Mike’s dad turned 60 last year, and for one of his birthday gifts/celebrations, we spent a weekend on a narrowboat. I’ll admit I was a little hesitant about it at first. I was unsure how I’d cope with the constant rocking sensation, the lack of space, and I was a bit worried about sleeping in the boat over night. But when Monday rolled around and the weekend was over, I was actually disappointed to be leaving.
We drove up to Worcester Marina on the Friday morning. When we arrived, we were given an instructional talk by one of the Marina workers. She told us there were two types of locks and showed us how to work both of them. After the talk, we were introduced to the Aquatic Warbler, our 8 berth semi-traditional stern narrowboat, which would be home for the weekend. The boat was 69ft long so it’s safe to say I wasn’t eager to be the one in control of manoeuvring it.
We were shown to our boat and given the chance to look around as the instructor was busy tending to another group. The boat was very narrow, and there were moments in which you had to side-shuffle your way down. That being said, there was a lot more space than I’d first imagined. As there was 6 of us, there were 3 double beds (which were incredibly comfy, might I add!), two bathrooms and a seating/kitchen area.
Once the mini-tour complete, it was our turn to get the run-down of how everything worked. And to take note of the rules of the canal, to which there were a lot more than I anticipated.
- The canal is only operational between certain times (I’ve forgotten the exact times, it’s been a while!)
- You can’t drive above 4mph, and you have to slow down when passing moored boats
- When it’s clear, make sure you drive in the middle of the canal as it’s usually deeper
- Pass other boats on the right
- You can only use certain amenities (shower, microwave, phone chargers etc) when the engine of the boat is running
- There are checks you have to do before starting up your boat in the morning. One of these involved putting your hand into the water to check the propeller was clear. Definitely not something I was fighting for my chance to have a go at… (see picture of Mike’s dad to the right)
- The boat actually runs on water and you have to make sure the levels don’t get too low
- Locks can use a lot of water so if you approach the bottom of a lock that’s full of water and you see a boat about to come down, let them go first
All the necessary stuff out of the way, we made our way out of the Marina to begin our journey around the Droitwich Ring. We opted to go clockwise which meant we were greeted with a great deal of locks to do on our first evening. I think this worked out well because by Saturday we knew exactly what we were doing.
We moored up our boat just before a stretch of five consecutive locks. We knew we wouldn’t make it through by curfew so settled down for an evening of food, games and a few drinks.
The sun was shining as we set off on the Saturday so we all had a go at driving the boat. It came as no surprise to me that I wasn’t very good at it; I don’t know my left from my right as it is (unless I make an L with my finger and thumb on my left hand) and it didn’t help that the boat operated on a rudder, so to steer left, you had to turn the rudder right … I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
The weather for the rest of the weekend was very on and off. When it was raining, we decided it was better to have the same people doing the locks. This way we weren’t all cold, wet and in need of a shower at the same time. When the locks were close together, it was easier to walk alongside the canal instead of mooring up the boat to get people on and off again. They also turned out to be a pretty good arm and core workout with all the turning to open and close them.
The sun shone for us as we cruised down the River Severn. Thankfully, you’re allowed to travel a bit faster on the river. The locks for getting on and off the river were a little more heavy duty and a lot harder to open and close. They’re also big enough to fit two boats so we ended up waiting for another boat to join us. This meant we spent more time manoeuvring through the locks but we got to experience more of the community.
Mike videoed the weekend so you see a visual of our weekend as opposed to reading my babble!
Would I recommend a canal boat holiday?
Absolutely. So much so that we’re actually going on another one in July! This time we’re heading in the direction of Wales for five days as opposed to a long weekend. I’m hoping that the weather is much kinder to us…