There’s stuff you need to hand while you’re cruising. You won’t get far on most canals without a windlass (the bent bit of metal with square holes at one end) because that’s essential for opening locks. A British Waterways key is required to open automated locks and the bridges on some canals, such as the lift bridge in the photo below, on the Stainforth and Keadby canal.
Nicholson’s Waterway Guides are handy if you don’t know the area you’re travelling through. I refer to mine often and it’s a godsend if you’re short on water or diesel or want to find a mooring place. Plus the navigation notes come in very useful, especially on rivers.
The binoculars we picked up recently from a charity shop, they’re only cheap but still useful, not just for spotting kingfishers but also for seeing what’s happening ahead at locks and working out why on earth other boaters are waving madly at you.
Gloves – plus hat, waterproof trousers and jacket. It soon gets chilly stood outside driving. Sometimes I miss the wooden cabin on my old boat.
The DAB radio has had a great signal everywhere so far, from London up to Leeds. I’d not owned one before and I love it, it’s welcome company on long drives. So far it’s only been on Radio 4, Radio 5 or World Service – blaring out music would somehow be against the spirit of the canals. Alisha prefers to drive with her iPod on.
A flask of coffee means not having to keep stopping to put the kettle on; but note the boater’s whistle on a chain, used by whoever’s driving to summon whoever’s indoors: one blast for tea, two for coffee.
What do you keep handy on your boat?