There is no test you need to pass in order to drive a narrowboat, but I think I could devise one based on my trip out to get diesel from the marina last weekend. Every manoeuvre you might ever need to pull out of the bag (according to my very limited experience) makes up this very short trip round the corner from my mooring. It might go something like this:
Examiner: Right, I’d like you to start by backing out of the mooring. You should know that hitting the white plastic boats moored behind you come with an automatic fail, a large bill and exile from the marina.
[Examinee nervously backs out, constantly looking over her shoulder, and then realising just in time that hitting the more robust steel boats moored alongside her boat probably also comes with detrimental test implications. She manages the manoeuvre in a nine point turn.]
Examiner: Lovely, now please continue onto the bridge, turning left when you reach the river. (Looks pointedly at the air horn.)
[Examinee picks up on the hint and makes a blast of the horn as they come to the bridge. She is unsure whether she made the right signal to oncoming boats, and feels nervous when the examiner scribbles on the test sheet. Luckily there are no boats approaching, and the turn round the corner goes without a hitch.]
Examiner: Next, I think we will do an emergency stop. So when I tap on the roof, please stop the boat as quickly as you can.
Examinee [looking panicked]: What? Emergency stop? Ummm, I don’t….
Examiner (laughing): Just kidding. A bit of narrowboat examination humour. Please turn the boat round after the diesel pump.
[Examinee directs the boat as if she were going to go into the exclusive mooring for special people at Sawley, and then goes into reverse before any of the special people think she is actually trying to gain access to their VIP area. There is gentle bump on the bank during the process as she brings the back of the boat round, but to her relief the examiner doesn’t make any notes during the manoeuvre.]
Examiner: Please moor up next to the bank, and fill up with diesel.
Examinee: OK, can you help with tying the boat up?
[Examinee aims the stern of the boat at what she hopes is a 30° angle at the bank, and slows down. As she gets closer to the bank, she straightens up the boat so it is now parallel, and puts the boat into reverse to try to stop it crashing into the jetty in front. There is a small bump, but it is not accompanied by the sound of anything breaking so she breathes a sigh of relief. Leaving the engine running she hops off the boat and sort of ties up the back end of the boat. In the meantime, the rest of the boat is swinging away from the bank, so she pulls it back slowly using the centre rope, and then ties that up. Finally the front rope is tied to the bank as well. She smiles triumphantly at the examiner. The examiner does not look impressed.]
Examiner: Any major spillages of diesel while filling up also constitute an automatic fail.
[Examinee very much hopes the few drops of diesel she has already spillt in the process of filling up either do not count, or have not been noticed.)
Examiner: Please return to your mooring.
[Examinee backs out of the diesel-filling-up area, and sails the short distance down the river to the bridge entrance to the marina. She executes the turn in without scraping the boats on the side, though it’s a close run thing. She knows she is now so close yet so far. The hardest part of the test is yet to come – parking without breaking her neighbours belongings. It may look like it is just a straight pull in, but a slight angle combined with a moderate wind mean that this is the part where it could all go wrong. She thinks she has a good angle until a gust of wind pushes the back of the boat in the wrong direction. A little frantic steering gets them back on course and she slows the boat down, praying her neighbours are not in. The bank is approaching fast now, and she puts the boat in reverse to slow it down. And then ups the revs as it doesn’t seem to slow down enough. She fights the urge to close her eyes and wait for the thump. But it doesn’t come, and so she jumps off the boat to hurriedly tie up.]
Examiner: Thank you. Most interesting. You will get your result in the post. [Examinee stares open mouthed at the examiner]. Just kidding. Another joke. It is my duty to inform you that you…..
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