This weekend saw Karen and me taking our UK Inland Waterways Helmsman course. We both passed and can now sit our CEVNI (Code Européen des Voies de Navigation Intérieure) exam. Having both of those under our belt will then mean we can obtain our International Certificate of Competence which is a pre-requisite of using our boat in European commercial and pleasure inland waterways. Strangely, if you hire a boat in France for a holiday you don’t need to do any of this.
Think of the helmsman course as the boat version of the car practical driving test and the CEVNI as the car theory test. I’m sitting my CEVNI exam this week, but Karen is leaving hers for a few weeks as she wants to wind down from working 😉
The course was fun but tiring with all the concentration; it was also rather wet on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We learnt some different ways of doing things, such as some new ways of using the ropes, some of which we will take on board so to speak and some we won’t. I know the cynics would say, ‘You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds to learn some new ways of tying your boat up’, but I’m afraid it was necessary to get the required certificates.
We went under bridge 20 soon after we set off on Saturday morning. This was the bridge that was damaged by a lorry earlier in the week and closed the navigation and the road. The road is still closed but the navigation is open as the destroyed parapet has been removed from the canal bed.
Damaged bridge 20 with a pile of rubbish and the reclaimed bricks and coping stones piled up on the side
The trouble is, is that without the weight of the parapets the arch itself becomes weaker so it has to be closed to traffic until the parapet is rebuilt. At least it looks like they can reuse a lot of the masonry.
Working boat used to retrieve the fallen brickwork
Over the weekend we went through the Calcutt locks a few times and also part of the Stockton flight. We also did plenty of manoeuvring such as winding (turning), mooring and casting off etc. All in all, we added a few more miles and locks to our log but didn’t actually get anywhere ☹
Karen getting ready to wind in the middle of the Stockton flight
Half way through the turn
The training centre is based at Nelson’s Wharf in Stockton and Steve, the owner, also owns the old Nelson’s arm which he has restored and rents out to boat owners. On Friday night we moored just outside the arm, but as they had reserved a spot for us in the arm itself we took that spot when we moored up on Saturday evening.
Moored in the arm with the permanent moorings further up
The arm was originally built for access to a lime works and later a cement works. I covered some of the history and restoration in the blog on 16th November 2016 (see Change of plans again). A lot has changed since then and Steve still has ambitious plans for further restoration.
Our Saturday (and Sunday) night mooring
I was chuffed as I could see a stanking plank store from inside the boat 😊
After we finished on Saturday we had a walk into Stockton to pick up our weekly newspaper and a couple of other things. It also meant Buddy had a walk as he had been cooped up on deck all day other than when we were in locks.
On Sunday we also had a trip on the South Oxford canal as that is narrower and shallower than the Grand Union and consequently has different characteristics.
Turning off the Grand Union onto the Oxford canal at Napton junction
A new information board has been put up giving a bit more info on the history of Nelson’s