Yesterday I was due to go out as crew on Tarporley for the first time proper, so I was very excited at the prospect of getting some boxes ticked off on my training sheet and starting the process towards becoming a Community Boating Association qualified steerer. So I left home bright and early to catch the rail replacement bus (oh yes), thinking I would be there in plenty of time for a ten thirty briefing and eleven o'clock departure.
Only the bus driver couldn't make the turn into the station car park and we had to go round again, and by the time we had disembarked the train had gone, and we had to get another, much slower one (I've lived round here for nigh on forty years and I still had no idea there were so many stations between Brighton and Victoria). So, having left the house at half past seven, it was twenty to eleven when I finally arrived at Kings Place full of apologies to David the day's steerer (I cannot bring myself to say skipper - I'd be going aye aye cap'n next) and fellow crew member Graham... but no passengers.
After an hour and numerous attempts to contact the customer, we decided that as it was such a nice day we would go anyway, to Little Venice and back (a stoppage in the other direction made this our only option, but I wasn't about to complain - I'm just about becoming familiar with the route). Shortly after we left we learned that the booking had been cancelled, but was going to be re-booked... and by this time we were well on our way.
The weather was perfect - the sun even struggled through a bit, my fellow crew members were excellent company, and standing at Hampstead Road with the sun on my back, waiting for the lock to fill, smelling the food (etc.), listening to some rather nice Peruvian nose flute music, and watching the people watching us, it occured to me that if there's anything better than taking a Grand Union motor boat through Camden Lock on a sunny afternoon, then it must be pretty damned good.
Once we got to Little Venice and spun round the island I took over the tiller and brought us all the way back to Kings Place without hitting anything (lock gates not included but I didn't hit any very hard, even when I did momentarily forget which way the throttle turned. (Tarporley = volume control (thanks Moomin); Warrior = tap). I even managed to put the boat in various correct positions to pick people up and made a reasonable fist of parking when we got back. In many ways the big boat is easier to handle; the steering is more intuitive (if physically more demanding) and it is more likely to stay put, at least as long as it's not windy. I love the Grand Union gear wheel, and suspect that I'm more ready to use it, and thus make better use of the gears, than Warrior's push/pull control - now I've thought of that I shall try harder. So all in all a most enjoyable outing and a great confidence booster.
Just wish I'd remembered to take the bloody training sheet with me.