Sunday, September 20, 2015

How Narrow is Narrow?

Will we fit under here?
These boats are called “Narrowboats” because they are always only 7 feet wide. There are boats on the English canals that are wider, but they are limited in the canals they can use. Today we found out exactly why they are so narrow. The locks in this part of England are all single locks, and are just a foot or so wider than the boats, so it is tight sliding the boats into the locks. Our’s being a “hireboat” and rented to inexperienced and often inept folk form all over the world, it had plenty of scratches and scrapes from hitting the sides of the locks. One day we followed a boat that looked so perfect there were hardly any marks on it’s sides. I watch the lady driver slide that boat around a bend and into the lock with inches on either side without touching at all. I commented to her partner who was working the lock, “Wow, she is really good!”, and he proudly replied “Oh yea, she is VERY good!”. I cannot imagine even a day without scraping the bumpers of the boat on something, but their boat was pristine after weeks of use.

All the bridges are this narrow
Today my IPad map program warned us that there was a section coming up that was Narrow. This was through a section of rock where rather than build another series of locks to go up and then back down, or detouring a long way around the hill, they went through the rock, digging the canal. However, they did not make it the full width of most of the canals. Originally this section would have been wide enough for one boat to go through easily, but over the years, trees have narrowed it and weeds have obscured the sides, so it often looked like there was not room to put a boat through. You had to take your time and carefully thread your way through. To make it worse, one of these sections was so long that you could not see to the end, so oncoming boats could not see if anyone was in the narrow section. Travelling in September it is off-season, so the number of boats on the canals is much less than in the summer. We often go for a long time without meeting another boat, but approaching the end of this narrow cut, we saw two boats frantically trying to slow down before they entered the section as they saw us coming up. If you met another boat in this section of the canal, you would have to back up to a spot wide enough to squeeze by. The cut was designed with passing spots but the weeds and trees have claimed these spots in modern times.
Sliding through . .

Also very narrow are the bridges on this section of the canal. Apparently the wealthy land-owners insisted that the only way they would allow the canals to go through their land was if fancy tall bridges were built to show everyone that the surrounding countryside was owned by someone important. It appears that the canal companies appeased the land-owners, by building the bridges high and fancy, but made them extra narrow to recoup some of the extra cost. You have to squeeze through some of these with inches to spare on both sides, and the height of the bridges make them look even narrower.

Our boat has a few more Shropshire Stripes (that’s a NASCAR reference for those who don’t get it – Google up “Darlington Stripe”), but we made it through,

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