I was interested to see how I'd get on on a longer trip. Again, plenty of people drift leisurely around the system on their own but I'd be on a mission: to get Starcross from Penkridge to Braunston as quickly as possible. I had five days available and with at least one other crew member I knew that it could be easily done - but single-handed?
The most obvious fact about being single-handed is that everything is down to you! Steering, locking, tying-up and untying, cooking, cleaning, shopping, deciding where to stop and all those other little jobs that one person can do while another steers. Steering was no problem, I can happily steer all day standing at the tiller or sitting on the hatch roof. I've done enough locking to have developed a system and know the need to stick to it. The route was fairly flat anyway, with only the eleven locks at Atherstone presenting any meaningful obstacle. Other boaters often offer help at locks and its usually welcome, as long as you don't let them distract you from your system and don't forget that you are always responsible. I had some help up Atherstone from the youngish crew of the boat that was waiting to follow me into lock 6, but by the time I'd got to the top they were two locks behind and I'd cleared the flight, moved over to the water point, emptied the cassette and got on my way again before they got to the top! Neither was I rushing particularly - indeed it would be dangerous to do so - its all about doing things in the right order and at the right time; the only short-cut I took was nudging pen the bottom gates with the boat on the top two empty locks as its the constant tying up and untying that takes up the time in lock flights.
I had only one mishap. At Colwich lock on the Trent & Mersey I didn't tie up properly at the bottom whilst I went back to shut the bottom gates. I returned to find Starcross adrift in mid-channel with the centre rope trailing tantalisingly just out of reach!
Starcross adrift at Colwich
Fortunately, a combination of wind and current from the by-wash took her gradually into the towpath side and eventually I was able to jump on at the bow and resume control! This was the only problem, although the trip has given me some thoughts about single-handed boating which I'll share in a later post.