Saturday, October 7, 2017

Turn The Thing Around

You are not going to turn around here
Our boat this trip is 70 feet long and 7 feet wide. The canals we cruise through are around 30 feet wide, although often much narrower due to bridges, moored boats, weeds and shallow areas, so do the math . . . . . you cannot turn around. You cannot start down one canal and decide “Oh, I don’t really like this scenery, I think I’ll turn around and go back.” On our first trip, we came upon two girls in a boat completely wedged across the canal; they thought they could just turn around, and required some assistance to get sorted out and back on course.

Fortunately, the designer of the canal systems took this problem into the planning, and
Sure not here either
periodically they placed “Winding Holes” which are wider basins where you can turn around. In our Canal Guide books, these winding holes are marked as a circle with a number in them indicating how long a boat can be if you want to turn around. The biggest winding hole I have seen was marked “70”, meaning a 70 foot boat can turn here.

Fortunately, you plan your trip carefully so you do not have to turn around very often, because it is a complicated procedure. We had to do it 3 or 4 times. Often you have to go down a branch to a town, and you have to turn at the end, but we had one corner that was so sharp you could not get around, especially in a long boat, so you have to go the wrong way for a bit until you can turn around
A bit wider, but still no room to turn
and come straight through the junction.

The other difficulty is that a 70 foot narrowboat steering with a tiller does not turn easily and has almost no control in reverse, so turning one around is a bit complicated. Fortunately we have had an experienced mariner on board (Bill), who is good at it, and we have generally handed the tiller to him when a complete change of direction was required, but this trip I was determined to learn as many things as possible, and this was one thing I wanted to do, so asked Bill for a lesson.

This is a winding hole
Here is the procedure . . . You enter the winding hole at a crawl, and turn the boat into the widest part of the basin, allowing it to swing as far as possible. Before you run aground, you throw it into reverse, but don’t bother trying to steer, just go straight back, giving yourself some room in the middle. Swing the tiller hard to pull the stern away from the way you need to go, and power forward. This swings the stern away, but makes the bow go in the direction you need to turn. Sometimes you can do it in one maneuver, but with a 70 foot boat you do not have a lot of room to work in a 70 foot winding hole.
Here I might be able to turn around

With Bill standing beside me, I managed it pretty slick . . . I hope I can get it the next time.

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