... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Going backwards

Lately I've started - partly of necessity - to enjoy getting some practice at going backwards. Whether it's possible to steer a narrow boat in reverse is a matter of some debate, but what it comes down to is, it depends on the boat. With its big, balanced rudder and superior underwater shape, I would guess that a boat like Chertsey steers as well as any in reverse. Which is to say, of course, not really all that well. To steer at all in reverse is an achievement.

As I say, I've been having some practice lately. Winding round the turn at Braunston is a treat - done it twice now so that bit of the parade holds no fear for me now. And the week after next there'll be a bigger challenge. We couldn't leave Chertsey on the 14 day mooring on the North Oxford any longer, so we've gone up the GU, up one lock, and left it in the pound there. Now, it would be another four locks to the winding hole, IF the winding hole was operational, but it isn't, so come the rally we're going to have to go backwards back down the lock and as far as the marina, and wind there. That'll be exciting.

I have gathered some reversing hints from various people. Obvioulsy (well, fairly obviously) steering in reverse entails moving the tiller in the opposite direction to when going forwards. It can be very disorientating though trying to work out which way this is (for me anyway) so thank to Mike for the simple mnemonic of pointing the angle of the swan's neck in the direction you want the back of the boat to go. Thanks to Andy for two further sage pieces of advice: when reversing, watch the FRONT of the boat, not where you're going (except for occasional glances), and always go back further than you think you need to.

And finally, my own recent observation - don't be afraid to wind the revs up, because the great thing about going backwards, is that you can always stop.


  1. Recently we were watching two blokes at Crick marina reshuffling all the boats which were moved out of the way for the show. I guess they might have moved twenty in a day. Anyway, because they get so much practice they appear to be very good at reversing, and I noticed that once they get the boats going straight they seem to wind up the revs and go back as fast as they can. I suppose the stronger flow of water past the hull tends to keep it in line. I imagine it takes a bit of nerve though in a confined space like a marina.

  2. I'm dreading trying to get round that reverse at Braunston with a full audience.

    For various reasons I've had almost zero chance to practice reversing with our new "toy", but the initial efforts would not have won me any awards.

    In fact can't yet stop in a straight line - let alone reverse in one!