Monthly Archives: June 2020

post lockdown maintenance tips

post lockdown maintenance tips

As lockdown restrictions ease and people start to cruise the waterways again, River Canal Rescue’s managing director, Stephanie Horton, has some post lockdown maintenance tips for owners with boats left sitting idle.


If they’re not in a good condition, your engine won’t start. Look out for corrosion of the terminals and check the voltage. If below 12.5V, and the engine will start, the battery may need a recharge, so run your engine for a few hours. If the voltage doesn’t increase, change the battery. Batteries lower than 10V can potentially be recharged at home (although they may not recover).

Starter systems must have the right batteries. A cranking battery delivers a high output quickly while a leisure battery delivers a lower continuous output. Systems’ charging times vary, however a 70amp alternator charging four x 110amp batteries from flat will take around three to five hours.

Each battery cell can affect the whole battery bank, so to prevent deterioration, regularly check and top up the cells’ water levels with de-ionised water. To check levels, remove the caps (where applicable) and use a mirror to look into the hole. If one cell’s water level drops below 50% it will bring the bank’s capacity down to the same level, irrespective of the other batteries’ condition. Never mix batteries and always replace a whole bank of old with new.

For a good connection, ensure the battery terminals are tight and greased (Vaseline does the trick). It only needs one loose terminal to cause a problem (usually the main earthing cable connected to the engine bed). Look out for any green or white deposits and clear using emery paper.

Overcharged batteries can bulge, gas or explode. If they smell like rotten eggs, they’re likely to be gassing, so before accessing, turn off any chargers and your engine, and wait a couple of hours (a spark can cause an explosion). If the batteries have exploded, sprinkle bicarbonate of soda over the affected area to neutralise the acid, remove all batteries and replace with new.


Electrical issues are usually due to poor connections and broken wires. Check for corrosion, wires coming away, loose connections or disconnected wires before starting a journey and use a water resistant spray, such as WD40 or petroleum jelly to stop damp getting into isolators and block connectors.

If it’s an intermittent issue, check the isolator switch, turning from one position to another. If the problem continues, ask an engineer to investigate as tracing faults can be very difficult. With a wiring ‘meltdown’ - due to overcharging or faults developing – call an expert to investigate the cause.

Fuel issues

diesel bugFuel problems typically occur when a vessel is left idle and are mainly caused by diesel bug (a black soot/jelly-looking enzyme that lives off water) and contaminated water. Once in the system, diesel bug clogs the engine’s fuel lines, filters, injectors and pumps and stops the engine working. Mild cases respond to a fluid ‘Marine 16’; it prevents bacterial growth and kills anything forming in the tank. More severe cases require a diesel bug shock treatment.

If you have a pre-filter, drain off any water to prevent it being drawn into the fuel system. If you don’t have a filter, drop a clear pipe into the fuel tank, place your thumb over the end (to capture the fluid) and withdraw the hose. This will tell you how much water is in the bottom of the fuel tank (and if you have diesel bug).

If there’s one to two inches of water, drain off via the tank drain (if applicable). Remove the bolt and drain down until fuel comes out. Alternatively, use an oil extraction pump, and with the pipe pushed to the bottom of the tank, draw out fluid until diesel comes through. Diesel sits on top of water and will only appear once the water’s been removed.

Water in the bilges

If the bilges are full of oil and water when the engine’s running, it will be thrown over the engine, hitting electrical components. If left for a while, rust and corrosion can develop and affect their operation, so check and clean the bilges frequently. If left to accumulate, water can get into the bell housing and corrode the drive plates and other engine parts.

Bilges containing only water, can be pumped out with a clear conscience, but if they’re contaminated, pump out using a bilge filter, like Bilgeaway or leave it to a marina. Bilgeaway is a cartridge filter that removes contaminants (petrol, diesel, engine oil etc) from the bilge area, using a non-toxic solution to render its contents non-reactive.

An automatic bilge pump is a must; it safeguards against water build-up and gives peace of mind when away from the vessel. Similarly, cleaning the deck gunnels is top priority; this allows rain water to run off easily, reducing the risk of water ingress.

Fan belts

Always carry a spare, and before setting off, check its condition. Twist the belt and look for cracks or fraying; this will tell you if a new belt is needed. Squealing from an old belt suggests a replacement is needed or it may need tightening. If it’s a new belt, some adjustment may be required.

Guidance on how to change a fan belt can be found online, on RCR’s website or in the book Narrow Boat Engine Maintenance and Repair.

Focusing on diesel engines and their arrangements, Narrow Boat Engine Maintenance and Repair explains the theory behind the boat’s main systems, including propulsion, cooling and electrics, and gives instructions on how to identify key components, locate faults and where possible, how to fix them.

Retailing at £18 (discounted for RCR members), the book is available from RCR Website and bookshops.

narrow boat engine maintenance & reair by Stephanie Horton

another week in the life of…

one week in the life of Devid Scowcrovich

old spice

Lockdown Diary - Week Three or is it Nine - can’t remember

(This diary contains scenes of a sexual nature – goodie)


Hurrah, it’s all over!  The government has eased the lockdown.  You can do many things now that you couldn’t do last week.  Tried to find out exactly what you can and cannot do but alas it is not absolutely clear.  The Government website has over a thousand words but that was written last week, before the grimly, smiley, politician with the bald spot said they were relaxing the rules.  He was backed-up by the fatter one with lots of hair and children.  I think the latter one is called ‘Boris’.  With a name like that he must be Russian and work for the KGB or the FSB, which I think is something to do with farming.  There was a time when you knew a politician was lying – they opened their lips.  Now they keep tight-lipped and you can only tell they are lying because they are standing at a lectern.  I do know when they say they are being ‘crystal clear’ they are covering something up, like the true death figures or PPE levels.  I can manage a bit of PPE, but I have to wait several minutes with my pants round my ankles and can never be more than 100 yards from a toilet.

The best I can do is rely on Brenda to help me with the rules.  She says that one person from a household can visit another household or at least (and here she gets a bit vague) can meet with another person from a second household but no non-Royal Air Force hugging or kissing.  I remain a little confused but fortunately she has been brave enough to leave the boat and visit someone, not sure who, an old friend she claims.  She thinks it is best if I remain on the boat and not chance exposure to the virus.  It must have been dangerous because when she comes back she is flushed and smells of Old Spice, which she says she put on to keep the germs away.  Plus, now she has been outside, she must have a shower and change her underwear.

Whilst staying inside I note from the government advice one can now play Polo.  This is because if you are on a horse you are one metre up and the other rider is one metre up which amounts to two metres and not because you are rich and couldn’t care less about the NHS.  Which is all good to know.  Brenda says she might go for a ride tomorrow.


It is becoming clearer by the day that this lockdown thing is all over, but Brenda insists I stay on board whilst she goes out.  Only one per household she says is the safe motto; watching the TV it seems I must be more alert. Ah, well rules is rules bit like ‘Brexit is Brexit’ whatever that was, it seems so long ago it was the only topic.  Then it was Climate Change when creepy old men encouraged young children not to go to school.

You can now play golf.  It seems you are always two club lengths away and therefore safe.  Brenda encourages me to go out and have a game she says the fresh air will do me good.  I thought the air was smothered in germs, but it seems that was yesterday and the lectern politician - this was the bad-tempered looking one into a skirt or was that Boris again – said the death figures were under control.  Confused me because the PowerPoint charts seemed to show we had the worst death rates in Europe and they did not include deaths in care homes, normal homes, on buses or anywhere outside a hospital ward marked ‘Covid 19’.  So, relax if you die in a ward one to eighteen you have not died from the virus.  Began to worry, that there is still a virus problem but fortunately my friend, Donald, the President of the United States has sacked his virus crisis team so it must be all over.

Went out on the golf course allowed because of the distancing and not because it’s a posh sport for those who care only for themselves.  It seems you are not allowed into the club house for a quick snifter before or after the game.  Females were, of course, at one time, not allowed into the club house at all but that was when we had an Empire.  Now you are never more than ten yards from a woman dressed in a heavy tweed suit and proclaiming sexual freedom in a loud voice.

Arrested on the course by two policepersons sticking close together, it seems one of the rules is that you must have a set of clubs and a ball.  I say, ‘So Adolf Hitler can play but I can’t’.  Taken to the Police Station in Coventry as all stations in Birmingham have been closed due to something call ‘Austerity’. Which was when the country had no money, before the Lectern Politician – the one that looks like a young undertaker on a diet – won the lottery.

Released on grounds of too much paperwork.  Brenda picks me up in a car driven by a youngish chap who smells of Old Spice.  Brenda says he is an old RAF friend and that Boris says we must avoid public transport.  Sent in disgrace to the boat whilst she thanks her old friend in the car park.


More relaxing; you can now play tennis which is not because it’s a posh sport but you are a good distance away from each other.  Well not in mixed doubles but Brenda has never allowed that sort of thing.  Turned up at the local club but not allowed to play due to an ‘all whites policy’.  Told them I was Anglo-Saxon with a dash of Viking but I have two bi-racial golden grandsons and therefore was disbarred.  It seems not only have you to be white you have to wear white clothing which played havoc with my cataracts.  I am assured that allowing tennis is not just because ‘Society’ want to go in the Royal Box at Wimbledon.  After the Grand Old Duke of York, that the last place any young society girl should want to go.

Got back early to the boat.  I’m sure I saw someone getting off the back.  ‘Engineer’, mutters Brenda and I will have to wait for a shower as she needs one and to change her underwear.  I stay alert whilst watching the daily Corona Lies.  The one in the middle says he is Raab which I think is an anagram for Really Arrogant Angry B***.  Anyway, he explains they has been a cock-up in the numbering of cases and unfortunate deaths.  How many fortunate deaths they do not say.  Anyway, the cock-up has nothing to do with Boris this time but it seems the slides have been put into the machine each day upside-down.  Therefore, the cases and deceased are increasing not decreasing but we can go on relaxing things provided we remain ‘Alert’; something I am always good at.

Whilst waiting for the shower I watch some live sport on TV, gosh I have missed Liverpool not winning the Premership.  Such a pity.  I had a small drink in my Manchester United mug.  This pandemic is a severe way to stop them winning but if needs must.  The sport is table-tennis and you can bet on who wins, how many wiffs and how many waffs per game plus a dozen more technicalities to help the time pass.  It seems that nice Mr Hill needs the income, Monte Carlo being so expensive.  I put the housekeeping on the Chinese man who goes a couple of rallies up, but then starts coughing and falls to the floor in a collapse.  The small fat English guy wins at odds of 100 to 1.  The invalid when fit was five to one on and so Mr Hill has enough money to continue his isolation in Monte.  We will have to make do with tinned tuna and out-of-date pasta.  Explained to Brenda it was her fault for keeping me waiting for a shower – does not go down well.


You can now go fishing which I always thought I was too cheerful to take part in, as most fishermen I have roared past in the boat, have been bar stewards.  Still we must do what we are allowed to do and Brenda issues me with a stick, a piece of string and a coat hook and tells me not to be back before dark.  She would have given me bread for bait and my tea, but I lost all our money on the Chinese man.  Who it appears, died not of the virus but of exhaustion.  Sat for hours by the water dangling my hook but to no effect.  Fish kept jumping out of the water, smiling at me and disappearing.  It was getting damn cold but fortunately some local idiot has set fire to the nearby 5G telecoms mast and that kept me quite warm.  He was an idiot because everyone knows that it was the 2G masts that spread the virus, the 5G masts are shielded.

Rang Brenda who said it was safe to come home.  I think she meant that the boat was not sinking.  I stay Alert.

I mention sex to Brenda, but she says the Dutch Government has said that you should only have sex with one person during the lockdown.  I’m confused I only wanted sex with one person.  Haven’t the energy for anymore participants.

The Donald has stated the virus is no more important than the influenza virus and so we shouldn’t worry.  Meanwhile the newspapers report more shocking details of the virus thus selling even more papers.  It appears the illness gives you scarring on lung tissue which can stay with you for the rest of your life leaving you breathless  It also gives you sticky blood which can cause blood clots thus can killing you instantly.  Glad its all over and we can retreat to worrying about having a cold.

The lectern politician is the blank faced one with the curly hair and a faint grasp on reality.  He says that decisions on which country has handled the pandemic best must wait until it is all over.


Now last week, you could not go out on your boat except for essential requirements, which means that the boat which came and moored behind us during the lockdown was essential.  Essential I was annoyed, obviously.  The towpath was open to all.  On average only a yard and a half wide the towpath contained walkers puffing by, joggers gasping, whilst spitting on the ground, cyclists whizzing by at great speed shouting for everyone to get out of the way.  Ignore closed areas, the most dangerous area was a canal towpath.  Meanwhile the wide expanse of water remained empty, the water undisturbed, not a boat in sight. The Canal and River Trust must have read my previous diary because they published a poster reading, ‘Limit your use of the towpath’.  That will solve the problem of overcrowded towpaths.  They have also issued new instructions that boaters can make small cruises of the canals provided they do not touch a lock.  There are those who say CRT has not touched a lock since its conception, but that is unkind.  I know of a couple of locks that are still in working order.

Brenda decides we should go for a cruise around one of the canal loops and laugh at the new modern housing.  They are prefabricated construction built on a concrete base beneath a CRT dam.  £250,000 gets you a concrete cube with a metre square garden.  Might just stay with the boat.

On the way Brenda shouts ‘Drop me off, there’s an old friend, you can pick me up on the way back.’  I see only an RAF blazer and beret with the whiff of Old Spice in the air.  I glide the boat to the bank, skilfully drop her off and stay alert.


Bad night couldn’t sleep.  We have had a family of Canada Geese produce in Gas Street Basin and the honking keeps me awake.  Also, Brenda was sawing wood which I thought was a bit inconsiderate so late at night.  So, dozing on the sofa I missed the Coronavirus update/lies.  I expect things are improving all the time, cases down, deaths down, correct decisions made at the right time by a dynamic government lead by science.  Wonder if Boris is the first honest politician since he has openly kept a mistress in a Downing Street flat.  Harold Macmillan kept his in St Johns Wood, Harold Wilson may or may not have kept his in the office. Ted Heath played the piano celibately – know how he felt.

Doze to the soothing smell of Old Spice - still alert.


Tomorrow the shops are open.  No one can go inside and nothing can be bought, but they are all open except those that are in shopping centres behind locked gates and those who have gone belly-up during the crisis.  That is the pandemic crisis not the ones who went belly-up during the financial crisis.  Jet2Com has actually put the complete refund of our airfares into our bank account.  Well done them in obeying the law.  Ryanair says it will take six months to complete but then only masochists travel Ryanair so they will probably enjoy the pain.  The hotel in Florence has given us a credit note until May 21 which should just be in time for the second peak.  Instead of going to Florence we ate M&S Italian food and I posed for Brenda in my ‘Statue of David’ pose. So, the best of all worlds.  No foreigners, proper traditional English food from M&S and one of the finest art works for Brenda to admire.  Although she is seeing an equal amount of her old RAF friend whose perfume lingers over the mooring like the threat of a CRT eviction.

We are due to go on a Black Sea Cruise at the end of July.  It will probable go ahead if there any Americans left alive and it will probably not be able to dock anywhere.  The Travel Insurance will cost more than the cruise and the small print will be longer than the itinerary.  Might get Brenda to take her RAF friend provided he stays alert. Brenda says she is not wearing any underwear.

Hang on, I have just started coughing, can’t breathe, pain in my muscles – I’ve caught the virus.  Boris, you Cretin you stopped the lockdown too early.

Bye folks.

a week in the life of…

one week in the life of Devid Scowcrovich

week two in lockdown - hypochondria?

(This diary may contain items some readers may find distressing but no scenes of a sexual nature – unfortunately.)


Thank the Gods that I am not a hypochondriac in these boring, tormented days of virus lockdown it would be a real misery for my wife, Brenda.  I do have an itchy scalp though - just the odd bit of scratching seems to ease the irritation.  My eyes have started to weep a little, mostly it’s watching Brenda having money in her bank account and no shops to spend, spend, spend.  I think one of my eyelids is beginning to swell, but the floaters in my eyes can only be seen when I read.  It is difficult to read since my eyebrows now hang over my eyes.

I managed to take the skin off part of my forehead when photographing some goslings by the lock side.  I knew the blasted metal sign was there, it’s one of the innumerable signs the waterway authorities have placed on the canal system to state the bleeding obvious or give out useless information pontificating on how marvellous they are.  Bang, no bruise, just loss of skin Brenda says, but I’m not sure.  Despite government warning I keep feeling the scab.

cake & chocolatesNicked my nose when shaving the other day; got a graze that won’t go away, and my teeth have started to itch and my lips flake.  There are no dentists, that I know of, operating – bunch of snowflakes scared they are going to catch something.  My headaches are getting a bit worse - perhaps a diabetic reaction to the box of chocolates I munch through before Brenda gets up.  Must hide the wrappers to avoid a nagging.  Need some time now to clear the wax out of my ears as they are beginning to feel blocked.  My hands have arthritis and tremble although my hips only give trouble when I go to bed, which is late because of Restless Leg Syndrome, Brenda says if it gets any worse, I will have to sleep on the roof.

After 15 minutes standing, managed a pee but anything solid will have to wait a week or two longer.

Still once I have taken my ten morning pills and my insulin injection I can rise from the sofa without much groaning and screaming because of my painful knees.


There’s a pain that’s never spoken, it’s in my neck forcing the head downwards.  From time to time the bones crick and snap.  It’s never mentioned because I think it is serious and may need a brace but us men are accustomed to putting up with pain.  No need to bother the doctor at a time like this.  The last time I reported the discomfort they put me in one of those claustrophobic magnetic tubes and played Radio One to me.  I think it was not so much to check the bone structure but to discourage me from complaining to the NHS heroes.

My shoulders have started to ache, a sort of muscle problem or the bone shrinkage.  Hope it’s not Multiple Sclerosis (a terrible disease), still that professor bloke managed a long life and the woman on Neighbours has it but you would not know from her actions, only the actors keep mentioning it; something I never do.

My forehead scrape is beginning to weep a little. Brenda says it might need a dab with TCP, but she is not a nurse and didn’t really mean it when she promised ‘through sickness and in health’.  The headaches are a little worse although I have swapped the morning chocolate scoff for a litre of healthy apple juice.  My nose is beginning to peel from the nick, doubt it will go gangrenous, Brenda says any look is an improvement. Having to keep blowing out my ears as if on an aircraft and rubbing the orifices hard to get some relief, nothing new there.

There is a definite pang of pain in my bottom left tooth – the one on the right is fine.

Have decided to keep a stock of prescription pills on the sofa with me to save neighbours from the noise when I try to get up.


My armpits feel as if they are on fire and I’m sure there are bumps under the skin, gave them a good dousing with bleach - you can now get a particularly thick version called ‘Donald’.  According to the internet, the lumps are probably lymph nodes reacting to my various allergies.  Brenda says it might help if I start to wash, but why start now.  I think after 70 years you get a strong anti-germ covering to the skin.  My chest is fine (I had a girlfriend like that once) just the occasional wheezing and, of course, I spend the first couple of hours coughing up phlegm.  Good clean grey stuff, nothing of medical importance.

There are bits of fatty tissue hanging from my body like globular spheres on a skinny extension.  I suspect long-term cancer, although a friend said they were just fat lumps of no concern.  It seems they can be made to drop-off if tied-up with cotton strangulation. Brenda has offered, starting with my neck for some reason.

May be running out of insulin there are only six boxes in the fridge – try not to worry, Donald says you can have too much of medical science.

There is little skin left on my forehead and the weeping hole seems to be getting deeper.  I no longer have a nose as far as I can see, which is not very well.  I expect it is cataracts which can be cleared once the 1.5 million NHS backlog is despatched.  I am now fairly deaf, particularly in the female octave and I am sure some yellow puss is starting to seep-out, but I can’t reach it for the pain in my shoulders.  The tremor means I spill most of my drink.

The neck pain is starting to keep me prone on the sofa clutching my remaining syringes of insulin.


Stomachs can be a problem.  Some say backs are tricky, but I’ve solved my back with a brace, stomachs are always a worry.  Is it ulcers, which you can get from stress and worry?  So, I try not to worry about the ulcers or stomach cancer but being sick in the morning out of the side hatch is not a good look.  I did report the problem to the doctor before the pandemic.  She sent me to a private hospital to have a TV camera pushed down and have a good look around.  The specialist said he could see nothing, so there was nothing to do but put a TV camera up my bottom.  It was all on BBC Two, therefore I have no need to relate what happened.  Bowel cancer can be expected.

The forehead problem has joined with the itchy scalp. Took wifely advice and gave it all a good scrub.  I will unblock the drain once I can rise from the sofa.  The two plastic straws I now have for a nose, work well, but they were not easy to find due to all the bars being closed and concern for the environment – not much on the news about that now.

Washed out my ears with a good solution of ‘Donald’ but not sure it has done any good; the discharge is now blue not yellow is that good?

The tooth that was giving me bother has dropped out, so it is only the rotting gums I need concern myself with now.  My chapped lips look like I have had a silicone implant, I have that ‘Trout’ look of an aging glamour girl.  If there is a bone in my body not aching, I am not sure where it is.  Brenda says no sex until I stop shaking.

Started to take Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Phosphorous tablets in case I get the virus, but I must be careful when near magnets.  I am not convinced that Brenda is taking my symptoms and aches seriously: she says when the sun comes out, they will all clear away.  She has taken to spending long periods walking the moorings for ‘exercise’.


When I was a child, in the days of rickets, and old men hit you with a newspaper if you made any insightful comments, my Mother took me to the aged doctor.  I had stabbing pains in all my muscles as if someone had a voodoo doll of me.  He sagely diagnosed ‘Growing Pains’.  I must still be growing, particularly in the thighs.

My head now looks as if I am auditioning for The Elephant man, I am blind, deaf and can only smell plastic.  The lumps in my armpits are now melons – which is good for you cannot get them in Marks and Spencer.  My chest and stomach have combined churning, but I am saving a fortune on food.  I can still manage some of that delicious packet soup, I hope I don’t catch the virus as it is reported you lose your sense of taste.

Mental health is now a great worry in the world.  In the days of being hit over the head with a rolled-up newspaper such things were never discussed.  Although I once heard my Mother say I was ‘soft in the head’.  It was a pleasant refrain from the usual ‘I’ll swing for you one day’.  She will be glad they have abolished Capital Punishment although ‘I’ll be put in prison for you one day’ does not have the same affect.  So, thanks to mother love and help from working-class newspaper readers I remain clear of mind and optimistic.

It is some concern that the muscle pain, which seems as if someone is stabbing me with a pin, only occurs when Brenda is onboard the boat.


The Army sends me a War Disability pension for my damaged feet.  Running in boots has fused the main toe joints resulting in severe pain particularly during cold weather.  There is also nerve damage across the toes which means writhing pain across the toes.  Please don’t feel sorry for this war hero, whenever I am in pain, I ask Brenda how much they send each month and it eases the pain.

Unlike my head which has taken to prolonged bouts of throbbing.  I have given up eating which is good news as I have run out of insulin.  For some reason Brenda entirely forgets to pack my insulin when we go away.  On one occasion after confirming with her that we had the insulin – twice – she forgot the needles!  I am sure it is because she is getting forgetful in her old age.  Although she is still a young girl in my eyes (she does read my diary).

The shaking is very bad particularly when Brenda appears.


Alright we are going to have to discuss it.  There is no feeling in the genital area, no sense of pleasure, nor arousal, not even when I watch cartoons of Jessica Rabbit.  Brenda claimed that age has made no difference and that ‘things’ had always been like that.  I insisted on seeing a doctor because I do remember, I’m sure, the odd twinge behind the NAAFI.  I was given these blue pills to take one hour before sex.  The Doc did not solve the problem of whether you find a sexual partner and wait an hour or take a pill and chance your luck.  The pills, however, give me agonising neck ache and wipe me out entirely for the next day.  Complained to the doctor but she said that I had just described the main side effects of Viagra. So, the answer?  I asked.  Well, she said you have to decide if sex with your chosen partner was worth the pain.  That sums up life, I think.

Someone kind person asked me the other day how I was.  ‘Doing great’ I declared.  As you do.

holiday on a narrowboat in 1950s

a holiday on a narrowboat in the 1950s

I did not keep a diary at the time so this account is entirely from memory.

locks on grand union canalMy friend, Janet, and I, both in our twenties, decided we would enjoy a week’s holiday on a narrowboat. It was not a working holiday, so we were not expected to help at the locks. We were to board at Market Harborough on the Grand Union canal.

Janet drove a car of her own, which was quite unusual for those days, so she drove us there. We arrived in a thunderstorm to find that some of the guests had got there ahead of us and had gone back home because their bunks were wet. Ours were not too bad, so we decided to stay.

We found that there were two boats, one leading the second. On board were Annie and Ernie, the bargees. They had been engaged for 15 years but had not made it to the altar. Also on board was one of the owners, and the three of them were arguing throughout the week.

The rain storm had affected the electricity so we had to use candles all the way.

white candles burningThere were two elderly ladies also on board and they offered to teach us how to play Canasta, the only time I have ever played that card game. We enjoyed most evenings playing cards but the candle flames attracted the moths and we spent a lot of time waving our arms about to keep them away.

It was not long before the leading boat broke down. So the second boat was brought forward to lead the way until that, too, broke down. I don’t remember where we should have finished the holiday but we never reached wherever it was and got no further than Rugby.

We then had to get back to Market Harborough to collect Janet’s car, and must have travelled by train.

Other memories are the peace when gliding slowly along the canals and seeing a part of the countryside that the motorist never sees. On one occasion, we found a sheep that had fallen down the bank and was standing on a ledge at the side of the canal. Its wool was sodden and it was too heavy to clamber out again. We were able to alert someone further along the bank.

We went through a tunnel where, in a previous era, boatmen had to leg it through. Boating readers will know which tunnel that was.

Another pleasure was mooring of an evening at a canal side public house for an evening meal and a drink. Magical moments!

We never received an apology from the holiday company. These days, we would have complained and asked for some if not all of our money back but there were no trading standard laws in the 1950s and consumers just put up with anything dealt out to them.

I was surprised to receive a brochure the following year – as if nothing untoward had happened to us.

the diary of Iris Lloyd

steps to becoming a waterways chaplain

an introduction

Hi! My name is Iris Lloyd. I live in beautiful Hungerford and the Kennet and Avon canal is opposite my front door, across my drive, a side road and the canal bank, so I see all the activity on the waterway. Additionally, our church is half a mile distant, also on the canal side, so we get boaters going in to have a look around or attend services.

My vicar and his wife are Waterways Chaplains and I thought it was something I would like to do, so volunteered. A training day was cancelled and then along came the pandemic. However, I offered to become a guinea pig using marvellous Zoom, and five Saturday morning training sessions were arranged for half a dozen of us.

At the start, I felt overwhelmed. I had no idea there was a waterways community. I thought boaters were out there enjoying themselves and was not aware of the needs of many, so my eyes have been opened with a vengeance. My only experience of the waterways was an unusual canal holiday I enjoyed in the fifties and I will tell you about that in a future article.

I am now getting used to the idea of lives lived on the canals and broads, but cannot start walking the towpath in earnest until restrictions are relaxed a little. I thought that perhaps diary entries from me, of my experiences, once I start, would be of interest to readers. It will also keep me up to scratch!

So, am I suited to becoming a Waterways Chaplain? I consciously became a Christian at the age of 17 and believe that God loves every one of us, though it may not seem so sometimes.

I worked for the C.A.B. for 20 years so know how to listen to people. I am also a listener (as opposed to a packer of food) at our local Food Bank, which is not operating at the moment.

Having been born in Clapham, south-west London, I was a child and young teenager during the war, was in London on the first night of the Blitz and was evacuated shortly afterwards. I am now widowed, have two daughters and three grandchildren, all in their twenties, of whom I am very proud although their lifestyles are very different from how we were brought up.

I have been writing all my life, including 17 pantomimes, all produced by amateurs; eight years as a correspondent for our local paper, the Newbury Weekly News; I am the editor of the church’s monthly magazine (we came 19th out of over 360 entries in a national competition last year!) and I am now writing my ninth novel (all self published). I was also a dancer for 80 years, teaching for much of that time, but put away my tap shoes a few years ago.

My age is 89 – but what’s a number?

So I look forward to contributing an occasional article to this online magazine and hope you enjoy them.

Iris Lloyd

RNLI campaign for beach safety

The RNLI and HM Coastguard are calling for people to take particular care this summer, when as a result of Covid 19 there are significantly fewer RNLI Lifeguard teams in operation on the beaches. Advice is given, plus details of how to get help if you or your family or friends get into difficulty.
Read More

one week in the life of…

one week in the life of devid scowcrovich

week one in lockdown - extracts from a diary


bad night's sleepBad night: sleeping tablets from Doc useless; may have to revert to Sid’s illegal offerings should he appear during the Lockdown.  Our security gates are closed therefore snugly isolated on boat.  I have campaigned for ten years to keep Gas Street Basin unpolluted and quiet – beware what you wish for!  The maid has not laid out clean clothes, so decide to manage with what I have.  Too cold for a shower will do it later - probably when the lockdown ends.  Decide it’s not worth shaving - there’s a chance I might cut myself and get an infection: not worth cleaning my teeth – having not many left to worry about.

Light fire; managed to order plenty of coal before Lockdown but there is a chance pontoon may tip over.  I have a good stock of kindling which I make from pallets stolen from outside bars.  Bars are closing so there won’t be any more – may have to chop-up Brenda.  Firelighters okay, provided local Sainsburys continue to stock.  I would get more but cannot move on the boat for toilet rolls.  Make tea for Brenda in the hope of sexual favours – denied.  Chance my life with a two hundred yards walk to Sainsburys for a paper.  Would not usually bother but I sent ‘The Times’ a letter concerning the number of rivets on a standard working boat hull and expect them to publish any day now.  Regale checkout girls with a couple of old Les Dawson jokes and offer sexual congress – denied.  Slump on sofa; newspaper depressing; full of deaths, none of whom are on my list of those who should have joined their maker long ago.  Turn on TV ditto with newspaper but can watch a repeat of ‘The Heroes of Telemark’.  Listen to circulating pump making funny noises, consider doing a few essential jobs on the boat – decide there is plenty of time later.  Snooze until bedtime.


Bad night; sleeping tablets from Doc useless.  Where is Sid?  Thoughtless sod - has he not heard of ‘Help the Aged’, don’t remember growing aged.  The maid has not laid out clean clothes, so decide to manage with what I have.  Too cold for a shower will do it later.  Decide it’s not worth shaving or cleaning my teeth, several dropped out during the night.

Clean glass, clear out fire and make anew, give circulating pump a whack with a hammer seems okay.  Make tea for Brenda in the hope of sexual favours – denied.  Set off for Sainsburys but then remembered I am barred.  Slump on sofa which is getting a bit bumpy.  Watch a repeat of ‘Jane Eyre’ on TV, consider how cads always get more sex.

Neighbour brings the post - one letter.  He keeps up wind of me because of Social Distancing he says.  Letter from Lloyds Bank stating they wish to do all they can to help the vulnerable – can’t remember when I became vulnerable.  Oh, and my overdraft charges have doubled due to global uncertainty.

Consider doing a few essential jobs on the boat – decide there is plenty of time later.  Snooze until bedtime.


Bad night sleeping.  Intelligence received, Sid is warm and safe in police cell – lucky sod.  The maid has not laid out clean clothes, so decide to manage with what I have.  Too cold for a shower.  Decide it’s not worth trimming beard and no teeth left to clean.  Make tea for Brenda in the hope of sexual favours – denied.

Tried to sneak into Sainsburys but still banned; expect my letter has been published to great acclaim and I have missed it.  Beggar by the door notes my clothes and gives me 50p.

Slump on sagging sofa and watch repeat of ‘Bleak House’ on TV to cheer myself up.  Point out to Brenda that the windows require a good clean.  Not sure she is keeping up with the house keeping.  I have noticed during the Lockdown a few annoying habits that she has.  Being slumped on the wrecked sofa I can’t have developed any such habits.  They say no one is perfect but I bet they haven’t checked everyone.

When Sid gets out of prison, he could probably do a few jobs on the boat instead of my botching them.

Snooze until bedtime.


Bad night sleeping.  Sid sends us a food parcel mainly interesting herbs and tablets, still its good of him.  It is surprising how kind people are in a crisis.  He says the price is only double normal rates and he will collect the money after Lockdown plus the usual breaking of fingers if I don’t pay.  The maid has not laid out clean clothes, so decide to manage with what I have.  Decide not to waste water by washing or body maintenance but toenails are creeping through the holes in my socks.  Make tea for Brenda in the hope of sexual favours – denied. Fire refuses to light which is good news as circulating pump has fallen in bits.  Huggle down with several blankets on remains of sofa.

Highlight of the week!  Facetime with our two Grandsons as we have sent them a pack of model cars.  ‘Hello Grandad, thanks for the cars.  The end’.  Not sure from whom they get the comedy.  Still good to see them even if they are too busy playing cars to speak for long.  Very busy myself planning jobs on the boat and our future holidays.  Receive email stating this 2020 holiday's cancelled, offered credit note provided it is used in the next month or the possibility of money back if the company survives and man lands on Mars in the next week.  Travel Insurance refuse to pay out due to para 3001 sub-section ‘I’ in the small print.

Shuffle off to bed.


Scrape ice off the inside of the windows, decide the weather is too warm for a fire.  Take a 400-yard hike to local Tesco.  Quote a couple of Woody Allen jokes to the checkout girl and offer sexual enlightenment – Security called.  The Times has a letter from Archbishop of Canterbury pontificating on rivets of the soul. Consider suing him for copyright.

The boat is getting in a mess everything appears to be in a heap; point out to Brenda her most immediate faults.  She lists in detail all my faults and imperfections which takes up most of the day - surprisingly.

Contacted by the Canal and River Trust who are reaching out to all vulnerable people in case they need any assistance, oh and by the way they are thinking of re-developing Gas Street Basin and we may lose our mooring.  Cruising by narrowboats has been banned for all but essential items.  Towpaths remain open - joggers rush past, panting cyclists screech along shouting ‘get out the way, stay at home’.  Towpaths are now more dangerous than Westminster Bridge.

Retreat to my rotting bundle of blankets on a board.


Dreams of long ago Manchester United victories, no sleep just dreams.  Still this virus thingy will all be worth it if Liverpool are denied the Premiership.  I am such an optimistic person; I think Brenda ignored that aspect of my personality in her rendition.  Rain is keeping the temperature up so no need to work at the fire and water is coming in through the windows so no worry about fresh water.

Listen to advice from the President of the United States of America on the virus.  Inject Brenda, with a bottle of Domestos to save her from the virus.  Mention she is putting on weight, but she does not appear to be grateful for the observation nor the health assistance.

Managed to catch ‘Celebrity dogs do the most funny things’ on the television by having Brenda stand out in the rain to hold the aerial.  Explain it is part of the Trump health regime.

Received a letter from Birmingham Council who are contacting all vulnerable people to see if they need any assistance oh and by the way the Council Tax is being raised above inflation to pay for more council building work.

I notice a violent green mould is working its way along the floor of the boat – probably a good thing as the virus would not like to live in these surroundings.

Slump down to sleep where I am.


Starting to burn the odd cupboard.  Try to get Brenda praying to God Almighty thus have him spare the world from the virus but she asks who sent the thing in the first place.  Say that I thought it was the Chinese and that we should all have lots of sex to increase the loss of population – denied.

Thought about the mile trip to Morrisons for food but the mould is surprisingly filling.  Have Brenda pedal the bicycle generator as part of her fitness regime whilst I watch ‘Parsons say the funniest things’ Sunday special.  We had that Katherine Jenkins on the moorings before the lockdown.  I tried to sing a song of praise to her noble assets, but she had beefy security with her.  Birmingham Council are putting all the rough sleepers in £100 per night hotel rooms which hasn’t gone too well with them as many thought the accommodation was too stuffy.  Sent a picture of my sleeping quarters to the Council, in the hope of a night in a hotel, but they said they are concentrating of the highly vulnerable and oh they have increased my Council Tax band from E to B.

I would write more but the mould has taken over the computer and there are lots of jobs that need to be planned.

east end canal tales

the story of the east end canal

east end canal tales by carolyn clark

The East End Canal Tales weaves the memories of over 50 local residents together with historical accounts to tell of intriguing, humorous, moving and often surprising stories of life and work on the Regent’s and Hertford Union Canals over two centuries.

A fascinating insight into the social history of the canals of East London, and the people who lived and worked beside them. The book is not about boating but the way in which local people interacted with the canal - sometimes in a less-than-commendable way, and how the canal had an impact on the lives of ordinary people in the mid 20th Century. It is an unusual book, covering an under-reported part of London's canal story.

The book is published this month by London Canal Museum as part of the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Regent’s Canal.

The East End Canal Tales is lavishly illustrated with over 130 photographs, many never published before, and three maps.

Read about canal trades of coal and manure and canal-side industries ranging from timber and metalworks to ice and chocolate. Learn about the canal’s role in what was the equivalent of the Victorian internet. Relive childhood memories of diving from ‘the pipe’ and being chased by the ‘cut runners’. Join the villains’ search for the holy grail of a gold cargo. Find out what happened in the old buildings which you can still find along the canal banks and what it was like to work on the Cut.

Lonely Planet London says: ‘Pick up a copy of the museum’s newly published The East End Canal Tales by Carolyn Clark to sail through the canal’s and its industries' fascinating history, meeting a colourful cast of characters who lived and worked on them along the way. Bon voyage!’

The East End Canal Tales is written by Carolyn Clark, author of The Shoreditch Tales and The Lower Clapton Tales.

The East End Canal Tales is on sale at the London Canal Museum, local bookshops including Brick Lane Books, Broadway Books and Pages of Hackney as well as on-line.

​For further information:

Press contact: Carolyn Clark
Phone number: 07773 784 517

boating basics – part two

boating basics - chapter three

under way

Handling the boat:

Start the engine, keep it in neutral and allow some time for it to warm up before you move off.

During that period you and your crew should use the time to take a good look up and downstream for other traffic. Even if the river is twisty you may still be able to see masts or sails “round the bend” through the trees or vegetation.

Once you and your crew know that it is safe to move (and you know where to find the switch for the horn!), untie the bow (front) and stern (back) mooring ropes from the bank leaving them tied to the boat, coiled and ready for use.

Don’t forget to stow the mooring stakes and mallet.

On rivers the general rule is to untie the down stream rope first.

Before you leave your mooring, you need to ensure that you know which way the water is moving! In tidal areas, such as Reedham on the Norfolk Broads, it’s quite possible that the water may be moving in the opposite direction to that which you’d expect i.e. up - stream instead of downstream. You should check by looking at the water flowing past posts, piles, buoys or whatever.

Because the boat steers from the stern, you can’t drive away from the bank as in a car.

Making sure your ropes can’t trail in the water and get caught in the propeller, use the flow of the water to help you to manoeuvre away from the bank – worth thinking about this before you let go!

Check again that the area is clear of boat traffic then push the boat away from the bank so that you can make a clean getaway, with your propeller in deep water.

In shallow water, push the back of the boat out and reverse away until there is room to straighten up.

When the boat is straight, go into forward gear and accelerate gently to cruising speed.

Bear in mind that for most boats stern power is less effective than forward thrust due to the shape of the boat, so full astern is only about as effective as half - ahead.

Turning round:

A general guide to handling a boat is that successful turning in a small space depends on correct use of the vessel’s momentum.

To turn around in a restricted area give the boat a kick of (say) half ahead with the helm hard over in the direction you wish to turn.

As soon as the bow is seen to be swinging in the direction you want, go full astern (to stop any ahead movement). Some mariners will put their helm amidships while stopping this ahead motion (I don’t bother and leave the helm hard over until the manoeuvre is complete).

Once the bow stops swinging, go 1/2 ahead again to resume the swing, then full astern for the duration of that swing; and so on until the manoeuvre is complete.

With practice, a boat can thus be turned almost in her own length. It is all to do with momentum and this should be considered one of the most important and earliest bits of boat handling to be learnt.

Bow & stern thrusters are often fitted to the larger hire boats. These are only effective when moving slowly through the water and should not be used for anything other than mooring and un - mooring. Even when fitted it is far better to learn how to handle the boat confidently without them, keeping them only for emergencies.


Be well aware of local speed limits and respect them otherwise your wash will damage the river banks and the environment you came to enjoy.

Some areas on the Broads are limited to 3 knots.

Rangers have speed guns and can, as a last resort, prosecute you for repeated excessive speeding.

If in doubt look astern and see if you are creating a big wash which could damage natural river banks.

Excessive speeding can also be dangerous for other boat users - causing a boat to rock may make someone fall in and possibly drown.

Always have regard to other boat users and their safety and, if not used to handling boats, particularly large vessels. Remember they don’t slow down like a car and that just going astern is not always as effective as expected.

Wind & Weather:

Note that some parts of a boat’s structure may act as a sail when the wind is coming from the side and can make handling difficult. Take this into consideration when choosing a mooring. Better to find an alternative than have a wind blowing onto the berth which could make mooring and letting - go difficult, hazardous and sometimes impossible.

Rules of the Road:

The two most important things to remember are to KEEP to the RIGHT HAND SIDE (the starboard side) of the channel, and watch your speed the limit is normally 8kph (5 knots in nautical terms) in the canals, and 10 kph (6 knots) in rivers.

As the operator of a pleasure craft you are required keep clear of, or give way to, all commercial craft - you are on holiday, they are at work!

Navigating on tidal rivers and estuaries:

The channel along which you should steer is likely to be marked by BUOYS.

green buoy

If you are travelling upstream the can - shaped RED marker buoys should be passed on your left - hand (PORT) side and the conical shaped GREEN buoys on your right - hand (STARBOARD) side

When travelling downstream the reverse applies i.e. the RED buoys should be on the right - hand side and the GREEN buoys on your left - hand side.

red buoy

Tidal Areas:

Note that tide tables are only a theoretical guide.

It is possible that tide times and range can be dramatically affected by weather conditions. For example, a strong onshore wind can prevent river water exiting to sea, causing a build - up of water and no drop in level until the wind abates. Prolonged heavy rain or melting snow up river can cause an excess of river water which not only increases the speed of the current but can raise the water level.

In both cases, tide times will become irrelevant so boat owners should always keep a close eye on the flow of water and make their own judgement on when the tides peak.

As a general rule tides rise and fall very quickly midway between high and low water and much more slowly when they get near to the high water and low water times – there is in fact something called the 12ths Rule whereby the speed of rise and fall of the tide goes like this: 1 hour after High Water (HW) the tide drops 1/12th in the second hour after HW it drops 2/12ths, in the third hour it drops 3/12ths, in the fourth hour it drops a further 3/12ths in the fifth hour 2/12ths and in the sixth hour 1/12th when it reaches Low Water – exactly the same hourly process then applies to the tide whilst it rises again during the following six hours.

Where possible, moor and unmoor with the bow facing the flow of water. This allows much more control of the vessel during these manoeuvres.

In a tidal area, the flow of water will normally change direction every 6.25 hours ±.

The strongest flow (ebb tide) will always be down river to the sea. The weakest flow is the flood tide where water is being pushed up river against the natural down flow so this should always be taken into account.

If likely to depart your mooring during the ebb and your vessel is moored facing down stream, the last rope let go should be the forward backspring. This should be hand held on board, with the engine running astern sufficient to counter the ebb tide.

Push the stern into the flow of water using the backspring to prevent the boat creeping ahead until clear of the bank and any other vessels moored there.

Once clear, put the helm over sufficient to guide the vessel into mid - stream and let go the backspring as the engine is put ahead.

In areas of high rise and fall of the tide there is a risk of the deck getting caught under the quay heading causing the boat to tilt and, in extreme cases, turn over.

To avoid this, use your spare fenders (those fitted with lanyards) and rig them at a different level to the fitted fenders so that they can guide the boat clear of this hazard as the tide rises.

In areas of particularly large rise and fall, such as Great Yarmouth, it is recommended that the moorings and position of the boat in relation to the quay are checked every couple of hours.

Generally speaking, navigating a boat on inland waterways, both in the UK and in France, is a question of common sense, but you will undoubtedly encounter situations, strange signs etc., for which you may be unprepared.

In most cases reference to the navigational notes provided by your hire cruiser operator, or to the CEVNI guide if you have one, will soon make things clear.

In France especially you should pay particular attention to any signs bordered by a red square. These are either prohibitory (usually with a red diagonal line across telling you something you must not do), mandatory (telling you something you must do) or restrictive (telling you what restrictions apply)


Be polite, for example by slowing down when passing moored boats, especially if the crew is eating a meal and try also not to upset anglers by creating a large wash or cutting their fishing lines.


On French inland waterways you can normally moor wherever you like along most canal towpaths unless a “no mooring” sign forbids it. However, you should take care not to obstruct the towpath by running your mooring ropes across it.

On waterways in the UK there are a lot more private parts of the riverbank where mooring without permission risks a confrontation with the landowner!

Before you can moor - up you need to come alongside the bank which is not as easy as it sounds, especially if there’ s a fresh breeze blowing or a strong current running.

Remember that leaping ashore can be hazardous, so make sure there isn’t a big drop from deck level to the quay.

Always try to wait until the bow of the vessel is resting alongside the bank before stepping ashore.

You should always approach the bank at very slow speed, as reverse gear is your only brake.

If there is a wind blowing, or a strong current running, you should approach facing into the wind or against the current, as these will help to slow you down. What happens if the wind and current are in opposite directions you ask?

Well the answer is that you have to guess which is likely to have the greatest effect on your boat, which isn’t always easy to tell – sometimes just a question of trial and error.

Motor towards the bank at a shallow angle and at low speed until you reach your intended mooring spot then turn your wheel sharply towards the bank and go gently into reverse gear.. This will have the effect of both stopping the boat and dragging the stern in towards the bank. Once you are safely alongside, put the gear into neutral but don’t switch off your engine until your mooring lines are secured in case the wash from another boat, or a gust of wind, means you need to manoeuvre a bit more.

In any event you should normally tie the bow first, with a crewman detailed to jump ashore with the bow - rope which he or she should secure before you throw them the stern rope.

The ropes should be taken and secured several metres forward of the boat at the bow end and several metres behind the boat at the stern.

The easiest way to moor on many canals is to take your mooring ropes around a tree or post on the bank then lead them back on board and secure them to one of your own mooring cleats. This makes casting - off when you leave much easier as it can probably all be done from on - board.


Leaving a mooring on canals such as the Canal du Midi can be quite tricky, especially if there are tree - roots protruding into the water which could damage your propeller.

Normally the best way to leave a mooring is to untie the stern rope first then push the stern of the boat out from the bank whilst one of your crew stays on the bank holding the bow line, keeping the bow of the boat close enough to the bank for him or her to step aboard, with the rope at the appropriate moment at the same time pushing the bows out into the stream.

If you untie the bow line first you will almost certainly have a problem with the propeller hitting tree roots so, unless there are really unusual circumstances preventing you from doing so, you should normally release the stern first and the bow afterwards.

On canals and non-tidal rivers, unless the wind is blowing really hard, a bow-rope and a stern-rope is normally sufficient to secure a boat safely.

Remember not to pull the ropes too tight as this makes letting - go more difficult. For instance, any knots or windings onto the mooring cleats will be difficult to undo.

As previously mentioned, on tidal rivers, or if there’s a strong wind blowing, it may be necessary to use more than two mooring ropes to secure your boat safely.

The best way to do this is to have two extra ropes, known as  “springs” with one of these secured to the bow of the boat and running aft (i.e.backwards) to a mooring point ashore somewhere astern of the boat and another rope from the stern of the boat leading forward to a mooring point ahead of the boat.

The best advice on mooring is to approach everything slowly and methodically.

Use the wind and current to help you rather than try to fight them!

Keep calm, don’t panic and you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Most hire boats are equipped with an anchor but this is essentially for emergency use and NOT for mooring!

The anchor is attached to a length of chain then to a rope which should be firmly secured to the boat (it’s worth checking this is all correct before you leave the base).

In the unlikely event of encountering an emergency situation as a result of engine failure, or through trying to manoeuvre too near a dam or weir, you should throw the anchor out over the bow and allow all the chain and some of the rope to run out before securing the remaining line to a cleat in the bows. This should hold you securely while you sort out the problem or call for assistance.

Should you have to anchor for any reason when you are at sea then you should ensure that there is at least three times as much anchor warp (chain & rope) as the water is deep – in other words if you anchor in ten feet of water then you will need to pay out at least thirty feet of anchor warp.


Locking should be a pleasant and interesting experience, but many newcomers are understandably somewhat daunted by what appears to be a complicated process. In fact it is all quite simple provided you follow a few basic rules.

Bear in mind that locks work to a timetable, that the lock - keeper has a job to do and is normally very experienced.

Always follow his advice or instructions and respect the fact that he’s required to give priority to commercial craft, so please be patient.

Quite often, especially at busy times, the lock keeper will want to group several boats together before operating the lock . Passage through locks is normally free of charge but , if a lock - keeper has been particularly helpful  a tip will be appreciated and if he or his wife has produce for sale alongside the lock they’ll appreciate your patronage!

In some cases lock -keepers will telephone ahead to the next lock to alert them to expect your arrival so if you plan to moor up for some time between this lock and the next one please tell the lock keeper.

When approaching a lock you should reduce speed when you’re about 150 metres from it and announce your arrival with a blast of your horn. If the lock gates are open when you arrive you can normally go straight in and tie up.

If there is a boat in the lock and/or if the gates are closed you should moor up and wait about 100 metres short of the entrance, making sure that you don’t impede the passage of other vessels.

Always remember to manoeuvre slowly, be careful climbing ladders which are often slippery, never to jump off the lock onto your cabin roof and to coil your ropes away tidily once you’ve cleared the lock.

Locking Up - Stream: (i.e. an ascending lock).

Approach the lower level (downstream) gate very slowly and drop -off one or two of your crew either onto the bank or via the ladder normally situated just inside the lock.

It may be possible for these crew members to take your mooring lines ashore with them but , if not , once fully inside the lock you need to throw your mooring lines up to them. To do this make a coil of the rope and throw it in a similar manner to bowling a cricket ball.

The crew ashore should loop the ropes around the mooring bollards provided, without tying them , and throw the end of the ropes back to the crew member(s) on board.

Once your boat is secured alongside, the lock keeper will close the downstream gates behind you . Some locks are operated manually, in which case the lock keeper may appreciate so me help from your crew members ashore.

Once the downstream gates are closed, the lock - keeper will open the up - stream sluices to fill the lock .

Make sure you keep your boat snugly alongside the lock wall while the lock fills, which means that the crew on board must constantly tighten the ropes to reduce the slack in the mooring lines as the boat rises.

When the water level in the lock is equal to that in the canal ahead the gates are opened, you can untie your mooring ropes, coil them neatly, pick up your crew and move slowly ahead.

It’s really all quite simple!

Locking Down - Stream: (i.e. a descending lock)

Providing the up - stream lock gate (called the crown gate) is open you should enter the lock slowly and carefully and drop one or two crew members off onto the bank taking ropes with them.

These ropes should be looped around the bollards provided on the lock - side, without tying them , before throwing them back on board leaving plenty of slack. (at least 3 - 4 metres)

The lock keeper will now close the crown gate and open the sluices ahead of you to allow the water in the lock to fall while you and you crew adjust the slack in the mooring ropes.

​Once the level of water in the lock and that in the canal ahead are equal the gates ahead of you will be opened, and you can coil your mooring ropes, pick up your crew - members and proceed on your way.

Emergencies: Hopefully there won’t be any!

Boating ought to be fun, but you’ll enjoy it more if you try to do things the correct way and to look “seamanlike” by keeping calm and running a “tidy ship” Always try to keep ropes coiled and not leave things lying about, particularly on deck, where members of the crew can trip over them.

Observe sensible precautions, particularly where gas and re-fuelling are concerned.

Don’t smoke whilst changing gas bottles or when re-fuelling!

Be careful when going forward along the decks. Watch out for low bridges especially if you’re on the cabin roof for some reason. If someone is unfortunate enough to fall in don’t panic

You should always know where to find your emergency contact details.

Your first call may well be to your hire company but these are often closed on Sundays and out of office hours so you should know in advance where to call in the event of an emergency .

An emergency involving injury to anyone would warrant a 999 call in the UK or a “Mayday” call on VHF Channel 16 if you’re at sea.

Man Overboard!

A man - overboard situation at sea is always dangerous and most marine Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have a “ man overboard ” button which, if pressed immediately when someone falls overboard, logs the exact location.

It is not quite so dangerous if someone falls into a canal, although falling into a tidal river is potentially just as hazardous as falling in the sea.

There are tried and tested procedures for recovering someone who has fallen overboard at sea and some of those procedures could apply equally well on the river or on a canal, so it is worth running very briefly through them.

Firstly don’t lose sight of the person in the water, which can easily happen at sea when there are even moderately large waves, but it could also happen on a river in misty conditions.

The standard advice is to tell a crew member to keep watching the person in the water while the skipper manoeuvres the boat.

Secondly, and just as importantly, remember that anyone in the water is very vulnerable to being severely cut by your propeller, so whatever you do keep the stern of the boat well clear of them.

​It is usually best to approach the person in the water SLOWLY in an up - wind direction so that the boat can more easily be stopped , and the engine put into neutral (to stop the propeller from turning) when you are alongside them.

If you have enough crew aboard then you should consider anchoring and switching your engine off once you are close enough to the casualty to use paddles or a bow thruster to get alongside the person in the water.

Remember too that it is not easy for anyone in the water, who will be wet and probably cold, to clamber up the side of a boat, so a rope over the side with a loop in it, into which they can place a foot, will certainly help.

Hopefully your boating experiences will all be uneventful in terms of emergencies but it’s well worthwhile actually practising recovering something such as a large buoy or lifebelt from the water – it’s not as easy as you might think!

All that remains is for us to wish you “Bonnes Voyages”

Clive Edwards and Captain Chris Woods

boating basics - appendix a

recommended publications

If you wish to extend your knowledge beyond that contained in this guide, the following publications are recommended.

The Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) exists to serve, protect and promote the interests of private users of pleasure craft on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. It has over 1,100 individual members and 47 affiliated clubs and associations, altogether representing the majority of those who use private craft on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. The Broads are an extensive inland waterway system of 190 km of navigable, lock-free rivers and permanently open broads. Navigation is subject to the Broads Authority, a statutory authority with regulatory powers.

**The RYA Boat Safety Handbook provides essential information to ensure that your boat has the necessary safety equipment. Illustrated throughout in full colour, it is written by Keith Colwell, an RNLI Divisional Sea Safety Manager and RYA Instructor. This is a vital book for sailors both old and new who are concerned with the safety of themselves and others.

Chapters include - Lifejackets and Buoyancy aids, Man Overboard prevention and recovery, Calling for Help and Dealing with Fire

**Most boaters agree that "take offs and landings" are the most difficult and stressful areas of boating but that once the general principles and rules are mastered you are soon able to deal safely and confidently with most common situations.

The object of RYA Boat Handling for Sail and Power is to help you gain a fuller understanding of boat handling by dealing with a wide variety of situations in a thoughtful and logical way.

Expert advice in easy to follow text combined with in-depth colour illustrations make this title an essential tool to everyone who takes a boat out on the water.

**RYA Inland Waterways Handbook accompanies the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course and chapters include types of boat; rope handling; rules of the road; steerable power; turning; reversing, and propeller and wind effect.

Revised and updated to keep abreast of any changes in the inland waterways regulations.

Written and updated by Andrew Newman, Principal of a RYA Training Centre which runs courses applicable to the inland waterways and the types of boats used thereon.

**RYA European Waterways Regulations is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the CEVNI code which was devised by the United Nations in 1985 and governs navigation on all interconnected European inland waterways. It was established to enable boatmen of all nationalities to communicate and understand what is going on without the need to speak each other’s language. Key chapters include: Visual Signs and Rules of the Road (particularly blue boarding.

Author Tam Murrell has been boating for business and pleasure since the late 1950s ranging from working narrow boats and barges on UK inland waters to small coasters in and around the Thames estuary and Northern Europe.

**It is a requirement in most European countries that boaters hold the International Certificate of Competence, (or the ICC as it is more commonly known), when using both the coastal and inland waterways. It is essentially the nearest we have to an international driving licence for boaters.

The RYA ICC Handbook explains the ICC in great detail– what it is, why it came about, who it applies to and the requirements for all boaters to obtain one.  The International Regulations to Prevent Collisions at Sea are briefly touched on and the content of the ICC test is explained in depth.

Expertly written by Rob Gibson, author of the popular RYA Boat Handling for Sail & Power.

Books marked ** are also available as e-books which makes them easier to carry around and refer to when on board.

Besides the above, the RYA publishes many more books covering every aspect of boating.  For more information visit their website.

boating basics – part one

boating basics

an introduction to renting and handling motorboats on inland waterways with particular reference to those of the UK and France

by CLive Edwards and Captain Chris Woods

first published in 2009, and reproduced with kind permission of the MNABC

This publication has been produced by the Merchant Navy Association Boat Club with the aim of providing basic information for anyone venturing onto the water for the first time. The idea is to help make the experience more enjoyable and safer, both for you the reader and for other users of the waterways.

As we anticipate that most of those likely to benefit will be planning to hire a boat on inland waterways, rather than taking to the sea, we have concentrated on how to handle a boat on rivers, canals, lakes, the Broads etc. but many of the practices we describe would apply equally when taking to the sea.

The Merchant Navy Association Boat Club is a group of present or former professional seafarers who are members of the Merchant Navy Association and interested in boating, contributing to maritime safety and sharing information. The Club is affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) and has links with The Coastguard Association, the Sea Safety Group, the National Coastwatch, the Maritime Volunteer Service, the Nautical Institute and several other maritime organisations.

The objectives of the Club are to facilitate and promote the safe participation and enjoyment of boating activities on oceans, seas, lakes and inland waterways. We also seek to facilitate the training of prospective younger members and promote opportunities for careers in the leisure sector.

The authors are both former professional mariners with many years’ experience of operating a variety of craft, including fast rescue boats, as can be seen from these brief biographies:

Clive Edwards

A yachtmaster instructor and a member of HM Coastguard for many years, including several years as patrol boat skipper, Clive was chief rescue officer for the Yacht Clubs of Weymouth, a rescue officer and rescue boat operator for the RYA British Olympic Sailing Team, and more recently he was the NCI Lyme Bay National Coastwatch station manager. He is a member of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners and is the RNLI Community Safety Officer for the Weymouth Lifeboat area and is currently Commodore of the Merchant Navy Association Boat Club.

clive edwards lady sarah

Captain Chris Woods

Chris is a tanker man through and through with a full Masters Foreign Going Certificate.
In 1980, after 18 years deep sea with BP, he was invited to transfer to their offshore fleet supporting BP Exploration, mainly in the North Sea but also the Mediterranean and Canada. His first three years were with their mid - N.S. sector disaster ship, the converted tanker Forties Kiwi. During this time Chris had professional training with Fast Rescue craft and their remarkable ability to be handled in extreme conditions for rescuing rig/platform personnel from the water, plus co-ordination

with commercial SaR helicopters and Nimrod search aircraft. He then transferred to their more challenging but rewarding offshore support vessels where he remained as Master until retirement in 1999.

Since then Chris has sailed and cruised the Norfolk Broads, is a member of the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association and a Governor of the RNL. His role as the Merchant Navy Association Boat Club’s Vice Commodore includes liaison with the NSBA

boating basics - chapter one

before you leave home

Your hire - cruiser operator will normally have provided you with a list of all the equipment that you will find on - board when you collect your boat from the base, but this will obviously not include items such as personal clothing, footwear etc., so the following is a guide as to what you should take with you:


Hard suitcases are certainly not ideal on a boat, so you should try to pack your things in soft bags


Clothing should be practical, comfortable and easy to clean, even though you may want to take some “smart - casual” clothes for evenings out etc. Don’t forget that it can rain or turn chilly on occasions, even in the South of France or on the Canal du Midi, so packing a warm sweater and lightweight wet - weather gear is advisable.

  • Shoes: Non-slip “deck - shoes” (identifiable by their razor - cut soles) are ideal, but trainers will probably do - high heels and slippery - soled smart shoes are definitely unsuitable!
  • Gloves: especially the high - grip type available from builders merchants, are useful for handling anchor warps and mooring ropes.
  • Caps are also very useful as a protection against the glare of the sun and UV sunglasses are almost essential for the driver (helmsman)

A high - viz jacket or tabard is useful if sailing in the dark or semi - darkness.


Boats do not generally have electric razor sockets, or sockets for 240volt hair dryers!

Water reflects and intensifies sunlight, so don’t forget the sun - glasses (UV lenses are a must to avoid eye damage in strong sunlight over the water), the sun - tan lotion and the after - sun!

Maps & Guides:

Maps used on the water are usually called “charts” and you’ll definitely need to have an appropriate one together with a local waterways guide.

Together they will prove invaluable for identifying such things as:

  • The location, opening hours and distances between locks
  • Where you can find moorings and other crucial information
  • The nature and location of tourist attractions, restaurants etc.

Other publications worth considering are:

  • Pilot Guides to the principal inland waterways in the UK such as The River Thames
  • The Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association’s (NSBA) “Green Book”, (for the Broads)
  • The Royal Yachting Association’s (RYA) Inland Waterways Handbook
  • A large scale Ordnance Survey map for exploring ashore.
  • For the French inland waterways, the multi - language “Guides Fluvial” series

If you’re a keen angler you’ll know what to take in terms of tackle, but don’t forget you’ll probably need a permit – in France these are available from fishing tackle shops and some “tabacs”

Children & Pets:

At sea and on most rivers we recommend that everybody wears a life jacket whilst on deck even though on most canals and smaller inland waterways they are not a legal requirement. We also strongly recommend the continual use of lifejackets or “buoyancy aids” for all young children and/or non - swimmers – do make sure to use ones that are “age appropriate” and fitted with a whistle. You can even get buoyancy aids for dogs these days too!

However, you might also think about using a harness for your dog which can be useful if you need to use a boat - hook to haul it out of the water – you don’t want to strangle him or her by trying to lift by the collar!

It is preferable not to let your pet go swimming in the first place, especially in rivers where Green Algae and weed are serious hazards and only too easy to get entangled in. They are responsible for more loss of human and canine life than any other cause on inland waterways.

Books and some games will help to stop kids becoming bored once the novelty of being afloat begins to wear off. If you’re taking dog(s) with you don’t forget the pet food, their beds, leads and food/water bowls.


Some hire - cruiser operators offer bicycle hire as well and these will certainly add to your enjoyment and be useful for shopping expeditions. If you are taking your own bikes don’t forget to make sure they are insured.


Handy when you are ashore but not normally allowed to be used on board unless securely fixed on the outside of handrails.

Bin - Bags:

These are useful for depositing rubbish into the bins provided at most locks and official mooring places.


In the UK no qualifications are required when hiring a boat on our inland waterways but anyone operating a boat on continental waterways requires a Certificate of Competence (i.e. a licence).

Many hire - cruiser operators actually advertise “no licence required” which in effect means that they will give you a temporary licence when you collect your boat from their base but be sure to check this when you book.

Cruiser operations on the inland waterways of Europe are governed by a set of quite complicated regulations, rather like the Highway Code. Your hire - cruiser operator will normally provide you with a summary of these regulations illustrating the more important points you will need to comply with.

If you are going boating in tidal waters you will need to buy a local tide table - these are sold by ship’s chandlers, newsagents, yacht - brokers and even petrol stations in areas where there is any significant boating activity.

If you are interested in knowing more about the above or other aspects of boat craft, see the list of recommended publications in Appendix A.

boating basics - chapter two

before you leave the base

Most hire-cruiser operators will take you carefully through the operation of your hire cruiser and all its equipment before you leave port. It is important to make sure you have understood everything and are familiar with the operation of things like the engine, fuel, drinking water, gas, shower, toilets, heating, lighting, the cooker and the ‘fridge before you set off.

Make sure that everyone on - board is conversant with the advice and instruction given - not just the skipper!

In addition, the following points are worth bearing in mind:

Try to stow all your personal belongings away tidily – there is nothing worse than trying to operate a boat with things, including children’s toys, strewn all over the place and it can be positively dangerous even to try!


Never try to fend off using your arms or legs so, whenever you intend to moor up to anything like a quay or a wall, make sure you have fenders ready on a line and in the correct position to cushion the impact.

It is a useful idea to have two or three fenders on a line that can be held over the side in the case of an impending collision!

Mooring Ropes:

You will be using these a lot, so a few words of advice before you leave the base are worthwhile.

Firstly, make sure you have mooring ropes securely attached to the boat at both the bow (the front end of the boat) and stern (the back end).

Make sure that they are neatly coiled up (practice first to see which way the rope coils naturally) and that they can’t fall off and trail in the water where they can foul the propeller.

It can literally take hours to free a rope that is wrapped round your propeller, it can cause damage to the engine, you will get very wet indeed untangling it and, if the stern has to be lifted by a crane to clear the rope from round your prop, that’s going to be very expensive as well as hugely embarrassing.

The simplest way of mooring, in gentle winds and with little tide or current, is to simply have one rope leading forward and another one leading aft.

If there is a reasonably strong current or tide, or a strong wind, then you will need more ropes and the most useful are ones called “springs”. These are fixed to prevent your boat surging backwards and forwards which it would tend to do if you only have a bow line (i.e. a line at the front) and a stern line (i.e. behind).

To add springs you should take a line from towards the stern of the boat and run this forward to a mooring post ashore some little way ahead of your boat, and another line from near your boat’s bow to a mooring post ashore a little way astern your boat. You should also make sure that your stern mooring line is secured to a post or ring not too far behind your boat so that the wash from passing traffic can’t drag your boat too far away from the side.

Remember to pass your mooring ropes UNDER any guard -rails around the boat to avoid damaging them and make sure you avoid having the ropes snagging any obstructions such as stanchions (these are the up right posts that support the guard-rails). In other words make sure your mooring ropes have an unimpeded run.

If you’re in tidal waters and you intend to leave your boat for more than a short time (e.g. half an hour or more) you will need to consult your tide table to ascertain the state of the tide and how much it is likely to rise or fall while you are away.

When you return to the boat you don’t want to find that you have used far too much rope and your boat has now drifted into the middle of the stream or, worse still, that you have used too little length of rope and your boat is now suspended well above the water or even tipped over!

The most common use for a rope on board will be making fast to a post and the surest way of doing this is to take a couple of turns round the mooring post and then feed the rope back on board and secure it to a cleat- this doubles the strength of the mooring and makes for easier letting - go.

It is quite possible you may at some stage need to throw a rope to someone ashore or to someone on another boat. Most people who are not used to using ropes make a mess of this and end up with the rope in the water! The correct way to throw a rope is firstly to attach one end to something secure and then to coil the rope neatly.

If it is a long rope divide the coil into two with one half in your throwing hand and the other half in the other hand . Swing your throwing arm smoothly and let go of the first coil then allow the remainder of the rope coiled in your other hand to follow.

It’s worth practising this and you’ll be surprised just how far you can actually throw a line!


Although not essential, it is useful to know how to tie the most common knots used in boating and the correct way to attach a rope to a cleat (a piece of equipment found on deck at either end of the boat specifically designed for attaching ropes)

Let us start with the Clove Hitch , as illustrated below. This is a simple knot, quick and easy to tie, and very useful when mooring to a post for a short time, but it’s not a particularly secure knot and should only be used while someone is in attendance to make sure that it doesn’t start to slip.

Perhaps the most useful knot of all is the Round Turn & Two Half -Hitches which can be safely used in lots of situations where your boat is to be left unattended as it is not prone to slipping

There may be occasions when you need to join two ropes together to make one longer rope . When doing this you should use a knot called a Sheet Bend, as illustrated below:

Finally it’s quite important to know the correct way to attach your ropes to the cleats on - board your boat!

The following picture illustrates the correct way to do this:

Read Part Two (chapter 3 and Appendix A)