Boat Handling Sessions at Crick Boat Show 2016

I took the helm of a Narrow boat for the very first time with a Boat Handling Taster Session ... and it was AWESOME! Here's my review...

So two weeks later, and me and Mr B are still buzzing from our awesome long weekend at the Crick Boat Show 2016. (See part 1 and 2 of my review by clicking here for part 1 and here for part 2.) 

By far the most nerve-wracking of the whole weekend, even more so than being interviewed and photographed by +Waterways World and  Canal Boating Times.. was the prospect of being at the tiller steering someone else's beloved Narrow boat!!

But it was SO much fun!!

The Boat Handling Sessions run by  +Narrowboat Skills Centre Ltd. , +Willow Wren Training and Watercraft were a first for Crick this year and judging by everyone we spoke to's reactions,  are surely going to be back next year.

As total newbies at the start of our #PROJECTLIVEABOARD journey, the only times we had been aboard was to view prospective boats for sale or on canal boat trips at Stoke Bruene when we kids and big kids in the summer. All we knew was that the steering was opposite and you use a tiller. 

Boat Handling Sessions at Crick Boat Show 2016
Beautiful Narrow boats at +Crick Marina 

Now if I'm totally honest with you I held off writing this Boat Handling Taster Session review because I wanted to include some pictures sans my tombstone teeth shot from below by lovely Amelia from  Canal Boating Times and +Waterways World... but unfortunately Mr B and I were both way too excited/nervous/overwhelmed to think to photograph each other at the tiller so you're gonna be stuck with the teeth. Please no petition to keep ol' Bugs Bunny here off of the cut due to being a human blinding hazard.

If you are thinking of buying a Narrow boat and have never been at the tiller, one of these boat handling taster sessions really is the perfect course for you! At just £12 for an hour it's an absolute steal and way cheaper than a driving lesson. See the Crick Boat Show site for more info on this year's courses by clicking here

Tim from Watercraft was a great instructor, handing over the reins right away to us newbs and giving lots of great knowledge, experience, pointers and information along the way.

Boat Handling Sessions at Crick Boat Show 2016
Watercraft 's Jellicle Moon in the centre

Mr B was first up at the helm and was tasked with manoeuvring the beautiful Jellicle Moon right out of Crick marina. And you know what,  he killed it! I also took the tiller once out on the Leicester Line and negotiated a bridge, oncoming traffic, hawthorn bushes and turned 180° in a tiny winding hole! 

The hour flew by and my first question in the Q and A afterward was "When can we go again?!"

Concentration face to the max. but smiling too!
I originally thought when we buy our boat I probably wouldn't be on the tiller much, with my irrational anxiety attacks and lack of confidence etc I thought it would mainly be Mr B's technical domain but not any more! I loved it so much. Despite being nerve wracking, cruising at 4 mph along the Leicester Line out of Crick felt both really relaxing and really rewarding.

So what did we learn? 

  • Well, first off, we were both really shocked at just how responsive the boat was and how mind-blowing it is to pivot a 55 ft craft at its centre to turn in a tiny "its never gonna make it" space.

  • With use of the tiller to steer the boat you use a simple system of the throttle, neutral and reverse gears to accelerate or back up, you fight the wind and/or use it to your advantage.

  • We didn't realise just how big a part the wind plays in the maneuverability of your craft. Looking at narrow boats you'd think they are pretty low to the water line and big and hefty enough not to be affected too much by a breeze on a canal. Not so much! Tim showed us just how to gauge the effect of the elements and use them to your advantage. For example, when bringing the boat into your mooring work with the wind to get into position and then go full throttle into the mooring itself. 

  • We learned how to gauge the size of your narrow boat against moored up boats on the towpath. Tim likened navigating the canal to driving on a narrow country lane... you stay in the middle until someone else comes along, then you move over. You always want to be looking just slightly ahead, much the same as when driving a car... And when you do move over, remember that the sides of the canal are the shallowest! This is why you cruise in the middle where they are deepest. 

  • Running aground is not as scary as it sounds either! This scared me the most about being in control.of such a large craft. My vision of running aground involved snapped in half boats, blocking the waterway and worse. In reality, a simple reverse and re-steer is usually enough to be on your way again without causing any damage to your boat.
This is how I imagined running aground... not so, just follow precautions.

  • As Narrowboats pass eachother on the waterways, the water is sucked up and thrust out by your propeller so taking care to slow down as you pass by so close to other moored up narrow boats is a must. You can gauge this by watching their mooring ropes tighten as you pass. Too fast and you're going to disrupt their craft and from safety point of view, this could actually be really dangerous to liveaboarders who are cooking, making tea etc. 

To continue our narrow boat helmsmanship training we plan to take the RYA Helmsman course which I touched on in my seminar review here. These are 1 to 2 days and give you both knowledge and confidence to steer your own beautiful boat through the inland waterways of Britain. .. and the world if you like! 

These boat handling taster sessions from +Waterways World were such a spark of genius! I am sure they will continue in years to come and if you want to try your hand at the tiller get yourself booked up next year! 

If you can't wait that long, find out more about the Inland Waterway's Helmsman's course by visiting the RYA website by clicking here.

Also, there is some really great detailed information to read on steering a Narrow boat at

If you are starting out on your journey to become liveaboard narrow boat or houseboat owners, I'd love to hear from you! 

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