Sunday, 18 September 2016

What a good day

It's been a spiffing day's boating today, though hard work in some ways. I always misremember how long Brindley Bank to the Tesco mooring takes, probably because we used to tie at Bridge 69/the Pig Farm/Taft Wharf, which is about 30 minutes away from BB. Anyway, we set off a bit earlier than planned, at around five to nine and got to the mooring just 30 minutes later. It didn't matter because a) our favourite spot just this side of the bridge was free and b) although it was Sunday, Tesco opened for "browsing" half an hour before the official start of trading at ten.

We took fifty minutes to do some serious shopping, including a couple of bottles of one of our new favourite wines, Yellow Tail Jammy Red. Back at the boat with loaded daysacks and carriers, Sheila set off whilst I stowed the goodies away and made coffee. I then took the helm back for what proved to be an exacting morning's cruising. It was a sunny Sunday at the end of the season, so lots of folk were having a day out.

The route from Rugeley to Handsacre features some narrow bits, of course, including the Armitage "Tunnel" and a couple of tight bends with bridge holes. We managed to meet boats coming the other way at most of these, so Sheila was kept busy on the bow, radioing warnings back to me.

There's a thread on CWDF at the moment about the difference in approach between the UK and French authorities on the subject of licensing steerers of canal boats. France requires the Europe wide CEVNI qualification (unless you are a hirer, in which case you don't need one, thus making a mockery of the concept) whereas in the UK anyone can buy a boat and set off without any instruction at all. And frequently do, usually heading for London.

One participant in this debate was arguing that an advantage of a licence requirement would be that steerers would be better at using sound signals at blind bridges, bends and junctions. At the moment, there's little point as most other boaters wouldn't have a clue what was meant by say four blasts, a pause, then two blasts ("I am turning round to port", if you're wondering.) The problem with this is a) there are so many blind spots on the narrow canals, there'd a be a cacophony of sound and b) most narrowboats have sad little car type horns that don't sound like a boat and can't be heard over an engine anyway.

The futility of the idea was demonstrated when we got to the Ash Tree bridge and bend, a 90ยบ bend immediately after a busy road bridge, going in our direction. As we approached, Sheila radioed that she thought she'd heard a horn, but it could easily have been a car on the road. I thought about a blast on the klaxon, but we were right by the pub at eleven o'clock on a sunny Sunday, so I just throttled right back.

As Sanity Again's bow entered the bridge hole, another bow appeared, doing a fair lick the other way. There was no way he was going to be able to stop, so I went hard astern and backed out of the bridge hole (I should really have sounded three times, "My engines are going astern" but I was too busy keeping her straight). As a result, we were able to pass without contact with each other, though the other guy did clip the towpath a couple of times.

My return for this piece of skilled boat handling was a scowl from the other steerer. No doubt he thought that, having sounded his horn, he should have been able to carry on regardless. Note that Sheila was unsure if she'd heard anything and I hadn't heard a dickie bird.

Ah well, no bones broken and it was a fine morning. We got to Handsacre just on 12 o'clock after a few, less exciting encounters. We've had a quiet afternoon, reading and puzzling. Tomorrow, we go down Fradley and will probably tie above Bagnall.

1 comment:

Adam said...

We'll probably see you tomorrow. We're at Branston Water Park tonight, and will be turning left at Fradley tomorrow.