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