“How far can you get in a week on your boat?” That’s something I often find myself explaining to people who ask about our journeys. In the past I have usually guessed that “In a week on the canal you can probably get as far as a car can in an hour.” Of course if it’s an out and back trip you have to half that.
Well I was lying in bed wondering (like you do) how accurate that advice was, so I thought I might as well check it out and do the numbers. As you all know I’m quite partial to a few numbers. So between Google maps, Canalplan and my own Canalculator (I’ve just written a new Python version using about half the lines of code of the old one –sweet!), I chose a few routes and came up with the following
Route Time by car/road Time by canal boat Ratio(canal/car)
Paddington to NIA Birmingham 2.25 hrs 79 hrs 35
Oxford to Coventry 1.1 hrs 40.5 hrs 37
Brentford to Braunston 1.75 hrs 55 hrs 31
Stratford to NIA Birmingham 0.9 hrs 21 hrs 23
Braunston to Aston turn 0.9 hrs 29 hrs 32
Well there you are. Averaging those out and rounding up we see that a car gets there 32 times faster than a boat. So a distance travelled by a car in an hour takes 32 hours on the canal. That makes my original statement not far off given that we rarely cruise more than six days in seven and do between five and six hours a day. When we were young an energetic, we did the four counties ring in a week and according to Canalplan that’s 55.5 hours.
“Hmm how about fuel costs?” our boat uses about 1.4 litres per hour. A car might typically average about 5 litres an hour. So from Paddington to Birmingham a car might use about 11.5 litres, a boat would use 56 litres. So car transport would appear to be about five times as efficient in that respect. Less fun though.
Then I thought it might be fun to try out some less typical routes. I thought that boats might fare better against cars in a city, so
Paddington to Camden 19 min 45 min 2.4
Wow, the boat looks a lot better. How about up the Thames?
Teddington to Lechlade 2.1 hrs 44 hrs 21
showing that the river fares better than the canal. And lastly, just to push the limits I compared our longest ever trip,
Iver(Slough) to Bedford 1.2 hrs 103 hrs 85
Here the boat is 85 times slower than the car, but that’s because of the route. The car can get there pretty directly but the boat had to go via Northampton, Peterborough, across the fens to Denver then down through Ely etc. It might be 85 times slower but for enjoyment I know which route I’d take.
Well that was fun. Having done that and replaced a tap washer today I think I can take the rest of the day off don’t you?