Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Three Hazards 1. Grounding

My first holiday in a narrow boat, from Foxton Locks, was trouble-free. The weather was fine, the canals spacious, the locks easy enough; I found boating was essentially a simple life. Our experiences with Patience have been mostly problem free too - but the recent trip along the Ouse to Barford showed us how concentration, preparation and planning are important.
Brampton Mill

The first hazard was not far from home, just beyond Twenty Pence Marina. With fairly low water levels in this very dry summer we should have been more alert to the dangers of grounding, but we thought we knew our own patch and Patience doesn't have much draught. Unfortunately, on a bend, though the bow cleared the corner, I must have turned the stern in too quickly, and quietly but suddenly we were aground. What was confusing was that the bow was free (there'd been no shuddering or sudden impact) and the propeller appeared to be clear too, kicking up a bit of thin mud but not obviously stuck.
We tried reverse without success, tried poling too, only to realise that it was amidships that we were grounded and pushing a pole from one end simply swivelled us without freeing us. A kind cruiser did his best to haul us off but he was too light to have any effect. Just when we thought we would have to wait for another narrow boat - or to somehow winch ourselves off via a bankside tree - we gave a final simultaneous heave with the boat hook from the stern and the pole from the bow and we eased ourselves off sideways.
Thank heavens for both a pole and a hook. Thank heavens also that there were two of us.
Learning points:
  • A narrow boat needs both a pole and a hook. 
  • Keep an eye open for low water levels.
  • Steer into the middle channel, avoiding corners where shoaling is most likely to occur.
  • Note how a long boat swings round a bend and observe the middle and the stern as well as the bow.
  • Stop immediately then try reversing. 
  • Draining the water tanks might raise you enough to slide off
  • Be prepared!

1 comment:

  1. On our Easter cruise, we spent some time on the River Aire. The weather was glorious. We were making easy progress due to the reduced flow of the river. However, when we reached the twisty tight bends about a mile below Beal Lock. We discovered (on a blind bend) that the inside bank had collapsed into the river creating a large mud bar.

    I over steered the tiller, the front end missed the mud bank, but I managed to stem up the back end. First we pumped out our water tank almost dry to remove some weight from the boat. We were about eight inches higher in the water than normal. Then leaving the engine ticking over in reverse, working from the stern to the bow. I managed to break up the mud round the sides of the boat using the pole. I cleared the mud down below the level of the base plate. This created a moat with Rosie perched on top.

    By waggling the bow end from side to side we slowly squeezed out the mud from under the base plate. From initially being able to only move a few inches from side to side. By repeating the moat digging exercise and letting the prop wash move the freed up mud clear. We improved the bow swing up to about a hundred and twenty degrees side to side.

    We managed to eventually extract ourselves. Rosie did this by sliding sideways off the mud bank when we were diagonal across the river. This was however, some three and a half hours later. I now have a long handled “post hole spade” for mud clearing in my boating armoury. I also have a set of waders in the top-box as the water was just to deep for my Wellingtons. I found the water was much to cold to spend long periods paddling in it.

    It was not our first time being stuck in the mud on this cruise. You can read the gory details here.


    Mick -n- Mags