Get­ting to know the ropes

Canal Boat - - Letters -

WE DE­CIDED TO take a two-day RYA Helms­man’s course but spread over the space of three weeks in Novem­ber/De­cem­ber, mainly be­cause we couldn’t do con­sec­u­tive week­ends.

We were very lucky that the Novem­ber storm’s floods had re­ceded suf­fi­ciently to al­low part one to take place on 26 Novem­ber. An­tic­i­pa­tion and nerves were high but John Rush of Soar Val­ley Helms­man Train­ing Cen­tre wel­comed us at Sileby Ma­rina and soon al­layed our trep­i­da­tion.

He gave us a wonderful day on a river that was only marginally be­low the RED. It was a priv­i­lege and a chal­lenge to ap­pre­ci­ate the force of the River Soar, to wit­ness the ac­cu­mu­la­tions of de­bris that finds its way into the locks and weirs in the af­ter­math of the storms.

In­deed, John helped us to ap­pre­ci­ate that there are some things which you can and must con­trol. There are oth­ers where it is best to go with the flow. Fi­nally, there are sit­u­a­tions where it is wise not to pit your­self against a nat­u­ral force... to know your place is safer as a spec­ta­tor.

Yes we learned dif­fer­ent knots, how to se­lect and de­ploy the cor­rect moor­ing de­vice, how to steer and ne­go­ti­ate locks as crew or skip­per. Es­sen­tial and re­ward­ing, but we came home with so much more – a pas­sion for the river.

Day two – 17 De­cem­ber – couldn’t come soon enough. Gone was the ap­pre­hen­sion, re­placed by en­thu­si­as­tic yearn­ing to be afloat and away. And what a day! The weather was per­fect. Mist and sun­light bathed moored boats and wisps of wood smoke as we crept past on a se­date, al­most sleepy river. Not the rag­ing beast we knew be­fore. This river was in no hurry and was con­tent to show off all its beauty.

In time we moved seam­lessly into canal wa­ters and merged ef­fort­lessly into the ur­ban land­scape. Moored in the cen­tre of Lough­bor­ough, we mar­velled at the con­trast be­tween ar­riv­ing in a city cen­tre by boat and by car. Our thoughts turned to­wards the beauty, yes beauty, of moor­ing close to the best of the ur­ban devel­op­ments – M&S food­halls, li­braries, cin­e­mas, swim­ming pools – know­ing that we could re­side for days, the towns would be­come our home as and when we chose to me­an­der that way.

So our grate­ful thanks to John Rush for equip­ping us with much needed ba­sic skills but also for show­ing us how di­verse and re­ward­ing a life afloat can be. Our only re­gret – we have to wait now un­til March be­fore we will be aboard again. Our next step aboard will be on our own boat, The Non­suchuk, we can’t wait! JA­NIS SHEP­PARD, via email

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