Friday, April 03, 2009


In order to head off any criticism before it gets to me, I tend to announce up front (in circumstances where it is relevant, and sometimes when it isn't) that I am the world's worst steerer. At least, proportionate to the amount of practice, experience and effort I have put in; there might be small children who have never seen a boat (though they'd probably pick it up and overtake me within minutes) and creatures without opposable thumbs who find it as much of a challenge, but I can't be sure.

This, as you might imagine, is a source of much consternation to me. I love boats so much that it seems there should be a natural affinity between us, but no; it appears that this love is unrequited and its object responding only with a chilly civility. Fantasies of chugging nonchalantly along, coolly tweaking the throttle and adjusting the tiller are replaced in reality with a constant state of near panic and a horrible feeling of inadequacy.

Why this should be, I do not know. It might be partly just the way my brain's set up - learning to drive a car was a similarly dogged war of attrition between me and my inadequacy, marked by one (oh yes, there were many) instructor memorably saying (imagine this in a lazy Yorkshire drawl) 'I'd guess you're not very good at practical things... Academically you're probably quite average, but... not very good at practical things...' Naturally I was most offended at being accused of being academically quite average, but had to accept his verdict on the other front. I won that battle in the end though.

And I intend to get the better of this one as well. The thing is, I am quite good at practical things, provided they don't involve heavy lifting or power tools. What I am not so good at is doing them under pressure, whether that's the pressure of having someone breathing critically down my neck, or the pressure of being about to hit something hard with a big lump of metal. (Boating of course often provides both. Simultaneously.) It's in circumstances like that where I am still (very occasionally) wont to doubt my judgement as to which direction I should be moving the tiller, and, far more frequently, to forget entirely which way the throttle turns, or, in extremis, which way is reverse.

Nonetheless, I am not nearly so bad as I once was, so I am convinced that, even with diminishing returns, if I practise enough I will eventually reach a level of adequacy, even if I never attain the flair of which I once dreamed.


Anonymous said...

You are a perfectly good steerer, I am the one who hit Osney Bridge after all - it doesn't matter much in any event with a big Woolwich does it :)

Halfie said...

Take comfort in the fact that nearly every other boat has a simple Morse control: forward to go forward and back to go in reverse. We've got it easy! Now, is your speedwheel a volume control (clockwise to increase) or a tap (anticlockwise to increase)?

S said...

I made that very distinction a few posts back! Warrior is a tap; Tarporley a volume control. It is helpful to be able to remind oneself in those terms.

Halfie said...

Of course - that's where I read it! I knew I'd seen a good idea somewhere...

Speaking of good ideas, and knowing you were mulling over a broadbad internet device, I can report that I'm pleased with the "3" dongle I bought and am using for the first time on this cruise. It cost £29.99 (from Maplin, but I've also seen it in other high street stores) and costs £10 for 1GB data allowance which expires in thirty days. I'm finding 1GB plenty.