Steer a Narrow Boat

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Back in the early eighties I was working part time for the youth service in Uxbridge. One of the clubs I was involved with often took teenagers away for the weekend on a narrow boat which I used to pilot. The boat was called Pisces and was 72 foot long and weighed 20 tons. So when Hillingdon Narrowboats Association offered me the opportunity to steer this boat once again down the Grand Union Canal, the same boat again after nearly 30 years, I snapped at the chance. Unfortunately when we got to the boat yard to take the boat out I soon realised that when I last took Pisces out I was walking and was able to stand on the back of the boat with no problems. It’s a traditional boat with very little space at the back for a wheelchair. So, as a compromise, it’s sister boat the Star offered a lot more space at the back of the boat, plenty space for my wheelchair. It was the same dimensions as Pisces and so was just as much fun to steer down the canal and through the locks.

We had some great times on the narrow boat back in the eighties, one trip which I fondly remember was the time the youth workers and part time chaps like me were taken away for a weekend for ‘training’. It was a glorious sunny and hot weekend. I’d given up tickets to see David Bowie at the MK Bowl to attend this weekend away on the canal. We had so much food and wine and we just had such a relaxing time. Training? Nah. Fun, plenty!

A very big thank you to Simon Cox and his family for helping me make this challenge happen and the  Hillingdon Narrowboats Association for their trust in me taking one of their boats out on the canal. And of course, Ian Blackatt, who took some great photos.

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