Thursday, January 17, 2008

Driving test

Driving an narrowboat is pretty easy. Just one speed/direction control and a tiller - what could be simpler? Only two things make it more difficult, a) the propensity of the boat to wander dramatically off course the minute your attention is distracted by reaching for your cup of tea or looking at something on the bank, and b) wind and current.

Last year, in a wide straight section of the Paddington Arm, Herbie and I made a truly spectacular excursion into the bankside bushes whilst I was struggling with a biscuit jar, causing much amusement to the crew who were having a stroll on the towpath. Getting the boat out of the mess took a few minutes, but restoring my dignity took somewhat longer.

This picture of the approach to Uxbridge lock, just under the bridge, amply demonstrates problem b).

You get nicely lined up for the lock and then wham, the current from the overspill culvert pushes first the front of the boat, and then when you have corrected that, the back of the boat as you pass. I'm amazed we ever get it right, but we usually seem to. Actually, both Kath and I enjoy steering though tight spots and we get quite competitive over it.


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