The first day of two leading hopefully to an RYA inland helmsman certificate, and very enjoyable. The first pleasant surprise was to discover that our instructor was the redoubtable Andrew Phasey, leader and organiser of most of the St Pancras Cruising Club convoys on the tidal Thames, including the Nb section of the Queens Diamond Jubillee extravaganza. I know Andrew to be a good organiser and planner and a clear leader, so I could tell we were in for some “proper” training.
The morning was spent of safety stuff mainly – use of life jackets, fire extinguishers and the like and then some tying of basic knots which I am glad to say I already knew. (Thanks Rick for teaching me the wind it round the bollard clove hitch). Then some stuff about tunnels. Then this afternoon we drove down to Brentford to do some real boating, not on a tiller steered narrowboat, but on a hydraulic wheel steered work boat Sampson! Here she is, on the left of the picture
Ooh er, not at all what my finely honed boating skills are applicable to. Here’s the back end
That wheel takes a bit of getting used to, as does the hydraulic drive to the steerable Archimedean screw which propels the boat. Once you gat the knack it handles quite well, especially at slow or near stationary speeds. At higher speeds it comes a something of a shock to find you can go from full speed ahead to full speed astern at the flick of a lever! On Herbie, were it even possible, you might wreck the drive plate and even the gearbox. The Beta engine in this boat is one you might find in loads of narrowboats, but in this case it sits up near the front of the cabin driving a hydraulic pump. Normal cruising revs are 2000rpm upwards and we touched 3000 at times!!!
After a first go of tootling along the doing a couple of about turns and bringing the boat back in, we quickly moved on to the fancier manoeuvres such as driving the front of the boat gently into the bank and holding her steady there for a couple of minutes, first at right angles to the bank then 45 degrees right, then the same left. After that we each took her up the canal towards the GSK building the reversed a couple of hundred yards back through the bridge and into the basin. I’d like another go to do it better, but I think I did enough to get through. I’ll find out tomorrow.
Oh and we did an emergency stop too, which actually takes nearly half a minute in this heavy boat, thus teaching us lessons about thinking ahead.
All great fun, made even better by the fact that one of the three trainees was Clive the CRT operative who actually runs this boat on a daily basis (and loves his job). Even he was learning things he didn’t know.
More tomorrow including some tests on what we learned today.