Sunday 12 June 2011

Single Handed Boaters - The Good, the Bad and the downright Ugly

Monday 6th June to Sunday 12th June 2011

32 Miles, 40 Locks, 1 Tunnel – for this week
Total: 525 Miles, 482 Locks, 15 Tunnels, 18 Lift Bridges, 9 Swing Bridges

The weather this week had a huge effect on our travelling this week with two days when we were drenched just prior to mooring up, another where we decided not to move due to rain – sounds more like the lack of play at Wimbledon or Lord’s and reasons why.

But far and above that there were the contrasts between very good behaviour and exceedingly selfish behaviour by single handed boaters.

This is not us having a ‘go’ at single handed boaters – having done this for 4 months last year I know an awful lot about the trials and tribulations of this – it isn’t easy but if you have made the decision to go it alone (for whatever reason) then you accept the challenges and responsibilities for making sure that you do the right thing all of the time (not just when it suits you) – nothing different to there being 2 or 3 or more of you on a boat.

Being on the canals is a privilege not a right and you need to be prepared to work with and help others and to think of other users all of the time.

Travelling through the Cheshire locks is a hard task at the best of times, but setting out from Wheelock we immediately came across a lock which could not fill completely from a pound which was well down on its normal level.

Diane had to walk up the locks for a fair way to let water down in order for us to move out and along. This all took time and we saw it initially as one of those things that goes with lower rainfall – until she found that the lockgate paddles had not been put down completely by an earlier boat and further we were told that it was a single handed boater not closing them

You can accept that it is possible to accidentally leave one paddle not down, particularly if they are stiff and you think that is it down fully – but not at 3 or 4 locks in succession.

Gradually we made our way up the locks followed by two other boats – we reached the M6 as the heavens opened; drenched and tired, there were two single handers in the locks – both coming down at the same time – that’s OK.

One ready to leave the lock, gates open, decided to take his time, knowing that we are there waiting to come up – I was helping him to get through – so the boat is bobbing around in the pound – in the windy pound – waiting and waiting. He then leaves to wait under the bridge out of the rain – the same rain that continued to drench us – but having left the ratchets open on all of the paddle gear – an accident waiting to happen – too lazy by a long way.

The other boater just leaves the lock only bother to close one gate – didn’t even attempt to worry about the other – too lazy by a long way.

Sure it means a bit of extra effort to close it – or he even could have asked if I would close it for him – too lazy by a long way.

A complete lack of empathy for others – “I’m alright, b_____r you" attitude.

The following day we saw the better side of single handed boating – an older man struggled through a set of paired locks as we were coming up; a hire boat in the other; he pulled the boat over to the bollards to moor up to let the other boat through as he was concerned about slowing them down – this is the type of attitude that anyone would want to see – the other boat appreciated the gestured and acknowledged the same.

That’s enough about that for now.

When you pass along a long stretch and catch up with and work through the locks with others you, of course, ask each other where are you heading. I have been surprised by the number who didn’t fancy the idea of going through Stoke at all.

We have been through Stoke 4 times together and I have a further trip to count on my own and only the first one caused us to be concerned and not by anything other than the level of rubbish in the canal – and that was 3 years ago.

This time, as with my previous time, the canal through Stoke would have to be the cleanest that I have seen when going through a large town – in fact cleaner than in most places anywhere that we have been – the amount of effort put in by the people in Stoke to create a user-friendly setting has been tremendous. We have moored up in Stoke over 6 separate nights and had no problems at all – something reflected by others that we have spoken to; so please do not think ill of Stoke, but instead enjoy the environment and enjoy the town.

For now we are sitting quite cosily in Barlaston, after enjoying a very nice Sunday roast at the Plume of Feathers hotel; sitting listening to the rain on the roof and thinking how much better off we are than those on the boats that are cruising past.


  1. I'm not sure it's fair to blame the boorish behaviour of those other boaters on their being single-handed: They would probably behave that way even if they had a crew.

    I do agree with you about Stoke though - and certain other places that have a bad reputation such as Wolverhampton and Leicester. The only time I've ever had any trouble at a mooring was in Middlewich in the middle of the boat and folk festival and I'm sure that was a one-off.

  2. Hi there, sorry if I seemed off hand when you passed us the other day, you caught me by surprise. I've just found your blog, welcome. Jill and I will follow your perambulations with interest.