Daryl Hill, who is a guide on The Wash, tells us the good and the bad about help­ing boaters across tidal wa­ters

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Daryl Hill on what it’s like to be a Wash pilot

1 What first at­tracted you to the wa­ter­ways? A friend and his fam­ily had boats and I joined them for hol­i­days and ad­ven­tures.


Do you have a favourite canal or river? I don’t have vast ex­pe­ri­ence of the in­land wa­ter­ways but I find the Nene (pro­nounced neen where I come from) very pic­turesque.


What do the wa­ter­ways have to of­fer the coun­try? A peace­ful and friendly en­vi­ron­ment, mostly hid­den from the mod­ern pace of life, away from the hus­tle and bus­tle, even though it might only be yards away.


What do the wa­ter­ways need most? Dredg­ing!

5 Tell us about your boating ex­pe­ri­ence. Forty years of messing about in small mo­tor and sail­ing boats on tidal rivers and es­tu­ar­ies on the east coast. I had a cou­ple of canal hol­i­days on hire boats when my kids were young. I then pro­gressed and got my Yacht­mas­ter Off­shore, Power and Sail Cer­tifi­cate and spent five years’ com­mer­cial ser­vice as coxswain on fast pilot ves­sels.


How did you come to be a pilot on The Wash? It was by ac­ci­dent re­ally. I was col­lared by a chap with a young fam­ily with very limited ex­pe­ri­ence who wanted to go from Sut­ton Bridge to King’s Lynn and it was ob­vi­ous that, had he gone alone, he would not have made it, so I went along and as they say,“the rest is his­tory’.

7 How long have you been a pilot? I have been guid­ing plea­sure boats across The Wash and around the East Coast for more than 30 years.


Ap­prox­i­mately how many boats a year do you guide across The Wash? Prob­a­bly around 20. Some­times it can be less, oc­ca­sion­ally more. It gets dif­fi­cult when they all want to go dur­ing the same week and from dif­fer­ent ports.


Do you only work on The Wash, or do you pilot else­where? I will take es­tu­ary cruis­ers any­where be­tween the Humber and Low­est­oft, but I pre­fer to drop an­chor in my own bed nowa­days.


What do you en­joy most about your job? See­ing peo­ple’s con­cerns change to a sense of achieve­ment when they have com­pleted an open wa­ter pas­sage from one port to an­other, of­ten in their only home. Strong hand­shakes and ap­pre­cia­tive kisses. Oh! And the ba­con sand­wiches.


And, is there any­thing you don’t like? North-east­er­lies and peo­ple that waste my time for eight months and pull out at the last minute say­ing: “Aun­tie Flo has just taken a turn for the worse.” Those who have gen­uine rea­sons, it’s not a prob­lem, but if you have bot­tled it, just tell me so.

12 What do you think of the peo­ple you’ve met on The Wash? Mostly warm, in­ter­est­ing, di­verse, ap­pre­cia­tive. I don’t think you will find a bet­ter crowd than boaters.


Have you ever had the mis­for­tune to fall in? Not for about 40 years, but I learned from it. You all know the sce­nario, one foot on each side of an ever widening gap. I also came very close to fall­ing be­tween a pilot boat and a ship do­ing about 10 knots, slip­ping as I was clip­ping on. I would most likely have been sucked through the ship’s prop. 14

Who would be your ideal cruis­ing com­pan­ion? My gor­geous other half of course. Who writes these ques­tions?


What did you want to be aged 12? A Spit­fire pilot.


What do you hope to be do­ing when you’re 70? Fly­ing a Spit­fire.


What are you read­ing at present? Win­ning His Wings by Percy F Wester­man – a lieu­tenant in the RAF tells the true story of his ex­ploits over the trenches of WW1.


Tell us about your spare time in­ter­ests… Vin­tage air­craft and boys’ toys in gen­eral – but they are all bro­ken. I can’t buy any­thing that is not bro­ken or is about to break.


Where would you go on your dream hol­i­day? Rus­sia, but away from the tourists. Stay­ing with real peo­ple. I nor­mally find those with the least give the most.


What su­per­power would you like to have? Hyper­sonic flight (with the abil­ity to go slowly, too).

‘Warm, in­ter­est­ing, di­verse, ap­pre­cia­tive’ DARYL HILL Wash Pilot

Daryl points the way across The Wash

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