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Our amazing holiday on the Llangollen Canal
Wednesday,6 June, 2012
8:17 pm
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Sunday,15 January, 2012
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We are just back from a lovely holiday in a narrow boat on the Llangollen canal , ok, the weather was slightly unseasonal but did’nt put us off. The scenery was absolutely spectacular what with the changing colour of the trees, the colourful narrrow boats lined up along the banks etc, it really was a holiday to remember.

We did this to satisfy our curiosity as to buying a canal boat to live in. During our time there we looked at a few boats for sale in various places as we past them. In passing, i have to say that the staff at Chirk marina were most helpful in every respect of narrow boat life, and even though we landed with a hire boat from a neighbouring yard, (said boat was really tired and needed a lot of tlc, a lesson learned, this was supposed to be a 5 star, but on looking at what Chirks boats had to offer I decided that we had a ‘utility model’ lol.

Just a few things of note, during our time on the canal we met some lovely people, also some really arrogant ones as well, and witnessed a few altercations between liveaboards, and tourists. I can fully understand the frustration of some of the boaters as to the total incompetance of some hire boaters, they have simply no training in handling 60/70 ft boats other than ‘this is the throttle, this is reverse, this is foward, thats the bow, and thats called the stern…off you go’. I’m totally convinced that this happens. On approaching the LLangollen basin we were torpedoed really hard by a lunatic in a 70ft’er, he came up to where we were manoevering to go into a berth stern to, as i was using the wind to help me get in without damaging the boat in the next berth he collided full steam into our stern. We are well aware that this often happens as we saw some really spectacular collisions, and just laughed. Having spoken to the guy shortly afterwards he admitted that they only had training on fixtures and fittings, had the usual diagrams on how to use locks etc but precious little else and was really nervous about handling them especially in the wind. So its no wonder that liveaboard people get frustrated and slightly at odds with the hireboaters and some who treat them with contempt. We saw, and heard one very arrogant guy who gave a hireboater a very red face at the winding hole at the head of the Ellesmere basin who was doing his best to do a 360 in a very tight space and I have to say he did a near text book job of it only for a very slight bump to the liveaboard guy who i considered to be in a bad spot in the first place.

At this point I’l have to ‘blow my trumpet’….er…sorry… to all the readers here that I have handled boats since i was a teenager and have learned every trick in the book on how to handle boats in general. Most of which has been sail, single engine and twin installations. For the last 15 years i have been a marina manager so am up to date with most things in the marine life on the sea and river.

This is the first time i have got onto a narrow boat and handled one, so it was quite a surprise to me how badly they handle generally. I very quickly concluded that they need a variable pitch propellor, and an under water exhaust would be very desireable, these would be the first 2 things i would modify. We had a very noisey Isuzu diesel installed in ours, and the exhaust bellowed this really awful racket constantly which i have to say eventually drove me bananas, to such an extent I would stop every 2 hours or so and switch it off to give my head a break!! An underwater exhaust is very easy to fit, especially in a steel boat, all you need to do is make sure you have a ‘head’, ie ,a rise and u bend above the engine itself to avoid back syphoning when for example the boat was being towed at speed without its own engine running. A highly unlike scenario on a canal! The underwater outlet would give you a very serene passage with only a little machinery clatter. Any competent welder could do this for you the next time the boat is out of the water for maintenance.

Secondly, a variable pitch prop is so badly needed on them, either that or get your props ‘cupped’. This is a term used to literally bend over the leading edges of the blades to give a much better grip of the water. Variable pitch props aren’t cheap by any means, possibly around £800 depending on the quality, and to get it cupped would cost maybe £100 or so, but boy would they save your paintwork and revving the guts out of your engine that you have to do to perform a really simple manoever such as winding. The standard props that are fitted have little or no grip of the water, its more like an egg beater!!lol.

The other thing i took note of was how bad they are in a cross wind, any boat is, but narrow boats are without a doubt the worst I have seen, if it wasn’t that they are designed to go slowly i would say they were useless, and the obvious thing to do would be leave them moored up until the wind eases as I’m sure the experienced boaters do. However, I am mindful that they were originally designed to carry cargo and be pulled by horses!! My modification would be to have 3 3or 4 inch rails running down the hull, one on the centre line, and 1 on each outer edge, stopping short of midships so that you dont loose precious depth that you need at the stern to travel bearing in mind that they ‘squat’ at the stern almost as soon as they crawl fowards when in gear. This would give a little grip in a side wind, possible enough to avert loosing control so quickly.

Just a few ideas for you to ponder over!

Anyways, just a quick posting here to say how much we enjoyed ourselves, how nice you people really are and how we admire how you live. We are still debating what we should do when we came home, as we are at a time in our lives where a change in lifestyle is needed, but still unsure. Having said that we will definately do a canal holiday again later this year, but in the meantime stick with the sea for now.
Cheers everyone for now and enjoy your lovely lifestyle!!

Mike & Nadia

 
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