A club open to anyone who owns a Piper-built boat
Backwards Progress by Les Symonds
weeks ago I needed to move Otter off a 48-hour mooring, to another safe
location where I could leave her ready for taking her home to Maestermyn
marina. Throughout the first few months of the year, stoppages had
resulted in the canal being blocked immediately east and just a mile or
so west of my normal mooring, so Otter was moved to the upper end of the
Llangollen Canal for a few months so that we could still enjoy
occasional weekends away, and take the school kids for evening trips.
However, by mid March the stoppages had cleared and it was time to take
her home. My first problem was that she was facing the wrong way. Moored
outside the Sun Inn, at Trevor, taking her to Llangollen to wind her
would have involved cruising the 300metre narrows, a lift bridge, the
500metre narrows, through the online town moorings, the short narrows in
the town, then down past the horse-drawn-boat centre to wind at the
marina. Then, of course, back through it all in the other direction.
The other thing that I should mention, of course, is that taking photos
of yourself on a single handed reverse is a bit tricky, so the photos below were
taken at a later date on the Montgomery Canal, when I had a friend stand on a
bridge and witness a contrived set of circumstances, set up for the purpose of
So, hereís how itís done. First, prepare the boat by ensuring a clear-passage through the cabin, removing any obstacles from the aisle through the boat. Next, put the pole in a handy position on the roof, at the bow, then return to the stern, set the boat mid-channel and tie the tiller either dead-centre, or, if your prop has a tendency to cause your boat to pull to one side, tie the tiller just off-centre to compensate for itóuse an easily released slip-knot!.
Next, engage reverse at a slow-running pace and go quickly to the bow,
take hold of the pole and look along the roof to the stern, observing your
course. Youíll need to keep the boat running approximately central to the
channel and, at the slightest deviation from this course, use the pole to give a
gentle nudge to swing the bow slightly to one side or the other, so as to
correct it. The trick is to respond quickly, with slight movements of the
poleóthis, of course, is very much the same as the method we use for steering
forwards, but we tend to do that instinctively, rather than analytically.
familiar with the Trevor to Bryn Howel length will recall the railway bridge
which, whilst being fairly wide, has a sharp, 90o bend immediately preceding it.
Imagine the reaction I got when an approaching hire boat spotted my stern coming
around the bend, apparently driverless! To the sound of their expletives, I put
the pole on the roof and ran through the cabin (which is why you need to keep a
clear passage through the boat), then slipped the knot on the tiller and engaged
forward to regain normal control of the boat.