Getting to know the ropes
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