Going on a canal boat holiday was, I suppose a pretty good decision overall; although why someone who can not swim and has a terror of water would venture afloat in the first place begs a real serious question. But no, it was a great experience, a new experience. I do not know if you've ever tried driving a 32 foot coach from the rear but that is more or less what driving a narrow boat is like. Exception no coach ever had opposite steering; that's right, steer right to go left and vice-versa. It's surprising how quickly a weaving, drifting boat that length focuses your concentration, so that you soon brainwash yourself into navigating the beast correctly. Having said that, in a moment of stress, which tended to happen with depressing regularity, it was too easy to lapse into 'automatic' and steer the wrong way, which tended to aggravate that particular 'stress moment'. Oh how we came to look forward to the liquid refresh at the end of the day, when we could moor up at one of the canal-side pubs.
But I would not want to give you the impression that boating is traumatic or that the whole venture is too fraught to be a pleasure; on the contrary, I really enjoyed the experience, particularly as the week went on and skills were honored and less errors were made. It was probably a steep learning curve but a worthy and enjoyable one as well. You knew you'd mastered the boat when you crossed an aqueduct, a channel of water seemingly a hundred feet in the air and barely wider than the craft you were steering-from the back! That induced a momentary fit of the shakes but also a sense of achievement, partly because they do not seem to build any visible walls on aqueducts, all you can see is a 100 foot drop and your boat.
I think what really makes a boating holiday, is the fact that the top speed on Britain's inland waterways is a max. of three to four miles an hour, which, when you're used to dashing around in a car, is really quite relaxing, no matter what disaster befalls you. I mean, how much damage can you do at four miles an hour? Jumping forward in time, momentarily, to when we had the cabin-cruiser (bought while still under the thrall of the narrow boat, so the experience can not have been all that traumatic) I remember ramming the bank flat out several times and on anxiously examining the bow, that pointy bit up front, found no damage whatsoever. Marine ply is amazing stuff when clad in glass-fiber. Also also are Yamaha outboards, even when they've been dropped in the drink and had to be fished out (previous owner, honest). We gave it a bit of TLC and the Yahama, as my mate insisted on calling it, started easily enough and ran as well as any engine that's been playing submarines for a while. Actually, thinking about it, the Yamaha was more reliable than some of my car engines; maybe … No, perhaps not.