Sunday, 5 June 2011

All By Myself

Today I did something long overdue, which I am quite capable of, but have somehow managed to get away without doing until now. I singlehanded the Duck into town from the Clayhithe village moorings, through Bait's Bite lock.
I have handled the boat by myself before, steered through flights of locks on the canals, taken my turn at the tiller on innumerable occasions, but always with James either inside and a shout away, or on the bank working the locks. With James' enjoyment of singlehanding and his job finishing earlier than mine most weekdays, it has always been James who has done any required singlehanding of the boat. I admit, I've avoided it, due to lack of confidence - I'm capable but not the natural James is.

With the Duck out at Clayhithe for Strawberry Fair, and James off coxing his men at Peterborough Regatta, it made sense for me to bring the boat back in today. At midday I turned the boat on ropes with the unsolicited help of the chap on the boat next door. He and his wife were visiting the Fens for the first time and we got chatting as I undid the stern. They said that they found the Fens so boring they had vowed never to return! I arranged the ropes as James had suggested, with the bow rope on top of the cratch for easy access and the midrope to hand on the cabin top. I fetched some cookies I'd made the day before and a bottle of water, and pushed off. 

On arrival at Baits Bite I saw a plastic cruiser entering the lock. I moored up on the landing stage and a man with a can of lager in his hand asked if I wanted to share the lock. I told him that I was happy to but only if they were, and so he went off to ask the rest of his somewhat inebriated crew what they thought. Somehow, they didn't seem able or perhaps willing to move up and let me in behind, and they signalled no they didn't want me to share the lock. As I was in no hurry I was quite happy with this. I actually wanted to try using the lock completely without assistance so it suited me fine. When they'd finished and bumbled out of the lock, I reset it and as I was doing so the lock keeper came up to me and said that he thought it was very wise of me to stay behind as he thought they were quite inept! He also said he could see I knew what I was doing(!) and left me to it. There were quite a few gongoozlers about, but I carefully moved the boat into the lock, despite a strong wind. I hopped off with the mid rope, tied it off, and then grabbed the bow rope from the cratch and tied it up on a long line to stop the boat moving backwards. I filled the lock slowly, repositioned all the ropes on the other side of the boat for when I would need them to moor up, and headed out of the lock. 

Thankfully I encountered no incidents with rowers. A couple of rowing boats overtook, but the river wasn't busy as a lot of boats were in Peterborough. On arrival at our normal mooring spot I had to stop a little way back, jump off with the pin and hammer to secure the boat and then adjust one of our floodpoles which had been moved out so that it was at a 45 degree angle to the bank. There was quite a bit of wind so I had to do this quickly, to avoid the boat drifting away from the bank too much but I got a temporary pin in at the bows as well as for the mid rope so it was fine. Having fixed the pole, I moved the boat into its normal spot and moored up properly using our ground anchor and double pins at the stern.

I was pleased to get back safely and without incident, and feel much more confident that I can now handle the boat quite happily on my own, which for me is a pretty big thing!

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  1. Cool, well done! On my first singlehanded cruise I fell in the cana while mooring up!

  2. Well done Amy. I did my first solo lock last year and the anticipation was worse than the event. Mooring up solo in a tight space in a wind is scariest. The feeling of jumping off a boat leaving no-one on it when the boat might blow away is a right of passage!

  3. Good for you! Congratulations!

    ...still having problems posting with Google account...~Affectioknit

  4. Congrats on your 1st solo trip.