Although I’ve wanted to own a narrowboat for half my life, I’d never actually been on one so it seemed sensible to learn how to drive properly and safely. There is no such thing as a driving licence for a boat, anyone can just jump on and drive off without a competency test or even any instruction. I’d seen enough holiday boaters ramming into locks, driving at full speed past moored boats and generally winding up the other boaters to know that I needed proper instruction.
I signed up for a course with an instructor I’d heard good things about. I won’t mention the name of the company but some of you may be able to guess who I’m referring to. The instruction was very good and I often recall the valuable lessons learnt on that weekend. The boat on the other hand was a tip. Dog hair and dirt everywhere, the boat looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months if not years, and the impression it gave was awful. Worse, I’d arranged to stay on the boat overnight and when it rained, water dripped on my head and onto the grubby bedcovers. Even worse, it was my birthday.
That said, the training helped a lot and whilst I’m not yet the perfect driver (apologies to the chap I bumped into the other week at Bull’s Bridge) I’m not as bad as I might have been.
I’d recommend anyone to take the course. The RYA website has a list of training centres. Just ask a few questions about basic hygiene first!