Crews on Gardenia (see yesterday's post) weren't given any training or, as far as I can recall, required to demonstrate any particular degree of competence before being let loose with a loaded working-boat and my ignorance was almost complete. I didn't even realise that increasing the revs would cause the boat to turn more sharply and even then I only learned that by watching someone else. Some crew members had had experience the previous year but needless to say we had plenty of adventures.
Leaving the southern portal of Harecastle Tunnel, Gardenia took it upon herself to head for the bank on a course that was certain to bring her into contact with a moored boat. Try as I might I could not get her onto a straight line, but left it far too late to reverse in order to avoid a collision. We hit the boat with considerable force! There was just a chance it might be unoccupied and there was a brief, hopeful, pause until simultaneously two heads popped out of adjacent windows. . .you can imagine the rest!
Somewhere on the Trent & Mersey we encountered a boat moored on the outside of a bend occupying just the line we needed to take. We hit that one too, but the owner, realising he was in the wrong place, actually apologised to us. I don't suppose he was quite so forgiving once he discovered the line along the offside of his hull where we had removed the paint!
Occasionally it was necessary to ask an oncoming boat to pass "wrong side". I did this once to a boat leaving a lock we were waiting to enter. The steerer was most reluctant to do so even when I explained that we needed the deeper water. "If you can't control a boat that size you shouldn't have one. . . ." he yelled, tailing off only when he drew alongside the cabin and saw the "British Waterways" emblazoned on it.
After unloading half the ballast we even took Gardenia up the Caldon Canal, then officially closed. We got as far as Stockton Brook, where we got well and truly stuck and had to resort to a hand-winch taking most of the day to drag her a hundred metres, during which one of the crew stepped on a wasps' nest on the bank!