 'incidents' over the years it really would not be possible to predict them on the basis of the visual attraction or otherwise of the location.

 

Do come back and tell us if you opt to repeat the experience.

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49 minutes ago, Mike Todd said:

Do come back and tell us if you opt to repeat the experience.

I certainly would, and I'm recommending that our US boating friends consider narrow boating in the UK.   My wife on the other hand would only want to narrow boat again on canals without locks (or with a larger crew)!

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4 minutes ago, atgordon said:

I certainly would, and I'm recommending that our US boating friends consider narrow boating in the UK.   My wife on the other hand would only want to narrow boat again on canals without locks (or with a larger crew)!

I find wife and two enthusiastic teen/grown-up children -- or one+SOH -- works very well...

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1 hour ago, MtB said:

 

Who was steering the boat?! 

Me!  I tried to get the crew to helm but they were very nervous.  Our first few days were on the T&M from Stafford to Tamworth, and the waterway was busy, so they were very nervous when meeting other boats.  If we had gone anti-clockwise on the Staffs and Worcs, which was much quieter (and more consistently 2-boats wide), they would probably have done better.  Either way, neither of them wanted to steer into a lock, so I was stuck at the back for 2 weeks.  Which I thoroughly enjoyed for all the reasons you know well and love!

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4 hours ago, jeanb said:

Thanks atgordon, quite an ambitious October trip.

Thanks!  The canal planning sources I mentioned earlier were a great help, but it did take a fair amount of time to plan, and then re-plan when you realize that you cannot make 2.5 MPH all of the time!

 

I spent less time route planning a 600nm trip from Wilmington, NC to Bermuda (but a lot more time on weather planning).  Our UK weather planning was the usual Met Office roll of the dice in October - although we only had 2 rainy days!

 

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For something a bit different (and fewer and easier locks) you might try the Fens. Very quiet most of the time.

 

Good hire bases at Ely (Bridge boats - black prince) and March (Foxes, an excellent family firm). On flying days you will see US fighter and transport planes (Lakenheath and Mildenhall)  in case you are feeling homesick.

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1 hour ago, Stroudwater1 said:

Glad you had a good time and thanks for the posting.  I hardly dare mention you could have traveled  foreword up to Star City moorings then carried on up Garrison and Ashted locks avoiding the Aston locks then up Farmers Bridge ☺️

Exactly.  No need for any reversing there.  But on the subject of reversing, there's no easy answer.  Some boats will hold a good line when going astern and some won't.  Prop walk is supposed to throw the bow off in a predictable way, but my bow always goes the wrong way when I'm reversing!

 

Glad you had a safe night in Tipton by the BCLM but the spot you chose isn't the safest.  I would really recommend fitting inside the museum moorings if at all possible.  If not, the offside 'John The Lock' moorings are safer than the ones by the grass which you chose.

 

I'm please you hear you enjoyed your holiday.  Any route including Birmingham will involve a lot of locks and will put many off due to the industrial nature of the city.  If you're looking for ideas on a relatively lock free option for next time, heres two suggestions:

 

1.  Hire from somewhere around Napton or Braunston.  Head North on the Oxford Canal and then onto the Ashby Canal.  Go to the end of the Ashby and return.  Total 8 locks for the whole trip.

 

2.  Hire from Lowesmoor Basin in Worcester and go down the canal, onto the Severn, onto the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and return.  The are  a total of 8 locks which you'd work yourself and the rest of the locks (on the river) are done for you.

 

Of the 2, I'd pick option 2.  There's more interesting places to stop and sightsee along the way, and the cruising is more varied.

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Glad you enjoyed it overall.   Some boats will reverse well.  Some insist on going backwards at 45 degrees.   Its down to the underwater design at the back and is just a feature of that boat.  The longer the boat the straighter it will reverse.   Some say the faster the better but you need big conjones to do that in tight spaces. 

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15 hours ago, atgordon said:

I certainly would, and I'm recommending that our US boating friends consider narrow boating in the UK.   My wife on the other hand would only want to narrow boat again on canals without locks (or with a larger crew)!

I my experience too many crew is as bad as too few, if not worse! Ideally steerer plus two on shore is about as good as it gets - of course you can have more on board but if more get off to help then they can easily get in each other's way and there is also more room for mis-communication.

 

We do most of our cruising with just the two of us and make good progress but when we have an additional member it is easier and there can be chances for one to to take a bit of a rest! (If you want an Idle life then don't go on a canal cruise! However, sometimes one  person can feel bit off and so the extra crewing capacity is helpful)

 

With two crew, if on a flight, one goes ahead to prepare the next lock whilst the other closes up behind the boat. If there is a bit of an interruption to the normal smooth operation then swapping the roles gives a bit of variety. If doing only single locks, the extra crew do not add much to the ease of operation since both will be dropped off at the same time on the lock landing - unless you have crew that like doing a lot of walking!

 

In my experience the only factor that really matters is having a lock set to go straight in as soon as the boat arrives, top or bottom. At busy times, extra crew can not do a lot other than chat up the boaters ahead.

 

Teams trying to break records for flight passages may well benefit from a third crew member who can be ready to pull the ahead paddles as soon as the behind gates have been shut but that is a bit extreme! Narrow locks without convenient tail bridges can benefit from one crew to each gate but only if aiming for a fast passage. However, if following closely another boat then offering to close up after them (easy to make it sound like a favour!) is helpful as it gets them on their way sooner.

 

We quite often find, even in our dotage, that we can go at least as fast as heavily crewed boats! Sometimes experience does help . . . 

 

(sorry for a bit of a ramble!)

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2 minutes ago, Mike Todd said:

I my experience too many crew is as bad as too few, if not worse! Ideally steerer plus two on shore is about as good as it gets - of course you can have more on board but if more get off to help then they can easily get in each other's way and there is also more room for mis-communication.

 

We do most of our cruising with just the two of us and make good progress but when we have an additional member it is easier and there can be chances for one to to take a bit of a rest! (If you want an Idle life then don't go on a canal cruise! However, sometimes one  person can feel bit off and so the extra crewing capacity is helpful)

 

With two crew, if on a flight, one goes ahead to prepare the next lock whilst the other closes up behind the boat. If there is a bit of an interruption to the normal smooth operation then swapping the roles gives a bit of variety. If doing only single locks, the extra crew do not add much to the ease of operation since both will be dropped off at the same time on the lock landing - unless you have crew that like doing a lot of walking!

 

In my experience the only factor that really matters is having a lock set to go straight in as soon as the boat arrives, top or bottom. At busy times, extra crew can not do a lot other than chat up the boaters ahead.

 

Teams trying to break records for flight passages may well benefit from a third crew member who can be ready to pull the ahead paddles as soon as the behind gates have been shut but that is a bit extreme! Narrow locks without convenient tail bridges can benefit from one crew to each gate but only if aiming for a fast passage. However, if following closely another boat then offering to close up after them (easy to make it sound like a favour!) is helpful as it gets them on their way sooner.

 

We quite often find, even in our dotage, that we can go at least as fast as heavily crewed boats! Sometimes experience does help . . . 

 

(sorry for a bit of a ramble!)

A total of four crew does free one up to go ahead to the next lock or stay behind at the one you're leaving (a bike is handy...) -- or more important, make the bacon sandwiches 😉

 

Many years ago we (me and my wife) were being held up in a flight of locks by the boat ahead who had a crew of at least six or eight, but didn't have a clue. I eventually persuaded then to let us pass them, and we steadily pulled ahead of them...

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15 minutes ago, Dave123 said:

Gas fired central heating on a hire boat sounds unusual! It's normally a diesel system or even better - some hire boats have stoves.

It's pretty common.  Mine has it.  From what I've seen it's the most common form of heating on hire boats.  The reason is that it's more reliable and needs less maintenance than diesel heating.  It works out more expensive than red diesel but a lot of that is down to not using it in the optimum way, and the fuel expense is offset by far lower electricity consumption.  In fact, I'd say that main drawback isn't cost, it's availability of storage and the hassle of lugging heavy cylinders around.  The major advantages over diesel are that it's almost silent and draws a negligable amount from your batteries.

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3 hours ago, Mike Todd said:

I my experience too many crew is as bad as too few, if not worse!

 

For good progress I'm inclined to agree. 

 

As a single hander I generally find in flights I can keep up with any boat that has three or more crew on the bank. Large crews tend to just mill about in confusion with no-one having a well defined role, whereas bank crews of one or two tend to have an established routine which they just get on with.

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5 hours ago, jake_crew said:

Glad you enjoyed it overall.   Some boats will reverse well.  Some insist on going backwards at 45 degrees.   Its down to the underwater design at the back and is just a feature of that boat.  The longer the boat the straighter it will reverse.   Some say the faster the better but you need big conjones to do that in tight spaces. 

I spoke with the Anglo Welsh folks upon our return, and they said that the design of the counter on Leo II was the reason it reversed so badly.  They did say that they were happy to advise on boats that reversed "well" and also to give lessons to boaters who were unsure.  Once I got the hang of it, I was fine and was able to reverse into tight moorings!  By the end of the trip, my wife though I was better going backwards than I was going forwards!

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4 hours ago, IanD said:

A total of four crew does free one up to go ahead to the next lock or stay behind at the one you're leaving (a bike is handy...) -- or more important, make the bacon sandwiches 😉

 

Many years ago we (me and my wife) were being held up in a flight of locks by the boat ahead who had a crew of at least six or eight, but didn't have a clue. I eventually persuaded then to let us pass them, and we steadily pulled ahead of them...

Since my daughter was the fittest crew member, she would go ahead on the flights to prep the locks, and my wife soldiered on single handled closing the gates as I departed.  On the second set of flights going into B'ham, we passed an outward bound boat, and that saved us a ton of time since the water level was set for us for all 13 locks.  I should mention that on the Wolverhampton flight, every lock needed to filled! The canal gods were not looking after us that day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, atgordon said:

Since my daughter was the fittest crew member, she would go ahead on the flights to prep the locks, and my wife soldiered on single handled closing the gates as I departed.  On the second set of flights going into B'ham, we passed an outward bound boat, and that saved us a ton of time since the water level was set for us for all 13 locks.  I should mention that on the Wolverhampton flight, every lock needed to filled! The canal gods were not looking after us that day!

When you have a lock-setting crew member then it does not make a lot of difference to the overall progress since there is usually plenty of time to set it ready in time for the boat to come straight in.

 

It is rare to be able to not open paddles anyway as even if nominally set, there is a good chnace that sufficient water has leaked in/out to make it impossible to open gates without first getting a level.

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1 hour ago, David Mack said:

You should try single handing through a flight that long when all the locks are against you!

The two solo boaters moored in Wolverhampton City Centre organized a team of CDT volunteers to help them through the flight.  We left 30 minutes later and not a volunteer in sight!

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5 hours ago, MtB said:

 

For good progress I'm inclined to agree. 

 

As a single hander I generally find in flights I can keep up with any boat that has three or more crew on the bank. Large crews tend to just mill about in confusion with no-one having a well defined role, whereas bank crews of one or two tend to have an established routine which they just get on with.

Not when we hire! We have the forward team of two, the skipper and tail end Charlie who closes behind the boat.

When we plan a route we choose the route with the most locks we can. 

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Our approach to narrow locks with a crew of three.  Steerer mainly stays on board, their primary function is to be in charge of the boat though they may drop a few offside paddles.

 

After the boat is in the first lock with paddles raised, the person on the towpath side goes ahead and sets the next lock.  Once it is ready, they move to the offside paddle at the far end of the lock.  The person who remained with the boat lets it out of the lock and closes up, then walks to the next lock taking over the towpath side.  Having worked the towpath side of the lock, they then walk on and set the next one.  Repeat until the end of the flight, taking turns to walk on.

 

I agree that having lots of crew can be less efficient.  If I have more than two visitors, I seem to end up doing more cooking/tea making and less boating.

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