Sitting the rain out on Wednesday am so I put my mind to the single handers challenges.
Well to start with respect to all those single handed boaters out there who regularly cruise around the system. It is hard work physically and mentally. The latter may well be easier as you get a routine but I was very conscious I was on my own and any mishaps would leave me isolated and with no support, so much concentration and pre thinking of what I need to do.
I suppose conversely with people around it breaks your routine and can result in errors. At Gailey lock a very nice lady from a boat waiting to come up wanted to talk and not help and watched me going through my routine.... only saving grace was as there was a boat coming up I could leave the gates.
Going down is better for me than coming up. I like to have a rope with me so going up and jumping off just as the boat goes in on its own momentum as some do leaving the boat in tick over to drive at the top gates is an option but not for me..... it was the slippery ladder and slime on my jumper as I walked the gunnels. I don't like climbing on the roof....
Using the ladders I can set the boat up against the top gates in forward about one and a half turns of the speed wheel. I can then open the paddles keeping a close eye on the rise to ensure the boat does not get caught on the gates or any lock wall obstructions. The boat will start to open the top gate under its power so I then drop paddles and fully open the gate and get onboard, stopping in the lock throat to close the gate.
Dropping is easier, I leave a centre rope out to bow haul the boat out... the boat drops and gets naturally drawn to the bottom gates - ensuring no cilling (just got to keep concentration) the challenge is to stop the boat drifting backwards when you open the gates.... there are so many leaky gates the boat can get a real cabin load if it goes too far back and Leia does not like it also - she has to stay on the boat so as I am not watching her. Mandy from Don't Panic suggested opening a paddle to wash the boat out.....better than bow hauling - top tip.
It is the first time I have seriously thought about a windlass holder. It would be ideal climbing lock ladders with two hands and not having to throw the windlass up.... it could bounce back to me !! Also climbing back down a slippy lock ladder single handed is not clever. Also pulling the boat out and not forgetting where you have left the windlass..... a christmas present for family reading this perhaps ??
Also for those long days cruising I made a picnic and a flask of coffee.... really helps not having to stop and moor up. As a bloke toilet breaks are easier - if I wanted the loo (go figure) I would leave the boat in the lock chamber paddles down so no floating away or having to moor up.
It does give a sense of accomplishment and something everyone should do so as to understand the challenges of the single boater. Of course I would always prefer my shipmate to share the boat with !