Inevitably, photos taken by single-handed boaters tend to include the roof of the boat!
This is Starcross on the Atherstone flight.
- Make a plan: Decide how far you are likely to get and where and when you might stop.
- Take everything you might need with you to the counter. I kept a bag containing camera, radio, binoculars, Nicholson's Guide, sunglasses, flask of coffee or squash and a supply of choccy bikkies hanging on a hook just inside the cabin door and made sure that my cagoule, sunhat and piling hooks were easily to hand.
- In locks, have a system. Do things in the same order and stick to it. All locks behave differently, but on this trip I found that uphill it was best to leave the engine on tickover ahead to keep it up against the top gate, provided that there was a vertical guard plate in place to keep the front fender from catching anywhere. Going downhill I kept the boat as far away from the top cill as possible and took a rope off with me which I used to pull the bow back slightly from the bottom gates if necesary when they were ready to be opened.
- Tying-up and untying for locks took up a lot of time. If it was obvious that an uphill lock was empty I wouldn't stop, but would gently nudge the gates open with the bow. Wherever possible I would stop at the throat of the lock to close gates, taking a line off with me. If you do need to tie up, make sure you do it securely so that your boat doesn't drift off into mid-channel, as happened to me at Colwich!
- Tying up for a stop or at the end of the day can be a pain. Wherever possible I looked for rings or bollards. Failing that I used piling hooks but would only use mooring pins as a last resort. My system, after bringing the boat to a stop with the centre line was to secure the back end loosely, then tie up at the bow returning to the back to complete the job. Sod's law says that as soon as you stop, the previously deserted cut becomes full of passing boats, making the job much harder!
- Don't try and do too much. I stopped for coffee breaks and took an extended lunch stop. This enabled me to keep going later into the evening if necessary. I feel it was significant that the one mistake I did make - at Colwich - occurred towards the end of a long day.
- Try and vary your stance at the tiller and when you do stop, go for a walk round. Standing at the tiller all day gives you backache!
Still, I made in to Braunston and in a day less than I'd predicted (although still not soon enough to get a central mooring!)
The end of the trip at Braunston Fields
Now I'm going to enjoy the working-boat gathering and look forward to the trip back to Norbury, for which i will have a crew - just as well, as I'm going via Hatton, Lapworth and Wolverhampton and as anyone who knows the canal system will realise that involves a lot of hard work!