Friday, June 21, 2013

The IW Helmsman's Course

Ray Cullis of Trent Boat Handling was due to retire last August, but circumstances prevented this, and we were fortunate enough to be his penultimate students on the IWHC course which he has been teaching for the past ten years.

We met Ray at Sawley Marina at 9:00 am Wednesday morning and spent the day with him on the River Trent, learning how to navigate safely and efficiently in the unique conditions and situations which rivers bring to boat users. He had both of us doing all sorts of manoeuvres, being aware of the wind and of water currents, and using them to our advantage, and rescuing a man overboard (actually a buoy). We also covered deployment and recovery of the anchor in rivers. The weather was excellent, the river beautiful, the instruction very useful and well delivered, and Ray's company a delight. With breaks for lunch, and morning and afternoon refreshments, we spent a long day on with Ray on Kantara - and even had homework to do as well! By the end of day one, we were very tired.

The weather forecast for Thursday was unequivocal - it was going to rain very hard all day long, with the possibility of thunderstorms. And it did rain hard on Wednesday night, but it wasn't looking too bad in the morning, and I assured Ray, when we met him at 8:30, that the rain wasn't going to happen. I was right! It was dry all the time we were on the water, warm and with outbreaks of sun.

The second of the course was spent on the Trent and Mersey Canal, and I did most of the driving of the boat. Grace did some locking - we swapped roles for a lot of the day

It was really good for both of us, but I'm sure I gained the most, since I don't have Grace's experience at the tiller. Again, we also learned knots, manoeuvres, rope-throwing techniques and the use of the wind and the water to help us steer the boat safely and accurately. During our breaks, Ray used a whiteboard to explain various concepts and techniques.

It was a great day, and ended with us being presented with a IWHC certificate each. I had not been certain of achieving it, though it went without saying that Grace would get hers. Time and money had been very well spent, and we go forward from here with all sorts of new things to put into practice, new habits to adopt. Grace had had her own skills endorsed by an expert, and some of them refined. I had been given a good deal more confidence and capability upon which I can now build further.

Day two ended with great fatigue - and rain! Thank you, Ray, for two really good days.

Today, we've stayed put on our mooring opposite Sawley Marina, shopping and catching up with emails and so on, but we've filled the water tank, replaced and empty gas bottle, and filled up with diesel, ready to set off tomorrow to continue our Leicester Ring trip. Week three starts tomorrow.

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